As a Registered naturopath and nutritional therapist the first place I start with improving my clients’ health is with nutrition.
Correct dietary intake is essential to maintain health and so is the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Anyone can opt to take supplements but if your digestive system is unable to absorb the nutrients then they are of no use at all.
My personal approach to health considers the seasons. I believe that a seasonal diet encourages good health and ensures we remain close to nature but so too is mindfulness and The Importance of Mindful Eating.
Let me explain further. With the use of Biofeedback and functional laboratory testing it is apparent that inadequate digestive enzymes reduce nutrient absorption. Stress related health issues and hormone imbalances also make a huge impact. Of course complementary therapies such as reflexology are great support tools to aid absorption but so too is mindful eating.
In our busy, crazy life how many of you consider how you eat your food? Let’s think about our digestive system.
Logically, it makes sense that every mouthful we take plays a role in how we digest and metabolise our food. A recent study (1 and 4) substantiates this – demonstrating how our digestive processes are especially sensitive to chronic stress and how it affects blood flow in the intestinal tissues, gastric secretions and gut motility. Another study demonstrates how mindful eating can aid weightloss (2 and 3), through awareness of hunger and emotional eating. So, returning once more to our digestive system, let me make this simple.
To absorb nutrients it is important that you are in a “rest and digest” state.
If you imagine yourself sitting in this photograph you will probably be feeling relaxed and at peace. When you are in this state your stomach will be able to secrete hydrochloric acid, the pancreas can release pancreatic digestive juices and the all important liver release bile into the intestines. All these functions help metabolise nutrients, kill bad bacteria, release additional toxins found in food. In summary our mind, body and soul can be in balance
However, when we are distracted, such as in this photo, we will be feeling tense or stressed and our sympathetic nervous system activates. This is called the ‘‘fight or flight” mode. Now, blood travels away from the intestines to peripheral muscles, glucose is released from tissues into the bloodstream and the heart rate increases. This gets us ready to engage in adrenalin and stress filled activity, not digest food.
An ancient practice that dates back at least 2500 years ago. Mindfulness and meditation can be traced to Buddhism in addition to other eastern traditions. Its true purpose is to help us to live in the present and train the mind to find a point of stillness, thus silencing the “monkey chatter”. It helps us return to a state of “rest and digest”. I have been teaching meditation for some years and am well aware of its benefits on many levels.
And Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating brings our awareness to eating. I have written this mindful eating exercise for you to try, You can begin by just concentrating on one aspect of it and then increase the other mindful tasks as you feel fit. What is important is that you use part or any aspect of the exercise regularly and log whether it makes a difference to your food intake and your digestion – after all your gut is your second brain! To download this exercise click The Importance of Mindful Eating
Mindful Eating: Before you begin ask yourself these questions
Where am I? (sitting/standing/ at a table/desk/sofa/car etc)
Are I hungry or am I eating out of habit?
How am I feeling? (relaxed or tense/busy)
a) Look at your plate of food and become aware of your mouth. Are you salivating?
b) Now smell your food? Take a moment to let your senses connect with the aroma of your food. Become aware of your heightened sense of smell. What can you smell?
c) Look at your plateful again. What is on your plate or what are you going to eat? What colour is it – shape?
d) Now take a moment to consider where your food is derived from and originated from? Is it in it’s natural state, a local source, animal or vegetable?
e) Take a mouthful – be mindful of the sensation of taste and texture and temperature.
f) Begin to chew your food – we should chew each mouthful about 30 times before swallowing. Become aware of how your teeth and saliva are breaking down the food to enable swallowing.
g) Take some time to draw your awareness to an individual taste within the mouthful i.e. a herb or spice, vegetable or protein source.
h) Place you knife, spoon or fork down between mouthfuls as you let your food travel down the oesophagus and enter your stomach
i) Repeat as often as you feel appropriate.
j) When you have finished draw your attention to the portion size.
f) How do you feel?
You can also add to this exercise by including Mindful Cooking:
Chicken and Clam Cataplana 25mins and serves 4. This is my version of a Portuguese dish. I recommend serving it with a salad of some form. If you do not eat chicken substitute it with more clams or add white fish. It is a great mindful eating and cooking dish because you can link with the food and the aroma’s are totally wonderful.
16 par-boiled sweet potatoes, leave skin on but cut into new potatoes size
450-g/1lb boneless chicken, cut into 12mm/1/2-inch cubes
90ml/3 fl.oz. Chicken stock or white wine
250g shell-on prawns (optional) 450g/1lb fresh clams in shells, scrubbed Freshly chopped parsley to serve
1. Heat the oil in a Cataplana or wide saucepan with a close fitting lid, add the onion and garlic and sauté gently over a medium heat until soft and transparent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the chicken turn to coat then cover with the lid and cook for about 10 minutes or until cooked through, turning once or twice during the cooking time. Add potatoes and coat.
3. Add the stock and bring to simmering point.
4. Add the clams, and prawns. Replace the lid and cook for five minutes, or until the clam shells have opened.
5. Discard any clams, which haven’t opened, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Additional similar recipes can be found at http://www.myportuguesekitchen.com/2014/03/clams-cataplana.html
Justine Evans ND, BSc Nut.Med refers to herself as a Hormone Alchemist and is the founder of Creation Fertility. Justine offers a multi-dimensional approach to women’s health, working with nutritional therapy and seasonal cycles. In a nutshell Justine blends western nutritional science with traditional alchemy and yogic philosophy. She can be contacted on 07747 133170.
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