Healthy Digestion – Not What, But How? | Courtney Jackson | TEDxMontrealWomen

Healthy Digestion – Not What, But How? | Courtney Jackson | TEDxMontrealWomen


Translator: Zsófia Herczeg
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs Raise your hand if you’ve ever eaten
while driving your car. (Laughter) How about while binge-watching
your favorite TV show? (Laughter) Or while working at your desk? (Laughter) Mm-hmm. So I’ve done all of this
in just the past few days, and from a show of hands,
it looks like many of us are often eating in potentially
stressful situations. Now, feel free not to raise
your hand for this next question. But how many of you are suffering
from or have suffered from gas, bloating –
(Laughter) heartburn or constipation? (Laughter) Some show of hands, all right. (Laughter) Well, know you’re not alone out there. We’ve got some brave folks out there. And have you ever wondered why? These common digestive complaints may actually be related
to eating while stressed out. And just because they’re common,
does not mean they are normal. Physiology is the study
of the normal workings of the human body. So the question becomes: How do we return
to normal digestive physiology, and why is this an important pursuit? We spend a lot of time
concerning ourselves about the perfect diet. But really, we all know what that means: eat healthy, nutritious food. But how much time do we spend
thinking about digestion? After all, the body should just
take care of it, right? Digestion can be defined
as the breakdown of food which allows for
the absorption of nutrients. Now you’ve all heard
“you are what you eat,” but that’s not quite true. You are what you absorb. What’s the point of eating healthy food
if we aren’t also optimizing digestion? Where do you think digestion begins? In the mouth? In the stomach? Close your eyes for just a moment. Take a deep breath, and imagine a bright yellow lemon
in front of you on a cutting board. You take a knife.
You slice the lemon in half. You pick up half the lemon.
You squeeze the juice into a glass. You pick up the glass and you take a sip. Now open your eyes. Most people will report that they began
salivating or puckering their mouth with just the thought of the lemon juice. (A bottle drops) (Laughter) So now, where do you think
digestion begins? In the brain. Let’s say we took the time – (Laughter) to create or purchase
this highly nutritious salmon salad: rich in healthy fat, protein
and fiber, vitamins and minerals. In order to increase the chances that we’re going to absorb
these nutrients, we need to turn on the normal
physiology of digestion. Just by thinking about this delicious meal stimulated saliva
and stomach acid production. By the time we get
that first bite in our mouth, enzymes in the saliva are ready to begin breaking down
the healthy fat from the salmon and the carbohydrates from the salad. Chewing each bite carefully
increases the chances that we’re going to absorb
these nutrients later on. After swallowing, we arrive
at the stomach, which secretes – stomach acid. And unfortunately, stomach acid
does not get its due credit for all the amazing functions
it performs for us. Beyond protecting us from potential
bacterial or viral invaders in our food, it is essential for breaking down protein, and unlocking minerals in our food
to be absorbed later on. We depend on well-digested protein from sources like salmon
to balance our blood sugar and to build neurotransmitters
and hormones that elevate our mood and give us energy. We need access to the rich sources
of minerals found in those salad greens – minerals like iron to prevent anemia, magnesium to help us cope with stress, calcium to build strong bones. And incidentally, salmon
is a rich source of vitamin B12, which is uniquely dependent
on stomach acid for absorption later on
in the small intestine. Vitamin B12 is a critical nutrient. It supports our neurological function,
protecting both memory and mood. Next, the partially digested food moves
from the stomach into the small intestine, where over 95% of nutrient
absorption will take place. But in order for this to happen, the pancreas and the gall bladder
must work their digestive magic. The pancreas secretes
multi-purpose enzymes to further break down protein,
carbohydrates and fat. And the gall bladder secretes bile. Much like stomach acid,
bile is simply underappreciated. Bile helps pull
the healthy fat from our food, food like salmon and that salad dressing,
in order to be absorbed. Don’t take offense when I say
that you are all big fatheads. (Laughter) And I’m one too. Over 60% of our brain is composed of fat. We need dietary fat to think,
to balance our blood sugar and to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A and K,
rich in those salad greens. These vitamins power our immune system
and protect our bones. In the large intestine,
our fiber-rich salad will serve as an additional meal
to our friendly intestinal bacteria, who in turn provide
numerous benefits to us, like boosting metabolism,
balancing hormones and synthesizing vitamins, like vitamins K for strong bones
and biotin for healthy hair and nails. Dietary fiber is not just
about preventing constipation. We need to feed our friendly,
health-promoting bacteria with lots and lots of fiber. Assuming we are well hydrated
and fiber-full, rhythmic contractions of digestion
will lead to elimination, and that brings us to the end
of our digestive journey. Or does it? I mentioned earlier that if we’re going to make
the investment in healthy food, don’t we want to increase the chances that we’re going to absorb
those nutrients? Well, I left out one key piece, and that is our entire digestive system is regulated
by our nervous system. Our sense of stress at mealtime
exerts a powerful force on these nerves. So what happens to digestion
when we’re feeling calm? Let’s call it the “rest-and-digest” state. The answer: normal physiology of digestion. Saliva, stomach acid, bile
and pancreatic enzymes are all released. Rhythmic contractions in the intestines
gently move the food along. We eat, we digest,
we absorb, we eliminate. And we just maximized
a highly nutritious opportunity. But what happens to digestion
when we’re feeling stressed out? Let’s call it the “fight-or-flight” state. In essence, the entire digestive system is inhibited, which can negatively affect
the nutrients we absorb, and can contribute
to common digestive complaints. When we eat while feeling stressed out, we are less likely to think
about the meal at hand, let alone on chewing. We then send poorly chewed food
down a tube to a stomach that is not optimally primed with acid to break down protein
or to unlock minerals from the food. And this can lead to an uncomfortably
full feeling in our stomachs. We have a protective gate
at the entrance of our stomach that blocks acid from going upward, preventing symptoms of what
we commonly refer to as heartburn. And sadly, some of our most favorite
foods and beverages, like coffee, chocolate and alcohol can all contribute
to a dysfunctional gate. Being overweight can place
added stress on the gate. And a heightened “fight-or-flight” mindset
can enhance the symptoms of heartburn. So while there are serious diseases that do require the use
of acid-blocking medication, the indiscriminate use of these drugs
over a long period of time can be nutritionally risky, and can increase the chances of a calcium
or vitamin B12 deficiency as well as poor protein breakdown. In the small intestine, stress inhibits the digestive function
of the pancreas and the gall bladder. Opportunistic bacteria
can then take advantage of the poorly digested food and decompose and ferment it for energy,
creating gas as a by-product, and this can lead to the common
but not normal complaint of bloating after a meal. If the gallbladder is inhibited
from releasing bile, this can lead to significant
digestive distress, including loose tool, and we just reduced our chances of absorbing those beneficial
fat-soluble vitamins. Stress inhibits the normal contractions
in the large intestine, and you combine that with dehydration
and a low-fiber diet, and we end up with symptoms
of constipation. So it becomes quite apparent – [BON APPÉTIT]
(Laughter) moving on to the helpful stuff – It becomes quite apparent
that it would serve us well to stimulate our “rest-and-digest”
nervous system before mealtime. And there are simple,
effective ways to do this. First, take a few deep breaths
before mealtime. This is a powerful way to move ourselves
into the “rest-and-digest” state. Practicing slow, deep belly breathing physically engages the primary nerve
that influences digestion. Deep breathing is not
some poorly thought out, overly simplified recommendation. It’s based on human anatomy
and physiology. We really can improve our digestion
through deep breathing. Next: Chew your food until it liquefies and then swallow. Not only does chewing
accomplish the obvious, of mechanically digesting the food, and not only does it allow for the saliva to properly lubricate the food
for easy swallowing, but it also prolongs the time for all of our senses to get turned on
to the meal at hand. And finally, say words
of gratitude before mealtime. In my home, some evenings,
dinnertime can look like this: my husband or I
recently get home from work, we scramble to create a healthy dinner, we attempt to capture
our two small children, and sit down at the dinner table, and by this time,
one child’s throwing food, and the other is attempting escape, (Laughter) and it can feel chaotic. But we choose to hold hands,
and say words of gratitude because it brings a moment of stillness
and focus to the task at hand, which is to nourish ourselves
with good food. By taking the time to relearn
the normal physiology of digestion, we’re inspired to support it,
not suppress it. Our mindset at mealtime
does influence digestion, ultimately affecting
the nutrients we absorb, and in essence, who we become. Optimal health requires paying attention
not only to what we eat, but how we eat. Thank you and bon appétit! (Applause)

62 comments / Add your comment below

  1. At 12:51 she mentions "the primary nerve that influences digestion." Can anyone tell me the name of this nerve? She said it in the context of deep belly breathing, and that this breathing engages the nerve. Interesting … I'd like to know more 🙂

  2. Fiber is the fourth macronutrient. The short chain fatty acids produced by fermentation are necessary for optimum health. These fats are the preferential energy substrate for the GI tract. I think the health benefits purported by advocates against eating meat are not so much the result of not eating meat, but of displacing it with dietary fiber.

  3. Bout time, great lecture, even say if i ate the best food proved to work for me, and my best friend gets hit by a mac truck, that food feels like coming up

  4. Her skin is glowing! And I think that we all can guess why. 🙂 Thank you so much for such an insightful and helpful talk. This is my first time hearing "You aren't what you eat. You are what you absorb." It hit me hard. How come I never had this idea before? When I think about it, it's so true. The same goes to many other aspects of our lives, and not just food. For instance, even if we were to read one of the best books in the world, we wouldn't get anything out of it if we just look through each page briefly just to finish it. Little would we get from reading if we never put in thought to it and apply it to our own life. Thanks again for enlighting me. I will keep your lesson in mind and get ready to be in a rest mindset before eating each meal, starting from tomorrow's breakfast!

  5. Lot's of great wisdom in this presentation. And such fundamental knowledge about how to optimise our efforts to eat well and stay well. Thank you very much. I am on a journey of healing myself, from the inside out, after an Autoimmune diagnosis. This presentation confirms that I am on the right track to becoming well again.

  6. In my native land, we have a saying about digesting: Do not even move after eating even when you hear the death news of your parents.

  7. Love this! My 72 yo mom and most people I know need this and someone like you to be their Nutritional and wellness counselor,
    I need to become one, it's been my dream for a while…

  8. It is so worst, that we need speakers, to show us, how life can work!
    The following sights of the seeing must be cleared before they are starting to show, how it can work! But if the people, whom are running this system, are knowing that facts of life, they are also knowing how to get more and more money, land, workers for their own rules and a lot of more benefits!
    There are a lot of informations on the internet, that the GMO food, hasn't got these minerals inside! In the sight of the monoculture ground economy!
    What do you think? Is it right or wrong, with that sight in the heaven and in the earth?
    The aggriculuture isn't balanced, instead of that economy, which is working for banking and pharmaceutical systems!
    What would you say, if you hear these statements of science and physiological professional analysts, which tells us, that the vaccinations are robbing body-mind-and-living rooms, in- and outside of us?
    Please come back with correct informations!

  9. Amazing video! Thanks for sharing. Digestion Support Capsules of Planet Ayurveda is very effective in the treatment of digestion related problems.

  10. This is simply one of the best lectures I've heard about nutrition. I appreciate her taking her time to explain how a sympathetic overdrive surpresses digestion and hence proper nutrient absorption. WE ARE WHAT WE ABSORB AND NOT JUST WHAT WE EAT. I love that catch phrase.

  11. Jesus cares what you think and believe. Mother nature doesn't. She reacts at a subatomic level. Chemicals matter, acidity matter, temperatures matter. What our guts are setup to digest indicates a healthy diet for that species. Humans have the same GI tract as wolves, not monkeys. Humans are hyper-carnivores and don't need plants or plant based foods in the diet. Our bodies cannot get at the nutrients in plants easily. Back to school for you.

  12. Thank you for the comprehensive explanation on digestion and the techniques for effective eating without stress.

  13. great… except for the fact that she did not know that salmon is one of the most unhealthy foods you can ever eat. And B12 is in everything that haven´t been cleaned.

  14. 2 star video, maybe as someone said, you are what you think you are. this includes brain deficiency when you talk about using carbs for energy versus ketone bodies (38 percent). your so-called NORMAL carb physiology is NOT optimal energy. carbs are 38 percent less energy, 38 percent less energy for the brain. no wonder carb eaters are stuck w/less energy & therefore cannot improve (or struggle to) b/c "they know best", lol, uh yeah okay. i am sure Sir Krebs, the one of the Krebs cycle, knew what he was talking about when he said it (38 percent more energy when using ketone bodies as an energy source). so, there you go, you can start now to improve your life to 38 percent more brain energy just by avoiding carbs. how imperative is it for people to realize that the brain is able achieve this level of performance? why would the brain even do this if it is not vitally important? why do people NOT even know this is a brain function of the highest level of health especially brain health? yes it IS the most optimal pathway to brain energy. (i) hope this helps you & everyone to see the light to the pathway of optimal brain activity which equals optimal brain health!!! you do not have to choose the optimal pathway, but you should realize the physiology (function) of the brain FIRST before you look like something less than an brain expert or second brain (gut) expert . as i said, you do not HAVE TO choose the optimal pathway (eating fats for ketosis & animal proteins for sugar), it is only a suggestion, just as it is only a suggestion that when you jump out of an airplane w/ a parachute, we suggest you pull the ripcord. therefore, we suggest you choose the optimal pathway, the one that gives you 38 percent more brain chi (life-force energy). *2*

  15. Love this talk! So My mama was always the last to finish eating, and spending a moment blessing/having resurrected for your meal is a part of most faith traditions ❤

  16. Very good, ´´take a few deep breaths before mealtime´´
    ´´rest and digest state´´ ´´practice slow deep belly breathing´´ ´´chew your food until it liquefies and then swallow´´ ´´say words of gratitude before mealtime.´´ ´´Digestion begins in the brain´´ ´´You are what you absorb´´ ´´Our entire digestion system is regulated by our nervous system´´ ´´no chocolate, no alcohol, and no coffee ´´

  17. Please understand that she spoke in the same manner as she expected us to eat our meals, peacefully, without stress and in a restful manner. Walking the talk, literally.

  18. I liked it except the salmon part unfortunately salmon and all fish weather there stream weather there farm raised weather there wild caught Are loaded with mercury and there’s no safety Elsa mercury and that’s true with all fish unfortunately

  19. Loved This Lady!! She is so calm and composed! Delivered an important lecture for us not with a scary tone but with a pleasing tone throughout! Wow!

  20. Someone wasn't paying attention to the which frame of the Video that is being used as the Introduction Picture of the YouTube Video. Take a quick look & you can make the mistake of thinking which Finger is being held up ! (Not what you'd expect to see in a TEDx event…….. Unless it was Richard Stallman who was the speaker,I suppose)

  21. We. Are all indestructible spirits locked into a biological machine that is programed by the brain to self destruct at some point. We can make the best of our lives by taking care of this machine so it operates at optimum efficiency while inhabiting it.

  22. What a sleeping pill that woman is. Doesnt come to the point, talks slowly, almost falls asleep while talking, says nothing really important. Make a 3 Minute video out of it. EASY THUMBS DOWN.

  23. One month of constant stress happened before 2 years …heat burn never is always disturbing….may be splinter dysfuntional…..

  24. Also don't drink water 30 minutes before and after meals, as that dilutes your stomach acids.

    Eat meals sitting down, preferably cross legged, so the blood supply is more around the digestive organs.

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