Mindful eating focuses on the eating experience. It encourages us to be attentive during our meals so we can focus on chewing and eating at an appropriate pace (to avoid scarfing down a meal!). It can take up to 20 minutes for the brain to register that the gut feels full, therefore by eating at an appropriate pace our body has time to receive the signalling that we feel full and satiated. This will help to avoid over-eating.
2. Eat Whole Foods, Limit Processed Foods Whole food is real, single ingredient type foods (ie. Chicken, broccoli, etc) that are occurring in their natural state. They are rich in nutrients and depending on the food sometimes naturally contain enzymes (bonus!). Nutrients found in these foods will provide the fuel (vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc) needed for the body to function.
Processed foods are foods that have been changed from their natural state. They have multiple ingredients added to them, and can often be high in sodium, salt, sugar, saturated fat, and preservatives. Highly processed foods are more difficult to digest and have lower nutritional value compared to whole foods.
3. Eat Fiber Rich Foods Eating fiber helps with digestion in many ways. Soluble fiber attracts water in the gut and turns into a gel-like substance which makes stool easier to pass. It helps control blood sugar by slowly absorbing glucose and avoiding sudden, high spikes in blood sugar. It also helps to lower cholesterol. Examples of soluble fiber foods include: apples, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, avocado, sweet potato, carrots.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. This adds bulk to stool which can help move stool through the digestive tract., and when it reaches the colon it sends a signal to the body that stool is ready to pass. Eating fiber rich foods can also make you feel fuller for longer. Examples of insoluble fiber include whole wheat flour, oats, rice, nuts, beans, lentils, legumes, flaxseed, and some fruits & vegetables also contain insoluble fiber.
4. Drink Herbal Tea Herbal teas such as peppermint, chamomile, and fennel have phytochemical properties that are supportive to the digestive tract. Peppermint works as an anti-spasmodic, chamomile is a digestive relaxant, and fennel regulates the motility of smooth muscle in the intestine. Drinking 1-2 cups of herbal tea after a meal can help provide these gentle actions to the digestive system.
5. Exercise Physical activity increases blood flow within the body, and in turn increases blood flow to the smooth muscles of the intestines. The smooth muscles of the digestive system contract to push food through the small and large intestines, in an act called peristalsis. Improved blood flow to these muscles can improve gut transit time and assist in more regular bowel movements.
Dr. Stephanie Liebrecht, BSc, ND Naturopathic Doctor