Did you know that cooking your own meals actually helps your digestion?
When you start thinking about what you’re going to eat, when you chop and sauté an onion, roast some seeds for your salad, slow-cook a stew with spices… Your kitchen fills up with lovely aromas.
Thinking about food, hands-on preparing and smelling it sets off a cascade of processes. And they are key for gut healing.
The hypothalamus in your brain signals to the medulla oblongata in the brainstem. The medulla’s response is sending out nerve impulses, which travel down the big, wandering nerve – the vagus nerve – to stimulate more saliva production, increase the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and pancreatic secretions. Together, they help with optimal digestion.
Then taking time to bless your food in some way or another prepares you to eat. As you might know we have two different modes of our nervous system: sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest). If we’re in sympathetic mode we’re ready for action. Our body focuses on sending more blood to our muscles and lungs so we can jump or run into action is case of a threat or emergency. It makes sense that the body isn’t focusing so much on digestion.
When you eat in a stressed state, your digestion only works on half it’s potential – or less!
So what happens if you eat when you’re stressed out, upset, have a difficult conversation or reply to some work emails during your meal? You will not break down the nutrients very well and that can result in acid reflux, bloating, burping, stomach pain and the like.
It doesn’t take long prayers or meditations to get to the rest-and-digest mode. Blessing your meal can be as simple as sitting down on the table and taking a few seconds to look at the food you prepared and appreciate it.