Dr. Jennea Wood, ND
How We Eat and Why it Matters
I spent a recent weekend at a retreat where naturopathic doctors assembled to discuss the philosophy of the medicine we practice. While at this retreat, I noticed a pattern that I have observed many times before. I slept in a cabin with no Internet connection for two nights and woke refreshed. I ate the delicious and wholesome food that was provided for us while sitting outside in a beautiful place. Meals were enjoyed with warm and kind people over inspiring discussions. I was more conscious than usual of chewing my food thoroughly and noticing when I was full. I felt such gratitude at each meal for the food and the sense of community. Between the meals and the discussions and lectures, I walked in the forest. And this is what I noticed: My digestion improved dramatically for those two days. Then I went back to the city and my normal schedule, and while I was still eating healthy food, I found myself eating more snacks during moments of boredom while doing things like filling out paperwork. I ate 2 out of 3 meals alone, most days, since I work from home when not seeing patients and my partner leaves early for work. I was indoors most of the time, and though I try to avoid this, I would sometimes check email or read while eating. Instantly my digestion became somewhat disturbed again. Nothing serious, but food didn’t sit quite right. I felt a little bloated after meals.
In many ways, how we eat is as important as what we eat
This is such a common pattern that I have observed countless times in my patients and myself. When we eat hurriedly, or while distracted, inside, alone; when we don’t chew thoroughly, we don’t stop to appreciate our food. When these things are true, we don’t fully digest the food we eat. This means that we extract less nutrition from it, and our friendly gut bacteria gets ahold of whatever is left and ferments it causing gas and bloating.
It is not always possible to eat with friends or family or to eat outside
When that is the case, I encourage you to pause before you start eating, take 10 belly breaths and spend a moment seeing if you can feel some authentic gratitude for the food you are about to eat. This actually helps flip the switch in your nervous system to parasympathetic or “rest and digest” mode. Only in this mode is your body capable of producing sufficient stomach acid, digestive enzymes and bile; the substances that allow you to completely digest the food you eat. But more foundationally, I encourage you to consider the way you structure your life, and whether it allows you to regularly eat meals with friends and family, to take time away from work to eat, and to digest after a meal. Where could you potentially simplify your life and make more space for these type of essential acts? And what do you notice about your digestion when you are distracted and hurried during meals versus when you are relaxed, grateful and surrounded by loved ones?
Wishing you health,
Dr. Jennea Wood is a board-licensed naturopathic physician. She provides a unique fusion of conventional medical testing and diagnosis, attention to modern research, and safe, effective natural therapeutics to help you reach your health goals. Dr. Wood earned her Doctorate of Naturopathy from National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM). During her time there, she completed a six-month internship in integrative cardiology and well as additional extensive training in chronic gastrointestinal conditions including small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). She has advanced training in classical homeopathy through the New England School of Homeopathy, and has worked with the Food as Medicine Institute since 2013 delivering high quality nutrition education. She loves to work with people in treating all manner of health concerns using natural therapies such as homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy and nutrition.