Mind Over Platter: How Beliefs About Food Affect Digestion

Have you noticed a strange phenomenon?

The more extreme the alternative health world becomes about food (meat bad! No, plants bad! Grains bad! No, sugar bad! Leafy greens bad! Dairy bad!) the more people seem to genuinely have trouble digesting those foods?

Why is it that the people trying hardest to be healthy, seem to be struggling more and more with digestive issues?

Because our minds are powerful, that’s why! Consider this:

👉 Parkinson’s patients receiving sham surgery improved more than those receiving the actual treatment (but thought it was just placebo) [PMID: 15066900]. Even medical staff who were not aware the surgery was a sham reported better outcomes in those patients.

👉 People who are (falsely) told they had more sleep than they really did perform better on language and arithmetic tests [PMID: 24417326] than those who believe they had less sleep.

👉 In one study, those who perceived themselves to be less active than others (whether they actually were or not) were 71% more likely to die in the follow-up period, than those who perceived themselves to be more active than others (whether they actually were or not) [PMID: 28726475].

👉 Two groups of participants were told to smell a certain odour. One group of participants were told the odour boosts creativity, and the other group were given no information about the smell. Guess which group subsequently performed better on creativity tests? [PMID: 28892513]

Do we really think our beliefs and anxieties about food doesn’t affect the workings of our digestive system?

In addition, our brain does not differentiate between a real threat or a perceived threat. The body reacts the same to fearful thoughts, as it does to fearful situations – by directing blood away from digestive organs.

If you’re feeling anxious about the food you eat…it’s no wonder it seems to sit in your belly for hours. No wonder it bloats you. And so on and so forth…

Not medical advice. Not denying that true food intolerances and allergies exist (in fact, the root causes of these are the subject of an upcoming ebook I’m putting together). But food for thought, nonetheless.

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