Eating On The Run - Simple Time Saving Solutions to manage the bloat

Have you ever eaten on the run? You know, grabbed a sandwich and munched it in the car on the train, bus or plane. Or perhaps chomped down on a granola bar and eaten it while running late for a meeting?

Have you ever noticed that you feel bloated soon afterwards? That your stomach is sticking out like you’re 5 months pregnant. Meaning, when you sit you feel your stomach pressing against your clothes or it starts to push so hard on your belt you need to undo your buckle and trousers. It’s just not a good look and it makes you feel fat and very self-conscious. Right?

Why do you think this is happening?

Common Reasons For Bloating

Well it could be for several reasons. For example, it could be to do with the health of your gut, if this is the case then you can try our gut health and core programme here which is designed to create the right healthy gut flora to reduce inflammation and prohibit your small intestine from swelling. It could be due to a reaction of certain foods like wheat, dairy and other known irritants. It could also be due to gas building up (FYI, farting is mostly made up of nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and oxygen) and getting trapped in your bowels. It could be due to not drinking enough water and thus becoming constipated (or even from drinking too much fluid with your meals and thus diluting stomach acid). These are all common issues that create stomach bloating for some people and no doubt you would have come across these before. But I rarely hear people talking about eating on the run and how that impacts stomach bloating

Fight or flight vs Rest & Digest – You Can’t Have Both

We are animals that have always sat down to eat, whether around a campfire with an animal roasting or in recent years at the dinner table with a chicken roasting in the oven. Either way, your body is hard wired to do one of these two things at one time and will always struggle with doing more than one thing – physiologically speaking. I mean, you aren’t going to be writing an email while riding a bike, right… right!? When you are ‘active’ or ‘doing’ your body is in a version of ‘fight or flight’ and when you are resting, sitting calmly or asleep it’s in the ‘rest and digest’ mode. You see, when we are busy, we are often trying to multitask which includes eating while on the go but our bodies just aren’t designed to work like that. Just because you are doing two things at once it doesn’t mean you are doing two things at once well. Basically, due to poor digestion when eating and working at the same time it can lead to a rather unsightly stomach bloat.

The Two Nervous Systems

You see, when you eat on the run you are prohibiting, slowing or limiting digestion from taking place. Your body has two different nervous system reactions, in scientific terms they are referred to as the para-sympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. They don’t work well together, and one prohibits the other (more commonly the sympathetic nervous system overrides the para-sympathetic). The sympathetic nervous system controls our fight and flight function and is most active during the day and our parasympathetic nervous system deals primarily with rest and digest. Now, think about rushing around and which system this would trigger? Your fight or flight system or your rest and digest?

Seems like because you are eating it would be rest and digest, but because you are busy mentally and sometimes physically your sympathetic nervous system shuts down the rest and digest function.  When you are highly active in your mind and body your body is being fuelled by this fight or flight trigger and thus the blood flow is diverted to the extremities and brain. The issue is that our body has restricted resources and with only around 5 litres of blood to keep the whole system working it needs to use that blood flow intelligently. So, when you are active your blood vessels vasodilate (contract to open the veins) to send more blood and oxygen to the muscles and brain. This is needed so you can move and perform mental tasks well. This issue arises when you are eating and doing at the same time as your body has diverted the blood flow away from your stomach and into your extremities. This means food sits in your stomach and doesn’t get the necessary attention, oxygen and digestive enzymes it needs to break it down. This leads to a host of potential stomach bloating, gut and digestive issues.

The 4 Major Issues of Eating While Busy

Issue 1: Mindless eating

When you are busy ‘doing’ and not focusing on your food evidence shows that this mindless eating leads to people eating more and not chewing enough. As a result, the digestive system must deal with more food, and more food that hasn’t been broken down properly. It then takes more for your digestive system to digest your meal.

Issue 2: Gas

When food is sitting it your stomach for a long period of time undigested it can lead to increased fermentation. This is especially the case if you have mixed simple carbs in your meal like pasta with high fat foods like meats as mixing the foods takes slightly longer to digest.  When this happens gas can build and it increases the chances of it getting trapped.

Issue 3: Eating Air

When we are eating on the run you can get trapped air in your digestive system and if that doesn’t come up in the form of a burp it has no place to go but down – causing trapped air pains and the ‘pops’ that ensue.

Issue 4: Inflammation

When you are not chewing and not digesting large food particles the unhealthy bacteria are more likely to invade your small intestines. This happens when the small intestine wall membranes have space between (which needs a healthy gut diet to correct), it allows for these food particles and bad bacteria to get into the blood stream. When you aren’t properly digesting this happens more and more. Your body sends it’s inflammation army to protect you and fight the invaders at the small intestine wall leading to more swelling – inflammation is swelling – and leading to your central nervous system switching off your abdomen. This causes even more of a pop belly look. Yay life!

To put it simply, eating on the run or while working creates havoc for your body and digestive system and leads to you feeling more bloated and sometimes for hours on end.

The Solution: Sit down, Shut up, Switch Off and Chew

Now, no matter how I package this advice for you, it will be the same message drummed into your head by your parents, books, social media and blogs the world over. You probably could write a blog on this yourself! Though this may be the case let’s do a little assessment: answer these questions to test your digestive health:

  1. Do you eat while working more than 2 times per week?
  2. Do you eat while looking at social media or watching TV more than 3 times per week?
  3. Do you eat while on the move more than 2 times per week?
  4. Do you eat fast and often finish before others?
  5. Do you chew thoroughly?
  6. Do you take large mouthfuls?
  7. Do you often have gas that’s smells?
  8. Do you pass wind often that doesn’t smell?
  9. Do you burp often?
  10. Do you ever get pain in your abdomen or cramping (not related to a menstrual cycle)?

These are all likely to slow or limit digestion and thus lead to an increased likelihood of bloating. So, follow this advice to correct it and prohibit the dreaded bloat:

  1. Join our 7 Minute Core and Gut Health Diet programme to guarantee a flatter stomach by strengthening your core muscles and addressing your gut health and decreasing inflammation.
  2. Eat until your food is paste – remember if it gets stuck in there it builds bad bacteria and smelly gasses and swelling. Chewing properly will change this.
  3. Sit upright for better digestion. When you slouch you limit blood flow and prohibit the digestive process from doing its job. Sit upright to let gravity do the hard work, not your gut.
  4. Switch off. When you are mindful of eating, your brain and second brain (your gut) are better able to communicate and thus will lead to you eating smaller portions, while decreasing the quantity of air swallowing.
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If you found this to be helpful or would like any support on your journey to better health, please share and let us know.

To Your Health,

Anthony Delamare (Co-Director – 7 Minute Mornings)