Mindfulness is often associated with meditation, but research shows that mindfulness can also be useful when applied to eating and can contribute to better function of the stomach and better health.
Mindful eating is based on mindfulness, which is originally a Buddhist concept. Mindfulness consists of a group of techniques which help us to be present in the moment by noticing what is happening within us and in our immediate environment. It’s most commonly used for managing stress, worry, and anxiety, but also to overcome high blood pressure, for example.
When it comes to eating, mindfulness has been applied with the purpose of reducing stress and worry about food and eating, but also to improve digestion and to manage several different types of stomach problems. To summarise, mindful eating means that you eliminate distractions such as TV, mobiles, etc, and focus instead on the food – its colour, texture, and taste, etc.
With a stressful everyday life, it’s easy to slip into bad eating habits – eating while standing or on the move, eating in front of your computer at work or while scrolling on your mobile. Constantly distracting yourself with other activities at the same time as eating can easily become stressful and we tend to eat too quickly and not chew enough. Since it takes about 20 minutes for the body to begin feeling full, this can cause us to eat more than we really need, which then can lead to stomach pains, bloating, and more.
Eating when stressed can also have negative health effects. If we eat a lot of food in a short time, blood sugar levels rise quickly, which results in a subsequent blood sugar drop after the meal. This causes us to reach for things like sugary treats to get some energy back into our bodies.
Distractions and stress can also cause the body to react like it would in an escape situation – where blood is drawn away from the digestive system, which then negatively affects the digestive process. Poorer digestion can also lead to the body having more difficulty getting nutrients from food.
Eating quickly is also associated with issues like weight gain, high blood sugar levels, and increased waist size.
Practicing mindful eating is not something that needs to, or even can, be done every day at every meal. Instead, try integrating one or two of the tips above into one or two of your weekly meals. Then you’ll hopefully see good results in the form of both a more settled stomach and better general health. Good luck!
Dalen, J. et al. (2010)
Hepworth, N.S. (2010)
Daubenmier, J. et al. (2011)
Daubenmier, J. et al. (2016)