Did you know your body is working BEFORE you eat?
Think about smelling the aroma of your favorite dinner cooking…or cake baking in the oven? Did you feel yourself begin to salivate or stomach growl telling you it was time to eat. The process of eating and digesting is an extremely intricate and amazing event! Good digestion begins before food even enters the mouth! The first phase of digestion affects your gut, however, it is not driven by it! It begins in the head….this is called the cephalic phase of digestion.
The sight, sound, smell, and often the thought of food triggers signals from the brain. These signals are transmitted down the central nervous system via the vagus nerve. These signals drive your digestive processes and prepare the way for food to enter your digestive tract. Many of us fail to recognize or create mindfulness around this vital process! Why so important? Because you may secrete as much as 40% of the hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes (super important to break down protein and other nutrients) needed to effectively digest food. This is even before you consume a single ounce of food. We must appreciate our brain for its role in digestion. This is because the autonomic nervous system has a vital role related to digestion and gut function.
It is imperative to pause and mindfully engage in the complexity of eating in order to heal or optimize your digestive tract!
For example: You are having a smooth day, everything is going according to schedule, you are calm, content, and feeling in control…more relaxed than you have been in weeks. You notice that you are getting hungry and you think about the leftovers in the frig that you would love to heat up for lunch. The thought triggers impulses in your brain that flow nicely to your vagus nerve (beginning in the lower part of your brain and travels down through your neck, chest, and into your abdomen). This nerve mediates the parasympathetic nervous response which only functions well when you are relaxed. In your happy, peaceful, and mindful state, it is operating well telling your gut to secrete optimal flow of digestive juices and therefore aids in the movements required for proper digestion.
Now, lets think about an “off” day…you are rushed, grumpy, moody, and feel like the day is controlling you. You had a fight with a co-worker, spouse, or child and your parasympathetic system is not activating…and you start to feel hungry. Now at this point those signals can’t flow properly down your vagus nerve. Instead your sympathetic nervous system kicks in and in this frame of mind, with this part of your nervous system activated, your digestive tract is derailed before it even has a chance!
TAKE AWAY: Your state of mind impacts your Cephalic Digestion.
A positive and mindful state of mind will help with optimal digestive health!
Steps to Optimize the Cephalic phase of Digestion:
- Learn and engage in the practice of mindful eating
- Pause and breathe before rushing into a meal
- Give thanks for the food and recognize how it will benefit your body
- Limit multitasking when eating
- Avoid eating in a stressful environment
- Prepare your own food at least 80-90% of the time
Knowledge is Power! The more you understand your body and how and why it works….the more empowered you are to engage in change and transformation.
My passion is to help equip you to live the healthiest life possible.
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Until next time! Julie