Be honest: how often do you eat while doing something else? I recently discovered a report that looks at the things Americans do while they are eating and drinking. Out of 400 different activities tracked, we ate or drank while doing nearly all of them — including working, driving, emailing, volunteering and getting ready in front of the mirror.
And as a bone health expert, this concerns me. I’m very aware that American eating habits differ from those of more traditional cultures around the world, who pay attention when eating and share meals as families. In fact, I’ll always recall the Dominican peasant who scolded me for reading while eating saying, “El que come, come”—(that is, “He who eats, eats). But I’ve seen how our constant rush to multi-task can have a disruptive effect on digestion — which has a huge negative impact on our bone health.
That’s because when the body is stressed — either emotionally or physically — it makes less hydrochloric acid and fewer digestive enzymes, and sends less blood to the GI tract. Living like this can also upset your immune system and alter the balance of your gut flora. All of these changes can make it difficult for your body to digest food and absorb the nutrients that are so critical for better bone health and staying well.
Strong digestion = strong bones
To strengthen your digestion, I encourage you to plan at least one meal each day with others, where you prepare your food with mindfulness, then sit and spend some time enjoying the food and your company. Engaging in this practice just once a day will help calm the nervous system and remind it that eating and digesting are priorities. And I’m sure you’ll enjoy your meal much more too!
If you’re interested in learning more about promoting good digestion, see my article Ten steps to better digestion.
Hamrick, K. et.al. 2011. United States Department of Agriculture, How Much Time Do Americans Spend on Food? Economic Information Bulletin Number 86. http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/149404/eib86.pdf