Mind body science has revealed that the connection and awareness between the mind and the body are connected to our physiology, nutritional metabolism, and body. The relationship between awareness of the mind is well recognized, but how many of us understand and experience awareness of the body (outside the yoga studio or in meditation).
Mind body awareness is a catalyst about how we feel and experience our day. Have you ever woken up in the morning “feeling” bloated and in result felt more foggy and sluggish overall? Have you ever looked in the mirror and felt pretty or strong and consequently held yourself with more confidence and positivity? The affect nature can have on our physiology as well, is also an example of how this metabolic awareness can be triggered. For example, imagine being near the ocean or on a walk in the woods and physically feeling relief and mentally relaxing, this is an instance where our surroundings affect the body’s physiology. These are examples of our metabolic awareness connected to the physiology of the body or how we physically feel.
This profound impact that awareness has on the body is our ability to be present and awake to what is happening in this moment. When we use our awareness around food and become truly present with the act of digestion and eating, the way we metabolize the food is affected immensely. Nutrient assimilation, digestion, and calorie burning ability are all in direct accordance to our presences around food and eating. Scientists call this physiologically response Cephalic Phase of Digestion Response (CPDR) which is the body’s response in anticipation for food. This is easy to recognize when we think of how our mouths water when we smell delicious food or think of our favorite foods. Chemical and mechanical receptors both on the tongue and in the nasal cavity are stimulated when we taste, notice, or smell food.
Researchers have estimated that as much as 30-40% of the total digestion response to any meal or snack is due to CPDR; our full awareness of what we are eating. Awareness initiates the secretion of saliva, pancreatic enzymes, gastric acids, and gut associated neuro peptides. It sends more blood to the stomach and digestive system in preparation for incoming food.
Conclusively, if we are not being mindful of our meals we are only digesting at 70-60% of our digestive capabilities and efficiencies. Lack of attention results in decreased blood flow to the digestive organs, less oxygenation, and a weakened metabolic force. We than become susceptible to digestive upset, bowel disorders, fatigued and lowered immunity. Scientists have studied nutrient absorption in our bodies by presenting people with both a relaxed and quiet environment and then again with someone talking and distracting the individual. Those who had the more relaxed and quiet environment assimilated at 100% of the nutrients given. Those same individuals in more distracted environments assimilated 0%. The simple act of being more present while eating drastically made the difference between 100% nutrient absorption and 0%.
This is not a PSA to hide in a room and focus solely on food and digestion, but rather be more aware of what you are eating and enjoy the company you are in while having a meal. The higher quality of our attention to eating the more readily our body can receive the nutrients we are feeding it.