What is eating hygiene and how does it affect your digestion?
Many of us have heard of sleep hygiene, which we know refers to what habits we’re doing in the hours leading up to falling asleep, and hence how this affects the quality of our sleep. So I wanted to chat about eating hygiene – yes this is a thing! And it’s MASSIVE when I’m working on readjusting a client’s digestive function. I’m finding so often that as a practitioner we can do x y z with supplements and dietary changes to help with someone’s digestive symptoms like inconsistent stools, bloating, excessive gas etc. But considering this other factor is so important when looking at long term relief for these things. My core principles to think about around eating hygiene: - Other activities you’re doing at the same time - The speed you’re eating at - How efficiently you’re chewing - Your thoughts/mindset whilst eating One of the biggest things I see with clients in regards to digestion is not having enough stomach acid. This is important to help us break down nutrients, regulate appetite and the growth of good and bad bacteria. Another thing that often coincides with this is undigested food remnants present in stool (from laboratory findings of stool tests I’ve requested). I always think to myself, ‘Okay well I know how to fix that but how did this person get to that in the first place?’. That’s what we need to target. I can do what I can as a practitioner to help but ultimately you’re with yourself every day so you’re the one who knows best on how you’re eating. I want to mention first that we all develop certain eating habits that we’ve normalised over a very long time and so have gotten used to it. This will take time to change if you know you find yourself doing any of these, it takes practice just like anything else. But step 1 is awareness, so let’s start with that.
Now, each time you’re eating, become aware of the above things I mentioned. - How big are the pieces of food you’re swallowing, could you possibly chew more before swallowing? - Are you rushing because you’re on a lunch break? - Are you also watching TV or working on the computer? - Is the type of food you’re eating not 100% ‘healthy’ and therefore you’re thinking about restricting yourself the next day or calculating the exercise you need to do to make up for it? - Or maybe regardless of the type of food, you’re eating it because you feel like you should but not enjoying it. All of these things will contribute to reducing that stomach acid naturally. The stomach needs to work so much harder to break down big pieces of food, it’s inhaling extra oxygen if you’re rushing from breathing quickly, it’s distracted while you’re working or watching the news. And of course the big one with that gut-brain connection, your thoughts and food guilt (Karah has written a more in depth blog about this!). It’s so key to enjoy your food and develop that healthy relationship, regardless of whether it may or may not be healthy. This is of particular importance if you find yourself ‘reacting’ to some foods sometimes but then not others. Maybe it’s not the food itself and it’s all these other factors. Or you’re only experiencing bloating after eating on your lunch break at work, but not at home. As I mentioned before this does take time but it could potentially be the loophole that maybe you’ve overlooked yourself.