Ever pondered how to strengthen and enhance the health of your digestive system? Have you ever imagined what it would feel like to have an on/off magic switch for your digestion?
Our digestive as well as metabolic processes have an on/off switch within each of us, which we refer to as the nervous system in our bodies. We have a metabolic switch here. And whether we feel the benefits of being “on” or the negative effects of feeling “off” will depend on how it reacts to our surroundings, the ideas we have, or our food. Our neurological system controls this switch.
Digestion in the sympathetic nervous system versus the parasympathetic nervous system
There are two main components of our neural system that are essential to comprehending:
The Nervous System Sympathetic
This system is likewise referred to as the “fight or flight” reaction. The “rest and digest” reaction is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system. As you might expect, they all serve a crucial and potent purpose.
Digestion and the Sympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic nervous system activates in response to any perceived or actual threat. We engage our fight-or-flight response and transition into a stress response if fear, whether real or imagined, manifests itself in our thoughts or surroundings.
Examples include being chased by a bear, being late for a plane, having an endless to-do list full of pressing deadlines, or even evaluating ourselves for eating so much cake. When this happens, our parasympathetic nervous system directs blood flow and energy to our extremities, giving us the option to fight, run, or freeze in the face of our stressor.
However, while our body transfers blood and energy to our arms and legs, it also diverts these resources from our internal organs, which includes our digestive system.
Our digestion totally shuts down when we are in a full-blown stress reaction, such as when a bear is pursuing us, because digestion is scarcely necessary while we are battling for our life.
However, even in situations of mild to chronic stress, such as when we have a daily to-do list at work or engage in continuous self-criticism, our gastrointestinal system is still adversely affected.
We are significantly less able to digest, absorb, and metabolize our meals when we are anxious or worried. The brain within our bellies is everything. One of the main ideas in the study of eating psychology, or rest and digest health and wellness, is the fact that our stress reaction has a significant impact on our metabolism and digestion.
Digestion and the Parasympathetic Nervous System
The good news is that we may easily revert to activating the parasympathetic nerve system instead of our normal stress response, which will help us achieve better digestive health. “Relax and digest” refers to the parasympathetic nervous system being activated. It’s our way of unwinding.
We’re so used to moving quickly in daily life that very few of us pause to consider why everyone is taking antacids or digestive aids; we never consider the possibility that stopping, slowing down, and relaxing a little bit more may be the solution.
In addition to slowing the heart rate, promoting digestive function, opening blood vessels, and facilitating deep, peaceful breathing, the parasympathetic nervous system also conserves energy. Thus, there is a beneficial relationship between the sympathetic nervous system and digestion, which improves the health of our digestion.
You may be thinking, though, how exactly will we get there at this point. When our daily activities are filled with stress, how can we assist our bodies to enter the rest and digest state?
Ways to Improve Your Digestive Health
These three tactics, which can help your body enter the homeostatic relaxation response and support digestive wellbeing, are something we frequently talk about at the Institute on the Psychology of Eating.
Few of us truly consider how our breathing affects our mood and emotions unless we are choking or ill. Thus, take a minute to breathe deeply, calmly, and slowly before you start eating. As you sit at the table, bring yourself to your body. Breathe with the purpose of calming and becoming totally present. Make a commitment to being someplace else.
The quickest method for putting our body in a more relaxed condition is this. Isn’t it time we gave our breathing some more attention?
We may change our body from fight-or-flight mode to rest-and-digest mode by slowing down more—sitting down to eat, being realistic regarding how much we are capable of getting done in a day, focusing on one job at a time instead of five—because so many of us are rushing through life.
Go slowly, then. Life goes by so quickly. It merits all our consideration as well as its due.
Unwind. Savor the undertaking.
Moving so quickly that our food cannot be properly metabolized is not justified. Eating slowly is key to good health; hurry is not the solution.
Savor Your Meal
Focusing on appreciating our meal causes us to tune into our senses—taste, touch, and smell—activate our pleasure receptors, which in turn causes the parasympathetic nervous system in us to become active. It’s possible that you’ve observed that nothing of the aforementioned options are solely food-related.
Although food plays a part in our digestive health (https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works), it’s not the only factor. There is much more to nutritional healing and digestive fitness than just the foods and medications we choose to consume. Feel free to experiment with different outcomes when you include pleasure in the mix.
Important Lessons for Digestive Health
To sum up, the following are the most important lessons for improved digestive wellness as well as wellness:
- As a stress reaction mechanism, the sympathetic nervous system, or nervous system, activates, encouraging the fight-or-flight response and stopping digestion.
- As a calming response mechanism, the nervous system’s parasympathetic system responds, triggering rest and digestion.
- Breathing mindfully causes our body to become more at ease.
- Engaging in attentive and leisurely eating might trigger the nervous system’s parasympathetic nervous system.
- Our attention must be directed into the deep structural level of our neurological system in order for our meals to have the most beneficial and nutritious effect on our bodies. Every aspect of our body is interconnected; nothing is separate.