The way you eat ought to allow you to enjoy life and the pleasures of health and happiness. This is especially true during this holiday season, where we may take time out of our “regular scheduled programming” of skipping breakfast, on-the-go lunches and rushed dinners to settle into longer meals of socializing, celebrating and feasting with family and friends. This is an opportune time to put into practice the tools for supporting optimal digestion (see the “Rest and Digest Tips” in sidebar). The added benefit of improved digestion is improved elimination and metabolism (think cleansing and weight management).
A perhaps not so obvious benefit is that improved gut health can lead to improved mental health, which is more relevant than ever during this season of decreased sunlight exposure when many on the west coast are more susceptible to SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or the “winter blues”. A little known fact: seratonin, one of our key neurotransmitters that helps regulate sleep, mood and appetite, is found largely in the gut. 90% of serotonin is found in the enterochromaffin cells in our GI tract! So the food-mood connection we may be keenly aware of when we crave carbohydrates or sweets during times of fatigue or stress is also connected to our digestive system state of being! There has been much research and writing on the “Gut-Brain” relationship, and more testing is now available for looking into levels of neurotransmitters and the state of digestive health.
Holiday meals may be richer than what we normally eat and likely involve sweet treats that are traditional at this time of year. With the exception of true sensitivities, a “ healthy diet” that is sustainable and a digestive system that is functioning well should allow you to digress once in a while and bounce back. Which brings us to something that people are surprised to hear a naturopathic physician say: “More important than WHAT you eat is HOW you eat”. You can be making all the best food choices in the world – buying organic, fresh, local, cooking clean – but if you are not taking the time to chew, breakdown, and absorb your food, you are missing out on that investment of time, money and energy. Your efforts may not be getting banked into your body’s gastrointestinal health account.
Food is the fuel that provides us with health and energy.
Our approach to giving our body this fuel has the power to either hinder or support the wholeness of mind, body and spirit.
This holiday is a wonderful time for looking at mealtimes as opportunities to get into “rest and digest” mode. Create a warm health-promoting environment and experience for the people you are feeding. Your friends, your family and you yourself will feel better for it!