Do you go into a meal worried about how you will feel after? Does this affect where you eat and prevent you from enjoying social situations? My clients with and without eating disorders have shared these concerns in our sessions. Serious physical discomfort should be addressed with your doctor to rule out medical complications. The following suggestions can be used in conjunction with medical treatment or alone depending on the conditions.
- RELAX. Feeling rushed, anxious or tense prior to a meal can affect digestion. The stress response in the body affects production of biochemicals and divert energy away from digestion. This can result in delayed digestion, bloating, indigestion and heartburn. Take a few minutes to RELAX; breathe deeply, listen to music either at home or on your phone, take few minutes to read an inspiring quote or prayer. Maybe it is setting the table, lighting a candle when home. Don’t just prepare dinner, “prepare for dinner”.
- CHEW YOUR FOOD. Taking time to chew our food is important because digestions begins in the mouth. Oral digestive enzymes break down food, being the first step in digestion. When we don’t chew our food well, it puts a lot of stress on our stomach and may contribute to bloating and indigestion. Consequently the stomach may not be able to complete the job and then partially digested food enters the intestines for absorption, which is then also inadequate. Take your time, and chew your food.
- ATTITUDE. I refer to ones perception or belief about the meal or food. Having negative thoughts, labels attached to food, may contribute to after meal discomfort. Consider your attitude about certain foods and what fuels that thought. Can you find something positive in the food or meal? Attitude can have significant physical consequences. For more understanding visit information on the nocebo effect.
- BALANCE & VARIETYAvoid eating the same foods every day. There are increasing concerns about food intolerance and/or sensitivity. By increasing the variety of food consumed you reduce the possibility of aggravating or even creating food sensitivity. This is a much more maintainable solution than total food elimination.
- PROCESSED FOODS. Avoid artificial sweeteners, processed foods with chemicals and additives. Many people notice indigestion and bloating is reduced when sugar free gum, mints and candies are decreased, especially when these items were consumed in excess.
- TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING. Fiber is heart healthy and generally believed to help with elimination and gut motility. However, greater than 3-5 grams of fiber in a single food may cause cramping and bloating, especially if you don’t drink enough water. Always increase fluid and fiber together.