Slow down! This absolutely deserves first place on the list! When we gobble our food, we don’t chew it properly. Take a moment to imagine you and a friend enjoying a tasty chicken curry… You’re in a hurry, wolfing down your food while your friend savours the meal, eating slowly. As we travel to your stomachs you are far more likely to have chunks of chicken sitting there, while your friend will have a nice mush (technical term is chyme). Your stomach is going to have work significantly harder, producing more stomach acid to break down those chunks, placing a lot more stress on your digestive system which can ultimately lead to heart burn, IBS etc.
Relax! When we’re stressed we invoke something called the fight or flight stress response. Have you heard of it? It helps our bodies cope with the immediate threat of attack (that it believes we’re under) by firing up the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Part of this response diverts blood away from the digestive system to the brain and muscles where it believes it’s really needed. So if you eat in this state you have approx 40% less blood in your digestive system, significantly affecting how much of the good stuff on your plate you’re going to assimilate.
Chicken soup for the soul! Chicken stock and bone broth (made with marrow bones) are two of the most healing foods I know! They are absolutely jam-packed with goodies like collagen, glucosamine and chrondriotin which do so much to heal the little villi and micro villi in our small intestines. Really this is a whole other article in itself, so I’m going to keep it brief and say that I see these villi and micro villi like the roots of a plant and sometimes it doesn’t matter how good the quality of the soil, the fertilizer is etc, if the roots are damaged the nutrients can’t be assimilated and the whole plant is affected. These villi and micro villi can so easily become damaged as they are sensitive to antibiotics, steroids, stress and many other factors. Chicken stock and bone broth are medicine for these villi and microvilli and can dramatically improve your ability to assimilate nourishment.
Don’t fear the good fats! So often I see ladies presenting with mood & hormone imbalances, dry skin, constipation, weight gain and a huge fear of foods like avocados, nuts, coconut oil… We need these good fats in our diets to boost metabolism, balance hormones, help with mood and skin.
Invest in a slow cooker! This is not expensive and is worth every penny! The concept is that you cook food very slowly at a low temperature which preserves the nutrients. Practically, it’s a wonderful way to feed a family incredibly nourishing food while factoring in a busy life with work and other commitments. Notice not only the flavours of your casseroles etc but also how digestible and nourishing they are, how comfortable your tummy feels after eating them.
Cut down on sugar! Need I say more? Sugar is what’s known as an ‘anti-nutrient’. This means your body has to use its own reserves of B vits, calcium, magnesium and others in order to metabolize it, leaving you further depleted.
Variety is key! The average person eats approx 7 meals in rotation. The more food sources we have, the more likely we are to have a wider range of nutrients and nourishment. Problems can begin when we become overly reliant on any one food or group. So often I see clients with IBS who are way too dependent on wheat. For example, they might have a “healthy” wheat cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and then pasta or pizza in the evening…
It’s harder if there’s an agenda! I work with clients around all kinds of diets and belief systems and there are healthy and unhealthy ways of following these systems. It’s all about following your ethics in an informed way so that you don’t develop problems further down the line. For example, I often see vegetarians whose diets are very carb-heavy which can cause blood sugar imbalances and digestive issues…
Give up the guilt! Have you heard of the ‘nocebo’ effect? It’s the opposite of placebo and basically means, if you believe something is going to do you harm, then it’s far more likely to do you harm. In an ideal world we’d eat nourishing food 100% of the time, but we don’t and when it’s time to celebrate sometimes it’s fun to indulge in something we wouldn’t normally eat. That’s okay! Beating yourself up afterwards is a waste of energy.
Listen to your body! Tune in and become aware of how your body’s feeling. Don’t be governed the the brain’s need for ‘quick fixes’. Start to learn the impact different foods have on you as an individual. Does wheat cause your tummy to bloat? Does a slow cooked tagine feel great? How long does an egg at breakfast keep you going for? See it all as an experiment and the more you do this, the more developed your awareness and sense of nourishment will become.