Surprising Tips for Gut Health

If your life is constantly go go go, your food will always be grab grab grab.

In 2007, I went to my doctor because I was having chest pains, and I had an EKG that afternoon in the office.

Cardiovascularly speaking, I was normal.

“You have to deal with your stress,” my doctor told me. “And stop eating in your car.”

With that, he sent me on my way.

It would be many more years before I registered the second statement. That tends to be how I learn. I can hear something and ruminate on it for years before I integrate it, and this was one of those times.

Years later when I became a nutritionist, I began to see a pattern: while all my clients wanted to know what to eat, they actually really needed more help with when and how to eat.

Yes, it matters what a person eats, but that is just one leg of a three-legged stool. Of course, when to eat is another leg of that same stool.

Today, I want to talk about the third leg of that stool which is how to eat, and I believe that as it relates to gut health, this leg of the stool is the first priority.

I now say this to clients all the time: You are not fast, cheap and empty, nor should your food be, but that’s a far cry from how I lived back in 2007.

Be a rebel, go slowly at breakfast.

I was always eating on the run.

I would eat in my car or at my kitchen counter. I would eat quickly at my desk or shovel food into my mouth at dinner after a long day of not taking time to eat. I would have difficult conversations with my spouse at the dinner table, as that was often the only time we got to connect.

Looking back it is hard to believe that in 2007 I didn’t have children yet. This is to say that once I became a mother in 2008, my eating-on-the-run patterns got far worse before they got better.

I was always worried and hurried, and with my constant rushing, my sympathetic nervous system was switched on, and over time it became harder and harder for me to switch it off.

The sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our flight-or-flight response, stands in direct contrast to our parasympathetic nervous system, which is is responsible for our “rest-and-digest” mode, and it is the gear we were designed to downshift into, especially while eating.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems can not both be on at the same time, so when we are constantly rushing around digestion can’t happen. This is one reason why irritable bowel syndrome is exacerbated by stress, as constipation and/or diarrhea are often a response to a dysfunction in the nervous system.

For our GI tracts to work optimally, it’s important that GI tissues (which I think of as the soil of the garden) are healthy and free of irritation, and not only are constipation and diarrhea a result of irritation, they also cause it.

Here are some tips to help you shift from utilizing your sympathetic nervous system into resting comfortably into your parasympathetic nervous system and start the healing process:

If your life is constantly go go go, your food will always be grab grab grab. I didn’t come up with that concept, but I couldn’t agree more. In the end, how we eat is a reflection of how we live. This is just one more reason for us to downshift and simplify life. Our gut health depends on it.



Nicole Bianchi, N.C. Nicole Bianchi, N.C. is a certified nutritionist who helps clients strategically develop food plans for themselves and their families according to their individual needs, situations, health challenges and preferences.

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