Digestion - It's All in the Head!
Well actually I told a little fib just to catch your attention. Not all of digestion is in the mind but scientists estimate that around 30% to 40% of the total digestive process does occur in the head. This part of the digestive process is called the Cephalic Phase Digestive Response. Think about a time when you smelt a food or meal that you particularly enjoy, or even just thought about that food or meal. I bet your mouth started to water – that’s the CPDR in action.
Before we even put food into our mouths, the head begins the digestion process. As soon as we see & smell food, chemical receptors on our tongue & in the nasal passages are activated. Once food hits the mouth, the taste & texture wakes up even more receptors in the oral cavity, producing digestive enzymes in the saliva. When we are fully aware during a meal the CPDR secretes not just saliva but also stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes. Blood is pumped to the stomach & intestines causing rhythmic contractions to push the incoming food through the digestive system.
So if CPDR accounts for 30% to 40% of our total digestive process and CPDR depends on us being aware when eating, that means that if we don’t pay attention we are only digesting at 60% to 70% capacity! What might cause this lack of attention? There are several possibilities including simply not being ‘present’. In other words we are completely distracted – we could be watching TV, reading a book, eating at our desk while working or checking Facebook or Email. Another thing that can interfere with CPDR is eating too fast. This can simply be a habit that we’ve fallen into or it could be a result of the distractions I mentioned before. When we eat fast the brain fails to register taste, pleasure, aroma & satisfaction & visual stimulation so we fail to ‘experience’ our meal. Consequently we are completely missing out on the ‘head phase’ of digestion. This can lead to weakened metabolism, along with lowered enzymes in the gut and poor oxygen flow to the digestive organs. Some of the effects of this might include:
reduced absorption of nutrients
overeating and weight gain
How could this possibly cause overeating and weight gain? When we eat fast or we are simply not ‘present’, the brain misinterprets the missed experience of our meals as a sign that we didn’t eat at all. We are therefore physiologically driven to eat more, even if we just ate a big meal. The brain isn’t smart enough to realise that “Hey you were in a rush & not paying attention to your food”. It just says ‘hungry’ & commands us to provide what it needs – the eating experience. Scientists tell us that it take about 20 minutes for the brain to realise when the body is full from a meal – it’s actually true. So if you are eating your meal in less than 20 minutes, how will your brain know when to stop because you are full.
My best tips for making sure the Cephalic Phase is happening for you are Eat Slowly & follow the principles of Mindful Eating. This graphic is very useful.
You could add some relaxing & grounding essential oils to make sure you are truly present. I’d recommend 3 blends that are provided by doTerra – Balance (for grounding & getting present), Serenity (for calm) & Digestzen (to support healthy digestion).
Pam Bailey is a Feel Good Facilitator, Helping Women Feel Good Every Day
Nutritionist, Eating Psychology Coach, Life Coach & Heal Your Life Workshop Facilitator.
She is an International Keynote speaker & workshop leader & also provides private coaching via Skype & in person.
For more information contact Pam on 0452 464 818 or via email email@example.com
You can follow Pam on Facebook here
To receive Pam's monthly newsletter subscribe here