stress is the enemy of digestion

Nutritional needs vary from person to person and day to day so we can't rely completely on outside authorities to choose what to eat. We have to make some decisions ourselves.

Other animals don't need dieticians or books to work out what to eat. They learn from their communities and follow their instinctive cravings. When they are sick they seek out healing plants.

We can sense and remember countless fine differences in taste, smell, appearance and after-effects. When we attend closely we can feel them guiding us even when they are too complex to consciously analyse.

self regulation
Regulatory homoeostatic mechanisms in the brain stem detect nutrient levels and create cravings for nutrients we are short of and dampen hunger pangs when our needs are met. Not too much and not too little of everything the body needs. Overeating increases risks of disease with no extra benefits.

Our senses can detect hundreds of different nutrients on different parts of the tongue. After fasting a couple of days a sip of any one of these will taste delicious. The next sip is less attractive and after another sip or two uninteresting. After more sips it becomes unsatisfying then distasteful and finally repulsive.

These signals may be overridden by packaging, advertising, obligation, custom, religion, habit, convenience, branding, diets, theories or government guidelines or if we just eat whatever is there regardless of the evidence of our senses or the taste or after effects.

Feelings like hunger and satisfaction regulate what we eat. Sleep deprivation, exhaustion, stress, dehydration, chemicals, drugs, diseases, addictive foods, salt, sugar and additives can disrupt the body's regulatory mechanisms making it difficult or impossible to work out what to eat or when to stop.

Refined salt and sugar deplete other nutrients which compound these problems.

The intake of refined, addictive or allergenic foods are not easily regulated by the body. Some like chocolate are very addictive. Casein in milk converts during digestion into opioids called casomorphins. They are concentrated in cheese which is much more difficult to quit than other dairy.

Sugar triggers the release of endorphins that stimulate the brain's pleasure centres. It is highly addictive.

The very act of eating can be addictive. Chewing triggers the release of serotonin which activate pleasure centres.

Overeating produces a high when endorphins are released to mask the discomfort of a distended stomach. These hormones act on the same receptors as opiates. They are just as addictive.

Overeating is tranquillizing by diverting blood to the stomach and intestines and reducing blood flow to the brain. Fats thicken the blood which reduces blood flow and oxygenation which is slightly suffocating.

Essential nutrients have to be reached before homoeostatic mechanisms turn off feelings of hunger. Junk food can be eaten until there is no more room for more, Satisfying nutrient levels are not reached.

We enjoy the physical sensations of crunchy and oily food. In the wild these preferences steer us towards foods that are fresh and contain scarce and essential fats and oils.

Races evolved in environments with seasonal food shortage evolve to eat as much fats and sugars as they can find to store in the body for days or weeks or shortage. But these life saving cravings are dangerous when low nutrient industrially refined fats and sugars are available in unlimited quantities.

Refined oils, fats and sugars are slow to turn off hunger as they lack the bulk to provide a feeling of fullness. Food manufacturers design crunchy, oily, sweet and salty products to appeal to innate preferences and addictions which over-ride our regulatory mechanisms. Unfortunately for the consumer this means that nutrient deficient addictive products are profitable.

Quit addictive foods and overeating
Over-eating is relaxing, helps get to sleep and provides relief from anxiety, depression and stress. Quitting requires finding alternatives

Uncovering the origins of food cravings helps escape their grip. Overeating may be powered by a deep fear of scarcity even when there is obvious abundance. Craving for nutrients drives a lot of junk food overeating. Fresh fruit and veg at the start of the day satisfies most nutrient cravings.

Exercise gets the metabolism working and stimulates eating for those who eat too little and reduces binge over-eating. The body's homoeostatic mechanisms start to function again.

The relaxation exercises and meditations on the body pages are alternative ways to feel good, relax and sleep.

The “quit” menu on the drugs pages has tips to get free but there is no magic wand. Everyone has find their own way to get their body back..

food allergies
Rashes, asthma, lethargy, runny nose, digestive disturbances and run down immune system might be signs of a food allergy.

Undigested protein particles or molecules can pass into the bloodstream through gut and blood vessel walls that are weakened by sickness. If they are identified by the immune system as foreign they can trigger a self protective immune response. If the immune system remembers them, they become allergenic. In some cases even the sight, smell or memory of them can trigger an immune reaction.

The body biochemistry changes to compensate for the presence of allergens and to an immune response to them. Withdrawing allergens from the diet can be uncomfortable or distressing while the body readjusts to their absence. Craving a food or eating it regularly may be a sign that the body has accommodated to defending against its effects and now feels uncomfortable without it. Taking the food alleviates withdrawal symptoms and this is mistaken for the food being beneficial even if it is allergenic This can be tested by withdrawing the food for a week or so and checking for cravings and checking for feeling better when the withdrawal symptoms subside.

Staple foods are common allergens. The fine particles in flours are a greater risk than whole grains because they can pass more easily through a gut wall into the blood stream before they can be broken down by digestion. This is most likely when the gut wall is perforated or compromised by inflammation or perforation. So stress or Irritable Bowel Syndrome often precede allergies. One allergy is often followed by more.

Dairy allergies are widespread. There are estimates that a quarter of the population risk illness by eating dairy while another quarter don't show obvious side effects.

Withdrawing from addictive and allergenic foods is much the same as giving up addictive drugs. Some people quit all at once and put up with the discomfort and cravings. Others withdraw gradually.

In the wild we can go days without food so regular meals may not be essential --- there is plenty of evidence for the benefits of fasting. Eating and digestion slightly increases stress and breathing rate and consumes resources. Fasting rests the body from toxic, addictive, and allergenic foods.

Allergens and addictive foods can be identified by reintroducing foods one at a time after a few days fasting or on a safe restricted diet to see which ones trigger a reaction.

Reducing their intake or not using them when tired or ill or taking them out of the diet for a few months often fixes the problem.

simple meals
If foods are eaten separately it is easier to tell when satisfaction is reached for each item of food.

It can more difficult to assess when to finish eating a complex meal with many ingredients particularly when masked with strong flavours or containing addictive ingredients.

Diets dis-empower us if they follow rigid formulas. They tempt us to hand over to an external authority and disregard our body’s signals. Everyone is different and nutritional needs change seasonally and from day to day.

Any diet even if it is damaging or sub-optimal usually brings benefits if it withdraws junk and toxic food from the menu or introduces fresh fruit and veg.

Most diets are promoted to make money for someone and are not necessarily safe or healthy. No matter how much you pay or how well promoted, authoritative or plausible, check if they line up with the research and theories they are founded on and if they really work as claimed. Many alternative and mainstream medical professionals promote diets without looking at the underlying claims or testing them carefully. Same goes for dietary supplements and super-foods. Many are just hype and hope. The results can sometimes be tragic.

Diets that prescribe particular foods for particular physiological types do not account for other differences between individuals and regional differences in nutrients in foods due to soils, plant varieties and preparation. The ones I have examined are based on speculative assumptions and looking at the health of their adherents don't deliver the results they claim.

Dehydration can produce metabolic disturbance and confusion and can perpetuate these by disrupting the body's regulatory thirst mechanisms.

Fluid is lost in eliminating drugs and toxins as well as many foods, particularly proteins and refined sugar. A junk food diet requires more fluid.

Smell is perceived directly before being processed by the higher intellect. It gives our body a quicker and less prejudiced assessment than sight or sound. Smell triggers all kinds of reactions including the release of the appropriate digestive enzymes.

The smells of food can be energising. They set off digestive processes and change our mood. They are in a sense nutritional.

Food makes itself known by its effects on the body. Remembering to listen to the body may happen in an instant or may take a few weeks or months.

  • Throw out junk food with toxic additives like hard or hydrogenated fats, addictive ingredients, refined carbohydrates, refined sugar, refined salt, glutamates and caffeine.

  • The secret of enjoying food is to be hungry. A short fast might help.

  • Keep a wide range of healthy food so there is plenty to choose from. The more the better. Visit exotic food shops. Try some different fresh fruit and veg. Browse shops and markets. Wholesalers can be cheap and interesting. Talk to friends to find ideas.

  • Experiment with recipes, side plates, spices, sauces, pickles, coleslaw, preserves, dried foods like seaweed or dried fruit.

  • On awakening in the morning consider - How do I feel? What do I feel like eating? How would I feel if I ate that. Perhaps a favourite breakfast that is always satisfying. Smelling or imagining food might give a clue.

  • Apart from junk food only eat what you really want.

  • Find a comfortable time and space to eat.

  • Stop everything else to enjoy eating.

  • Try to capture your reaction to the smell of the food in the first fraction of a second before a train of though is triggered.

  • Notice the taste. What feelings in the body does tt remind you of?

  • what from past experience do you anticipate the after effects will be.

  • How do I feel now.

  • What else would be nice?

  • Wait for the body signals of being comfortably full.

  • Finish when you have had enough or a bit before that.

A few months after eliminating junk foods simple foods which previously seemed unremarkable become delicious and uplifting. The differences between fresh and really fresh becomes noticeable. The subtle flavours and aromas of different kinds of boiled rice may become fascinating.

Eventually the uncomfortable side effects and tastes of toxic ingredients begins to be noticeable. After feeling good for a while, the discomfort or low vitality that used to be normal becomes unbearable. Preservatives, pesticides, junk food and synthetic colours and flavours become repulsive.

d has to be assimilated to be useful. Physical mental and emotional health are essential for digestion. When fit, healthy and relaxed our digestion, liver and kidneys will process food and put the proceeds to use.

how to eat
Food sharing is part of the culture of social animals and a core part of bonding. Food is better grown, harvested, prepared or eaten together. And finding the best food and ways to handle and prepare it.

How food is eaten is as important as what to eat. Stress impairs digestion. Nutrients are not as accessible and allergenic reactions more likely.

Food is selected more accurately as awareness of mind and body grows. Then food is chosen using the knowledge that is in our feelings.

The awareness exercises on the body, mind and stress pages expand awareness of the effects of food on thoughts and feelings..

That awareness overflows into other life choices.