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Healthy Eating Habits

We are all familiar with the saying “you are what you eat.” Well as true as it is, we not only are what we eat, but how we eat. When and how we eat affects our enjoyment of the food we eat. Healthy digestion and assimilation of our food is effected by our food choices, our attitude and environment of consumption, both external and internal. Have you ever wanted a good meal and eaten a bad one, then walked away still feeling hungry? Somehow unfulfilled, even with a stomach full of food? Can you remember what you ate for dinner last night? You may have forgotten, but perhaps you didn’t notice to begin with. Bringing more attention and thought to our meals may help us to make healthier food choices, and experience the joy of our food.

The process of digestion is an involuntary function (one which we do not consciously direct) and is governed by our autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. The autonomic nervous system governs all of the involuntary functions in our body. In order to accommodate our wide variety of needs, it has two distinctly different yet interdependent sub-systems within in called the sympathetic and the parasympathetic division.

The sympathetic division is “on alert”; it is the yang or action nervous system. This division is responsible for our ‘flight or fight’ mechanisms. It becomes our dominant system when our mind sends signals to our body to mobilize it to action, in response to a perceived threat or danger, real or imagined. In our modern society it is often called into play in response to fear, excitement or anticipation. You can tell when you are sympathetic dominant when you are breathing more shallow and from higher in your chest, your pulse quickens, you have a sensation of excitement (butterflies) or ‘tension’ deep in your stomach and throughout your muscle structure. You may also be perspiring (especially your hands) even though your surroundings are not too warm, or you may feel fidgety, generally ‘hyper’ and perhaps, at times, less comfortable inside. When you are stressed, your body says run, and your digestive system shuts down.

The parasympathetic division is a more yin or nurturing nervous system. It is responsible for quite a different set of physiological responses and is called into play when we make time for rest, and relaxation. It favors assimilation, repair and regeneration and is dominant when our breathing is slower, more rhythmic and from lower in our chest and abdomen. There is a decrease in muscle tone, the abdomen is relaxed and comfortable, with no sense of tension in it.

If we are to digest our food properly and to derive full nutritional value from it we need the nurturing, parasympathetic division. How conscious are you of your state of mind and body before, during and after your meals? This awareness is important to proper digestion and health as any other aspect of your lifestyle. The following mindfulness practices help us to use our nurturing nervous system so we can better enjoy and utilize our food.

Source: Arlington Acupuncture