As a working adult with more commitments than time I have found myself shoveling in a meal or a snack while driving from one place to the next. Sometimes the only time to eat seems to be while multi-tasking any number of activities; a conference call at work; helping with homework; writing a blog post…  It seems the days of sitting down for a meal with friends and family have become special events instead of the everyday routine.  As a child I would have breakfast with my siblings every morning, my dad having left for work well before the rest of the family was awake. Dinner waited until my dad was home and we sat together, as a family, with no television and actually talked about our collective days and dinner would last an hour.

Today, I still find myself leaving the house with a mug of coffee and a slice of bacon in hand. It was when my 5 year old was climbing into the car with her bowl of porridge to consume as we manically drove to kindergarten that I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew, at this point, the importance of sitting and relaxing and savoring a meal. It’s important for several reasons; you’re emotional well being as much as your digestive tracts well being. This was actually how TV became a treat rather than the norm in our house, and that was no easy adjustment. In fact, most days it’s still a battle of wills.

The first step in food digestion is chewing, and I mean really chewing. Not a couple of chomps and down the hatch. The process of masticating food, the blending of saliva and the release of digestive enzymes all begin with chewing. A wonderful tip to help you become more mindful when chewing is to set your utensils down between each bite. Breathe in and chew and enjoy the wonderful flavors coming from your meal. You’ll enjoy your meal and you may be surprised to find yourself full before you finish the same portion you previously vanquished within minutes and had a second helping.

Your body operates in either the sympathetic or para-sympathetic mode. When we are rushing about and shoveling in food our body is on high alert in the sympathetic mode. This fight or flight mode to your body is the same as running for your life and processing food is not on the list of survival skills. This compromises your ability to properly digest the food you have eaten. The old adage of you are what you eat is a bit of a misnomer, in reality you are what you are able to digest. Indigestion and acid reflux are often the results of eating too quickly, drinking too much during a meal, and being in a state of alarm or stress.

Over the counter, as well as prescription medications that reduce acid in your stomach are harmful when used regularly. These were designed for the body to repair an ulcer and the reduction of acid for one to two weeks was necessary for the stomach lining to heal. Taken continuously, the stomach isn’t producing enough acid and is unable to break down foods or extract nutrients. The esophageal sphincter doesn’t receive the message to close to contain the stomach acid in the stomach, which causes that burning sensation high in your chest- it’s acid in the wrong place versus too much. Over time this can lead to any number of health concerns, from leaky gut to esophageal cancer.

My personal side effect from eating too quickly, or when I was overly stressed was that my throat would close. I couldn’t swallow, I couldn’t talk and I definitely couldn’t drink anything. I would have to find a bathroom and hope that my throat would open enough that I could expel the trapped food. It was horrendous and embarrassing and ruined more than one meal. I hunted the internet (Dr. Google), asked my doctor and I saw many other people looking for a similar answer to what was causing this issue, with no answers or a suggestion for an ant-acid.

It wasn’t until I changed my eating hygiene that I found relief. I still have to remind myself to slow down, to savor my food. That if I’m in a rush, pack a snack and eat it when I have time to stop and relax.