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Don’t Eat And Drive: The Shocking Truth About Road-Based Snacking

All drivers understand the risks of drink driving, yet many of us wouldn’t think twice about snacking during even the shortest of trips. As a nutrition gut specialist helping busy women I recommend you think twice about eating while driving. Regardless of what you’re eating, evidence increasingly points to the fact that multitasking your meals while driving can significantly slow digestion, and even facilitate hormone imbalances as gut health goes speeding off in the other direction.

Here, we consider why digestion and on-road snacks are so opposed, and what exactly that means for gut health and digestion. 

Unfortunately, as well as posing the significant risk of blocking your view, creating a distraction, and causing you to take both hands off the wheel, in-car snacking is increasingly rearing its ugly head with regards to overall gut health, and we’re afraid to say that the findings so far aren’t great.

Sympathetic vs parasympathetic processes

In the most simple sense, driving and eating are such a bad pairing because they are diametrically sympathetic and parasympathetic processes. While browsing a Bentley dealership for your next vehicle can most certainly help you to relax and enjoy a few feel-good hormones, driving a high-end vehicle like this, especially, is a wholly sympathetic bodily process that triggers fight or flight responses to keep you aware, safe, and looking after your vehicle.

By comparison, digestion relies on parasympathetic processes that depend on rest, saving energy, and most certainly keeping your heart rate down. Eating while in a heightened sympathetic state (e.g. while driving) altogether prevents the digestion necessary for the proper absorption of nutrients, efficient fat stores, and the regulation of blood sugars among other things.

The fast nature of road-based food

As the above point proves, even healthy snacking while on the road isn’t great. To make matters worse, few of us think to pack a bag of nuts when we head out for a long drive. Instead, we either pick up the first thing we see on the shelf at the garage (often crisps or sweets) without stopping to read the food label, or we fall foul to the temptation of drive-through takeout that’s almost always dripping with unhealthy, saturated fats. Both toxic and inflammatory, these quick-fire snack options pose significant risks to healthy gut functioning, increasing levels of destructive gut bacteria and ultimately harming your gut microbiome. 

Missed mindfulness

When you’re eating while driving, it’s highly unlikely that you’re paying any real attention to what you’re ingesting, or even how full you feel. This is terrible news in light of links discovered between mindful eating and effective digestion. Worse, the distracted overeating inherent in snacking of this nature can see you overfilling on foods that, ideally, you shouldn’t be eating in the first place. 

Luckily, offsetting each of these risks is as easy as making an effort to eat an informed, relaxing meal at least an hour or so before you head off on a long or short road trip. That way, you give your digestion the best possible head start, as well as avoiding the risk of fast food stop-offs that can cause such catastrophic consequences for all-important gut health and your health goals.

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