I've been seen an influx of patients with digestive issues lately and I thought I should address it a bit in a blog post.
The body has two divisions of the autonomic nervous system that are always trying to maintain a balance - the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system. The parasympathetic system is constantly fighting to regain control in most of us - it is the system that dominates when you're in a relaxed state (which never happens enough!).
The sympathetic system is the system that dominates when a person is under stress. It regulates what we call the flight or flight system. If there is a tiger in the room, it is most important for your body to get lots of blood flow and oxygen to your muscles so that you can either run away or fight the tiger. If you're fighting a tiger, do you really think that your body is focused on digesting your last meal??? I don't think so! One of the problems is that our body doesn't differentiate between having a deadline at work, or getting married, or fighting a tiger - at a cellular level, all of these examples have the same effect on your body.
It is very important that if your digestive system isn't working optimally that you think about your overall stress levels and what you're doing while you eat - are you focusing on eating in relaxed environment, or are you wolfing down food at your desk while still working? It is also important to focus on chewing your food as this is the first line of digestion - both the enzymes found in saliva as well as the mechanical breakdown of food by your teeth. I tell patients on a daily basis that they should be chewing until your food is a paste in your mouth.
Of course, there are also lots of other things that can help or hinder digestion - food sensitivites, herbs, probiotics, fibre, food choices, exercise, etc.
If you're feeling bloated, constipated, have diarrhea, or any other digestive complaint - please come in and let's get your system functioning better!