Rest and Digest: Key for Gut Health

How to Improve Digestion and Tap into Your ‘Rest and Digest’ System

Are you experiencing unpleasant gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms? Your digestive health may be impacted by chronic stress, irregular meal patterns, and over-restriction. It’s time to take proactive steps to support your digestion and overall wellness.

Rachel Dyckman, MS, RDN, CDN, a New York City-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in gastrointestinal health, shares her top tips for making peace with food and improving your digestion starting today.

1. Take the stress out of mealtimes
Eating while stressed can activate the sympathetic nervous system, also known as “fight-or-flight” mode, which impairs digestion. To support optimal digestion, create a calm environment during mealtimes by avoiding distractions and practicing deep breathing.

2. Notice the aromas, flavors, and textures of your food
Engaging your senses during meals stimulates the release of digestive enzymes, bile, and gastric juices, aiding in proper food breakdown and digestion. Taking time to appreciate the sensory aspects of food can also make your meals more satisfying.

3. Tune into your body’s hunger and fullness cues
Listening to your body’s natural cues surrounding when and how much to eat can prevent irregular meal patterns and help avoid the negative effects of under-eating or becoming uncomfortably full. Check in with your hunger and fullness signals throughout the day to guide your eating habits.

4. Ditch the food rules
Restricting specific foods or ingredients can impact gut health and digestion. Overly restrictive diets may lead to gut dysbiosis and slowed gut motility, causing unpleasant symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, nausea, and bloating. Consider working with a registered dietitian to evaluate your dietary restrictions and improve your relationship with food.

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Remember to prioritize your digestive health by adopting these tips and making peace with food. Your body will thank you.

For more information, visit Integrative Medicine, Advances in Nutrition, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Physiology & Behavior, and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.