The last of the BLGs to discuss in this blog series is Digestion. If the other 7 guidelines sounded to you like ‘common sense’, this one is definitely going to remind you of the things Grandma said. Yes, it is common sense, but that’s something that is not too common today. Take heed. The proverbial wisdom of your Grandma was built on generations of trial & error, so it was for the most part true, and certainly worthy of your attention.
“Digestion: food is a 36 to 44-hour investment. Sit down, chew your food, set the phone aside and have a conversation.”
Quoting the OPEX Basic Lifestyle Guidelines here. I just want to break this down into it’s component statements today:
“Food is a 36 to 44-hour investment.”
This means that food is not just something you put into your mouth and then forget about. The digestive, absorptive, and eliminative processes take up to 2 days. It all starts with seeing, smelling, and appreciating your food. Then, there’s chewing and salivation that begins to break down the food. Then, you swallow a bolus (ball of chewed food) that moves down your esophagus to your stomach. Enzymes break down the food throughout this process, and–in the stomach–stomach acids start to do their work. Then, it enters your small intestine, where nutrients are pulled through a one-cell-layer-thick intestinal lining and into your bloodstream. Nutrients from the food are then circulated throughout your body. The food passes next into the large intestine, where water is absorbed out of it, drying it out into a piece of poop that you will later flush down the toilet. That’s the gist of it.
Inattentive eating is a problem. It leads people to ignore our natural hunger and fullness cues, possibly eating too little or too much because of our inattention. This may in turn poorly affect your digestion because the release of enzymes and hormones is tied to your attention. So, sit down to eat, and give meals the time and respect they deserve.
“Chew your food.”
This may be the most important of all the statements in this guideline. Chewing is the first step of digestion. If food is not chewed well, you will be swallowing (or attempting to swallow) big chunks of food that will not break down well further into the digestive process. Also, the salivary enzymes within your mouth will not have an opportunity to chemically break down your food to prepare it for later stages of digestion. The consequence of this is food particles that are not ready to be absorbed through your intestinal lining, leading either to nutrients passing straight through you and not being of any use to your body, or to food particles perforating your gut lining and causing what is known as “leaky gut”. Bad stuff. So, I always tell people to chew your food at least 42 times per bite. Don’t wash it down with water. Adequately chewed food that has mixed with your saliva will slide right down.
“Set the phone aside and have a conversation.”
This is all about rest and relaxation, about respecting the time to eat as a sacred time to be present in the moment. Looking at your phone while you eat can distract you the same way watching TV or eating at your desk while you work can. Give your food your attention. Enjoy meal time with a friend, co-worker, or loved one. Then, when it’s time to go back to work (or back to social media, the news, or any of the other apps that demand your attention), you will have more focus for your work because you respected the boundary between work and rest.
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