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July 3, 2019


When you’re stressed your body LITERALLY can’t digest your food.

Let’s face it, we’re all pretty stressed these days. Even if you don’t think you are it’s likely you’re running around from one thing to the next, always busy. This state of constant busyness can be a form of chronic stress, if you’re never taking the time to rest and recover.

The bad news is, when you’re in this state of constant stress, your body’s in ‘fight or flight’ mode, so it shuts down all the systems that don’t require it. One of these is digestion. Think about it – in the caveman days, if you saw a lion, your body put all its energy into running away from it. It didn’t matter if you didn’t digest your food if you’d already been eaten by a lion! So, when you’re stressed, your body literally can’t digest your food! This will result in a lot of pain, bloating and either diarrhoea or constipation – it can go both ways.


If you can relate with any of these, keep reading:

  • Do you often eat while doing something else, e.g., watching TV, checking your email, driving?

  • Do you hardly ever actually sit down at a table to eat?

  • Do you often find yourself distractedly scarfing down your food and then wondering where it all went?

  • Do you often experience GI discomfort after eating..bloating/pain/a dash to the bathroom/heartburn?

  • Do you tend to eat when you’re stressed, sad, or angry?

 Getting rid of the stressor isn’t possible most of the time, let’s face it. You can’t just tell your micro-managing manager to leave you alone. However, you can at least kick your body into rest and digest mode before you eat, so you can eat in a relaxed state. This’ll mean you’re able to digest your food better. How you eat really can be just as important as what you eat.


The goal here is to quiet your sympathetic nervous system (that fight or flight mode) and turn on your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode) during meal times.

Yes, it’s not getting rid of the stresses in your life, but it’s going to help you to digest your meal better…so you don’t get as bloated/constipated/whatever your symptoms….which is one less stress, right?!

These are 5 little things you can do before eating to help turn on that parasympathetic nervous system.

1. LEAVE YOUR PROBLEMS BEHIND (just for a bit)

This is easier said than done, isn’t it?! I’m probably the worst person at leaving my problems behind. If someone tells me to just ‘forget about it’ I want to scream at them. However, if you think about just doing it for the duration of your meal, and then picking them up again, it can seem more doable.

Try creating some sort of ritual or reminder to do this, e.g. a screensaver on your phone or a worry jar in the kitchen that you can pop your worry into. Whatever works for you, pick something. You can also try setting the table nicely or plating your food in a pretty way (not for the pretty Insta picture, just as a means to slow you down and remind you to ditch your worries).


Try getting more aware of what you’re eating and how you’re feeling. We can get so used to just chucking our food down us whilst typing away at an email, without even thinking about it. So, try tuning into your body next time you eat.

Start by taking 3 deep breaths before a meal, to calm you down and get you focused on the meal. Once you’ve done that, try paying attention to every bite – how does it taste? Also pay attention to how it’s making you feel – is it satisfying? Are you full?


People have been ‘saying grace’ before a meal for years and, aside from the religious aspect of it, this can be very beneficial to your gut. This doesn’t have to be a religious thing, but you can practice some gratitude before eating to slow your body down.

Nobody even has to know you’re doing it. Just take a second before you eat to look at your food and feel grateful that you’ve got it and for all the nourishment that’s within it. You don’t even have to show gratitude for your food for it to work. You could just think about something that happened today that you’re really grateful for.

You can’t be grateful and stressed at the same time, so this will kick your body into rest and digest.


I know how hard this can be, but try and leave your workspace to eat.You don’t have to take a whole hour off. Just 20 minutes is enough. If you’re in an office, go outside or simply to the office kitchen. If you work from home, get up and go sit in the kitchen or, even better, get outside.

Try and create a work and tech free zone to eat in. Get away from your desk and also ban phones or devices. Just focus on your meal and what’s going on around you.

I can guarantee you’ll feel a lot more refreshed when you get back into it (and a lot less bloated too).


Try and set the scene for a relaxed, calming meal. If you’re sitting at your desk, with emails coming in, papers stacked up and a to do list staring at you, it’s no wonder your body won’t relax.

So, my number one tip is to try and get outside into nature. If you can’t do that because of time, location or weather, at least make your indoor surroundings more calming. Clear any clutter, light a candle, put on some soothing music…whatever makes you feel calm.

The best way to relax when you’re eating is to do it with friends or family. This is one of the key similarities between all of the Blue Zone communities (communities around the world that have been studied because members live longer than most) – they share meals. So, there must be something in it! Try inviting a colleague to eat lunch together today, instead of having it alone at your desk.


When you’re stressed, your body literally can’t digest your food.

The goal here is to quiet your sympathetic nervous system (that fight or flight mode) and turn on your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode) during meal times.

 There are 5 ways you can do this:

  1. Leave your problems behind

  2. Create body awareness

  3. Show some gratitude

  4. Eat without distraction

  5. Jazz up your area


Which one are you going to try today? Let me know in the comments below.

How you eat is one of many things that exacerbates IBS symptoms. Want to figure out what else could be triggering them? Download the IBS Triggers Checklist – it’s FREE. It’ll give you 20 things that could be triggering all of your IBS symptoms. You can download it here.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and letting me be a part of your journey in taking control of your gut, eating well and living your life.

Sophie x

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