Conscious Eating


Physical balance is inevitably tied to our diets and diet cannot be fully addressed without considering our eating habits.  Usually we take for granted the act of eating, and unconscious eating is done hastily and without any awareness of the process of digestion - the conversion and assimilation of nutrients.  So, it is worthwhile to bring awareness to this critical area of our daily lives.

Food Choices:  The choices we make will determine the balance or imbalance we experience.  Making a conscious choice to create balance is the first step in actualizing balance and the resultant holistic awareness.  Let us assume we have made a conscious choice in the foods we eat. Why would we want to shoot ourselves in the foot by eating unconsciously and creating imbalance by overloading our systems with “unprepared” food as it enters the digestive system?  This does not make any sense.  

Chewing:  How well do you chew your food?  The longer you chew your food, the more you prepare the food for the next step in digestion.  More and more flavor is released, and if synthetic additives and highly processed ingredients are used in your foods, the taste will actually become less attractive, the longer you chew.  Natural foods release their sugars as they are chewed, which encourages one to eat more slowly because the enjoyment of the experience is increasing.  It is recommended that you chew your food a minimum of 23 times for every bite at a meal or snack.  Count and see where you are with reference to this measure.  

Stomach:  When food enters the stomach, hydrochloric acid and a few assisting enzymes are secreted to begin breaking down the food into a form that is useable by the small intestines.  This process takes from one to three hours, depending on how much protein is consumed at a meal.  Drinking too much liquid or overeating can result in the stomach opening the pyloric valve to the small intestines prematurely.  Large undigested fats and large undigested proteins are dumped into the small intestines.  Essential fatty acids and proteins in this form cannot be absorbed.  If this is an habitual eating pattern, the blood will begin to be depleted of its protein and fatty acid content.

Small Intestine: Here is where most of the absorption of nutrients takes place.  When food enters the small intestines from the stomach, the pancreas secretes bicarbonates to the small intestine to further neutralize the acids. If you drink an acidic beverage during a meal, the pancreas is called upon to do this twice, which places a very heavy burden on it and is believed to be a primary cause of pancreatic cancer.  Improperly chewed food that enters the small intestine also increases the burden on this organ, asking it to do both its job and the job of the stomach.  Distention of the small intestine results and is a sign of poor eating habits.
Ileocecal valve:  This is a one-way valve that opens to allow passage from the small intestines to the large intestines.  It is located on the right side of the body, near the appendix.  If this valve is stuck open or closed it can feel like intestinal pain.  Massaging this area upwards, towards the left shoulder can often alleviate the problem.

Large intestines: Often called the bowels, this area is populated with hundreds of different bacteria, both aerobic and anaerobic.  Both types are essential for digestion.  Babies are born with empty large intestines.  It is the colostrum, or mother’s milk, that first begins to populate the large intestines with the necessary bacteria for complete digestion to take place.  If any breaches develop in the large intestines, some of the anaerobic bacteria can escape and find their way into blood vessels causing hemorrhoids or varicose veins.  Water-soluble vitamins are absorbed in the large intestine.  

Liver:  After our food has been processed in the large intestine, it passes through the liver for detoxification.  The liver senses toxins and creates a chemical “cap” to neutralize them through a process called “conjunction”.  Large, undigested fats or proteins can sometimes escape this system and find their way into the lymphatic system, causing disease.  Needless to say, taking care of the liver is a vital aspect of maintaining a fully functioning and healthy body.

Autonomic nervous system: What does this have to do with digestion?  The autonomic nervous system comprises two opposing nervous systems: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.  The sympathetic nervous system is our “active” nervous system and its primary hormonal expression is adrenaline.  The parasympathetic nervous system is our “passive” nervous system and acetacholine is its primary chemical expression.  This system affects our digestive and immune systems.  In our part of the world today, there is an imbalance towards the sympathetic… resulting from too much stress.  This causes our immune and digestive systems to function with minimal efficiency.  Look at the major diseases we have today and it is easy to see the correlation.

Pancreas:  Lastly, we must include the pancreas in this list because it dispenses not only bicarbonates to help neutralize acids in the small intestine but it also dispenses many enzymes that assist in assimilating nutrients.  In addition, insulin is secreted from the pancreas as part of the body’s blood sugar regulatory system.

Let’s summarize.   Conscious eating begins with our intention to create balance, which assists us in choosing foods that are consistent with optimal physical, emotional and mental functioning.  Conscious eating continues with an understanding of the body’s digestive system and what is required for it to do its job.  The mouth and the stomach are processing areas.  The small and large intestines are primarily absorption areas.  The pancreas is an assistant to the small intestines.  The liver is the detoxification organ that processes the waste that is left after all the absorption is done.