If you’ve struggled with digestive issues, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with common symptoms such as gas, bloating, heartburn, loose stool or constipation. It’s important to talk with your medical provider about your symptoms, but sometimes simple shifts in eating patterns are the first place to start. We call these ideal eating patterns “food hygiene” and it’s not about what you eat so much as how you eat.
Here’s my favourite example: did you know that smelling delicious food triggers a neurological signal that causes the stomach to make digestive juices? This increased activity in the stomach not only improves the stomach’s ability to do its job, but it also initiates a cascade of digestive hormones that get the rest of the digestive organs--the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine and large intestine--ready to participate in processing your meal.
Optimal digestion occurs when activity and function are well-timed and when there are adequate digestive juices. Smelling our food helps by sending the digestive system the message that we’re going to be eating soon. What’s even cooler is that this effect is not limited to smell. Taste, sight or even the idea of something delicious will also trigger this beneficial reaction.
This is great news, because it means that savouring the smells, sights or even thoughts about your food is great for your digestion. Here are a few tips to help take advantage of this digestive response to delicious stimuli:
If focusing on food hygiene doesn't resolve your symptoms, be sure to schedule an appointment, as there could be many other treatable underlying issues--I love helping people feel better in their bellies!
References: Mark Feldman, Charles T. Richardson, Role of thought, sight, smell, and taste of food in the cephalic phase of gastric acid secretion in humans, Gastroenterology, Volume 90, Issue 2, 1986, Pages 428-433.