I’m a huge fan of mindfulness. I always recommend it to clients with anxiety and insomnia and also to my IBS clients. Why? Because it’s such a helpful way to calm the mind and get a different perspective on thoughts and emotions. When you practice mindfulness, it’s easier to avoid getting caught up in unhelpful thoughts.
Mindfulness is great for dealing with stress, which is so often a major underlying factor in IBS. It can actually help with IBS symptoms in another way too: mindful eating.
Like any mindful activity, mindful eating is about focusing all your attention on it and being fully present in the moment:
- Don’t do anything else while eating. Ignore your phone, switch off the TV or radio and just focus on your food and eating. If you’re eating with other people, you could let them know that you’re going to be eating mindfully and explain that’s why you might not be so engaged in the conversation at times.
- Use all your senses, not just taste. Notice the colours and shapes of the food and how it smells. Pay attention to the sounds of the food. Maybe some food is crunchy; maybe some food is sizzling as you serve it.
- Savour your food. Notice the different tastes and textures as you eat.
- Chew 20 times, so you eat slowly.
- Don’t rush off after you’ve finished eating. Stay sitting and let your food digest. Have that conversation with the people you’re eating with.
Why does mindful eating help IBS symptoms?
If you’re constantly eating on-the-go, grabbing a quick sandwich before rushing on to the next thing, or eating while you’re working, scrolling on your phone or watching TV, your nervous system will be in action mode. For your digestion to work well, you need to be in ‘rest & digest’ mode, rather than action or ‘fight or flight’ mode. When you’re stressed in body or mind, the ‘fight or flight’ response is activated and interferes with any function in the body, which isn’t necessary for immediate survival. Digestion is one of those functions.
When your digestive enzymes aren’t working properly to break down your food, your gut bacteria will have a field day and produce fermentation and gas, leading to the discomfort of bloating and trapped wind, among other things.
Mindful eating is a really good way to reduce stress levels and it also helps digestive enzymes in other ways. Digestion starts in the brain and when you’re paying attention to your food and eating, it prepares the brain to know that the stomach is going to get food. This stimulates the enzymes in saliva, the first stage in the digestive process.
Digestion works best when the stomach has small bits of food to deal with. Saliva starts to break down the food and then chewing well will make sure that the food arrives in the stomach in a mushy form, which is easy for the stomach to digest. If the stomach has to deal with larger bits of food, without the help of the salivary enzymes from eating too quickly and not chewing well, it can result in bloating and indigestion.
With IBS, it’s not just about what you eat, but how you eat
With IBS, the focus is very often on what foods are causing problems. It’s important to consider the impact of how you eat and the role of stress as well.
In my years of working with clients with IBS, it’s been so rewarding to see how they have been able to alleviate their symptoms when they manage their stress better. This has included mindful eating. Many clients have been able to eat a wider range of food, without it causing the bloating, flatulence, cramps and other problems that they used to have. Spending more time in ‘rest & digest’ mode, rather than ‘fight or flight’ mode really does help.
If you’d like to find out more about how hypnotherapy can help IBS, please book a free 30-minute phone or Zoom consultation with me. Email , or call 0208 546 2122.
Featured image by Pablo Merchan Montes on Unsplash