Why Not Eating Enough Can Lead to Gut Issues

Unfortunately, a lot of women believe they eat enough, but really do not. This is no fault of their own, but rather, thanks to years of exposure to diet culture telling women to eat less, restrict more, and eat fewer calories 😔. But it doesn’t stop there—so many women with a history of disordered eating (ie restricting food) also have digestive issues, and this is in part due to the fact that eating too little (especially chronically) can lead to gut dysfunction.

There are a few reasons for this. 

1. When we don’t eat enough, we get hungry often and quickly, sending our blood sugar dipping and our body into panic-mode. When we finally do eat, we are in panic mode (aka fight-or-flight mode), a nervous system state in which we cannot digest our food. Digestion starts in the brain and only triggers HCL, enzyme, and bile production when we are in a calm, relaxed state—the opposite of when we are approaching a meal when we’re hangry and starving. Over time, this lack of enzymes, stomach acid and bile can lead to leaky gut, food sensitivities, bacterial and fungal overgrowths, and generally uncomfortable IBS-like symptoms. 

2. When we don’t eat enough, we are hangry/in panic mode, so when we finally do eat, we can have a tendency to shovel food in our mouths and not focus on chewing adequately. Chewing is SO important to the digestive process. Sometimes chewing alone has helped improve my clients’ bloating & GERD symptoms. Chewing helps to mechanically start breaking down food, which our saliva starts the chemical breakdown. So if we are shoveling and forgoing adequate chewing, we miss out on this important step in digestion. Not to mention all the air we swallow when we shovel and don’t chew!

So what’s the takeaway here? Figure out if you’re eating enough. Work with someone who can help you if you’re not sure. Take deep belly breaths before meals, chew until your food is a paste (yes, a paste) before swallowing. Oh, and challenge the diet culture messages telling you to eat less 👊🏻.