Mindful eating

Mindful eating  is based on mindfulness, a Buddhist concept. It is something that is suggested to be beneficial AND something I like to practice myself. Although it may not be for everyone, there is research to suggest that it may be a very helpful tool and has also been associated with increased enjoyment whilst eating and reduced episodes of bingeing.(1)

Additionally, it may be helpful for individuals who suffer with eating disorders, depression and / or anxiety. (2, 3)

Mindful eating encourages you be more aware of your senses and acknowledge your mind and body’s response to the food you are eating. By slowing down and eating mindfully, it may help you identify and become more in-tune with your hunger and satiety signals and appreciate the taste and textures of the food, thus increasing enjoyment!

The fundamentals of mindful eating include:

  • Eating slowly and without distraction.
  • Listening to physical hunger cues and eating until you’re full.
  • Distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating.
  • Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and tastes.
  • Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.
  • Eating to maintain overall health and well-being.
  • Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure.
  • Appreciating your food.
  • Enjoying your food.

The concept allows you to replace automatic thoughts and reactions (may also be distractions) with more conscious responses. (4)

Although it is not realistic to eat mindfully at every meal – (we lead busy lives and sometimes there is just no time to sit down and enjoy your food properly) – but perhaps practicing this X amount of times a week, may be helpful to you. Now like I said, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally make an effort to eat breakfast and dinner in a mindful way. I enjoy the whole experience so much more! But hey, that is just me!

How to practice mindful eating

Practicing mindfulness includes a series of exercises and meditations.

If committed, some may find it helpful to attend a seminar, online course or workshop on mindfulness or mindful eating.

However, the points below make a good starting point if you want to experiment with eating mindfully:

  • Slow down: Eat more slowly and try not to rush your meals.
  • Chew thoroughly.
  • Get rid of any distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone.
  • Eat in silence, or try having the radio on in the background if you prefer some background noise.
  • Focus on how the food makes you feel.
  • Focus on the taste and texture of the food.
  • Savour each bite.
  • Try and identify when you start to feel full.

To begin with, it is a good idea to pick one meal per day, to focus on these points.

Once you’ve got the hang of this, mindfulness will become more natural. Then you can focus on implementing these habits into more meals.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22888181/ 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21181579
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15256293/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19241400
  5. https://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org 

Gut health & fibre

Fibre is becoming more and more talked about particularly in relation to gut health… I also get a lot of questions about gut health so wanted to bring you guys the latest research on it –

What we do know, is that fibre has a positive impact on gut health. Here in U.K., stats show that we need to boost our fibre intake by around 60%. We are recommend to eat 30g of fibre a day and the countries estimated intake is currently around 18/19g.

The UK get most of their fibre from cereals and cereal products such as bread, rice and pasta. It is important to note that refined grains such as white bread, have been stripped of their fibre. This is not to say we shouldn’t eat white bread, but opting for wholegrain the majority of time provides us with more nutrition. Other foods high in fibre include fruit and veg! Often people forget about this.

How does fibre work?

Fibre plays many different roles including helping to improve glycemic controls, blood sugar balance and stimulating the colon. And as know, it is also becoming increasingly famous for its effect on gut microbiota

Fun facts

  • Our gut microbiota, is something we develop with age and it weighs as much as our brain!
  • It has been estimated that we are 45% human and 55% microbes /bacteria by number of cells
  • The gut produces vitamins and hormones, it strengthens the intestine and trains the immune system.
  • It can also communicate with our Central Nervous System

Health benefits

Research by Rossi & Dimidi found that for every 7g increase in fibre:

  • 9% lower risk of cardiovascular disease
  • 7%lower risk of colon cancer
  • 7% lower risk of stroke
  • 6% lower risk of type 2 diabetes

What does 7g look like?

  • a potato with skin
  • bowl of baked beans
  • a portion of veggie sticks (carrots / cucumber)

Jacka et al. 2017 looked at gut brain axis in mental health. The study looked a patients diagnosed with depression and found that dietary intervention may help with symptoms. (Note these patients were still on medication but the study showed that a high fibre diet helped their symptoms further). This diet included 50g fibre a day!

Diet in general (added omgega 3s may also have helped) so were looking at whole diet -not just reliant on one nutrient but it is helpful to look at the specific mechanisms behind it.

Barriers in regards to including fibre

  • perceived as more expensive
  • perceived as boring

But, it doesn’t have to be boring or more expensive…

How to increase fibre in diet –

  • Include more nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruit/veg in your diet
  • Freeze your fruit and veggies – it tends to cheaper and they may retain more nutritional value
  • Buy tins of lentils, beans and chickpeas – they’re cheap and easy to add to meals.

Please note that those who have been diagnosed with IBS may need more guidance in regards their diet and fibre intake and should seek advice from a registered health professional.

References

https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/irritable-bowel-syndrome-and-diet(d6c9322c-5079-4073-add7-b803f15131f4).html 

https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/dietary-fiber-intervention-on-gut-microbiota-composition-in-healthy-adults(f9b2521e-1513-43f5-9739-777023204fbc).html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/ 

Anorexia and Gut Health… What Does the Research Say?

Having attended a conference at the Royal Society of Medicine looking at the role of diet in mental health last week, I have had a lot of requests to talk more about gut health and anorexia. I always think it is beneficial to team up with other professionals in the field so I have invited the wonderful Bari the Dietitian (@barithedietitian) – (who also happens to be my best friend!) to help me document what we know about this area of research. Bari and I met on our postgraduate MSc programme and she happened to do her final research project looking at this exact area! We hope you enjoy the read!

What is Anorexia?

Often misunderstood as a disorder of vanity, Anorexia Nervosa is the mental health disorder with the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders. It is characterized by extremely low body weight, insufficient food intake and intense fear of weight gain… Anorexia does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, etc., but the demographic with the highest prevalence rate in females of 0.4%. As the exact cause remains unknown, treatment is a complex obstacle.

Additionally, what makes treating this disorder so difficult, is the fact that different individuals respond differently to various forms of treatment.

Consequences of anorexia include a range of both physical and psychological side effects. Some of these include malnourishment due to extreme weight loss, feeling tired, faint or dizzy, osteoporosis, digestive issues, and weakened immune system.

What is Gut Health and Why Is It Important?

Gut health seems to be a term that is thrown around a lot these days, as it has become “on-trend” in the media, and for good reason! Our guts are home to billions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which have a combined weight of approximately 1kg – fundamentally the same weight as the human brain. The gut microbiome (all the microorganisms and their genetic material) has a strong impact on digestion, immunity, metabolism, as well as mental and brain functions.

A “healthy” gut is described as having a wide range of diversity! On the other hand, a sub-par gut is described as the loss of beneficial microorganisms, the expansion of harmful microorganism, and/or the loss of overall microbial diversity.

The microbes in your gut also communicate with your brain via the “gut-brain-axis”. This means the bacteria that inhabit your gut can talk to, and influence your brain regarding mood, stress, and anxiety.

Interestingly, new research is now suggesting that our gut microbiome may be affected and ‘altered’ by various different factors. We know that antibiotics can have a negative effect on gut health, and it is advised that probiotics are taken alongside them, particularly if taken for a prolonged period of time. A body of research also tells us that our gut loves fibre (found in fruit, veg, and whole grains). In fact, it is recommended that we eat around 30g of fibre a day and the average intake in the UK is only around 18g.

What Does the Research Tell Us About Gut Health In Individuals Who Suffer From Anorexia?

Our gut bacteria are greatly influenced by the foods we eat. Therefore, the lack of food and associated malnutrition can alter the gut microbiome and result in sub-optimal conditions. Here are some negative side effects of Anorexia Nervosa (AN) in relation to the gut:

  1. Decreased intestinal wall thickness, which leads to increased permeability of the gut, can increase the risk of infections and inflammation, and cause GI symptoms, such as bloat, pain, and inevitable “leaky gut”. This also increases the risk of developing an auto-immune disease.
  2. Microbial diversity decreases and the quantity of harmful bacteria increases. For example, those with Anorexia have higher concentrations of M. smithii, which has been shown as an adaptive mechanism in patients with AN to achieve optimal extraction of calories from very low-calorie diets.
  3. Dysbiosis (sub-optimal bacteria profile) also exists in those with depression, OCD, and anxiety, all of which are co-morbidities of Anorexia. Additionally, the low mood experienced by those suffering from Anorexia may be due to the poor nutritional intake. Thus, AN may promote low mood, which then contributes to the progression of the disease, which makes treatment more difficult.
  4. A gut-healthy diet rich in fermented foods and low in processed foods has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  5. Recently, however, there has been compelling evidence that the intestinal microbiota may regulate symptoms and maintaining factors of AN, including weight, energy metabolism, immunity, anxiety, and depression. Variations in gut bacteria may be associated with extreme weight loss, thereby perpetuating AN via direct effects on weight and mood.

Why Is This Important

Good gut health is important for digestion and AN sufferers usually experience a lot of digestive discomforts. What we don’t know yet is the types of anorexia that may have a more detrimental effect on the gut. More research is needed to identify whether or not gut symptoms are worsened by prolonged periods of food restriction and purging, for example. Although AN behaviors and symptoms differ from person to person, the present research strongly indicates that poor gut health is associated with this mental health disorder and when treating this illness, gut health research should be used as a tool for recovery.

So, the big question remains: Is an altered gut microbiota simply an obvious result of long-term reduced food consumption, potential dietary deficiencies, and weight loss? Or, alternatively, does microbial composition have the potential to cause these metabolic outcomes and possibly, to contribute to disordered eating behavior? We need more large-scale follow-up studies to clarify these relationships. However, this may offer novel ways to treat eating disorders, specifically Anorexia!

If you are suffering from disordered eating patterns and digestive issues as a result, please seek help from a qualified professional. Other helpful resources can be found at https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/

To book a Nutrition Consultation with me in clinic, please email me at Sophie@rhitrition.com