Does your posture affect your digestion? It isn’t something we think about, but our posture impacts our entire body, including how we eat. Since our feet are the foundation of our posture, our shoes can impact digestion. Add this to the benefits of minimalist shoes!
Do you ever watch your kids while they eat? No, just me?
I do it – a lot. It’s my nature. I observe people. I even have a whole guide to teach other people how to observe their kids to figure out how they eat best! It’s my superpower!
Even though I love it, I try not to observe too much or else I’ll reprimand my kids for every bite they chew with their mouths open or every time they try to eat a pile of rice with their hands instead of a spoon (seriously?).
But one thing I have noticed while watching my kids eat that does need addressing is their posture. My oldest is eleven. When she eats, she sits on the edge of her chair, with one leg bent underneath, her hip sticking out to one side and her head tilted in the other direction. It doesn’t take a chiropractor to figure out this is not a good way to sit. So I’m constantly telling her to sit up!
In her mind she’s just sitting comfortably. But then when she complains of constipation, that comfort isn’t so great.
How Does Stress Affect Children?
It may just seem like typical kid behavior to slouch or lean at the table, but it actually has a lot of significance. To a child’s body, poor posture is stress, and stress can have a significant impact on overall health.
Now, you may be thinking your kids aren’t that stressed. They are kids after all. But our definition of stress and the body’s definition of stress may be very different.
Stress can come in many forms, including:
- poor diet
- sedentary life
- nutrient deficiencies
- stimulants (I can’t believe how many kids I hear about drinking coffee lately!)
- imbalance of macro-nutrients
- poor posture/misalignment
These are just a few. But you’ll quickly see how they apply to the majority of kids these days.
Today I want to address the last one on the list – poor posture and spinal misalignment.
How Does Posture Impact Digestion?
Recently I did a brief introduction to the digestive system. Proper digestion starts with the brain – the home of your central nervous system. Your nervous system must be in a parasympathetic state to properly digest. Many people refer to this as the “rest and digest” state.
It is the exact opposite of a stressed state. And this includes all forms of stress.
Studying for a test, giving a speech – these are stresses that come and go. But a body that is out of alignment is in a constant state of stress. Which means it’s pretty hard to get into rest and digest mode.
This used to be a non-issue for kids that had lots of time to run around outside, barefoot and had no access to screens. Poor spinal alignment was a problem for older people.
Unfortunately, that is not the case these days.
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How Do Shoes Affect the Body?
We now have to deal with “text neck” in younger and younger children. We also lead a much more sedentary life.
But one of the factors in spine health that we don’t hear much about is footwear.
From the time little ones are even considering their first steps we strap on a pair of thick-soled, rigid shoes. So from the get-go kids are forced into unnatural postures. Not to mention that stiff shoes inhibit the integration of reflexes by constraining the feet while they are still curled.
Almost all shoes also contain some degree of a raised heel. It may not be obvious from the outside, but if you look closely you’ll see it.
Then there are the high heals that even very young girls wear. These create major stress on the body.
A raised heel forces the pelvis forward, putting strain on the abdomen and back. Go ahead and see for yourself. Stand in front of a mirror and stand up straight without shoes on. Then put on a pair of heels. Watch how your weight shifts forward.
It’s pretty obvious that this shift impacts the spine. Your body has to compensate and strains the back. This, in turn, can affect so many parts of the body, including the digestive system and the brain.
A friend recently had a long stretch of horrible headaches. The next time I saw her after she was feeling better the first thing I noticed was the huge heel on her shoes! I suspect there is at least some correlation.
My oldest child is my least athletic and has the hardest time with posture. It’s no surprise that she struggles with constipation more than my other children.
How Footwear Impacts your Child’s Eating Habits
Last month I gave you all the details of minimalist shoes and the benefits of letting kids go barefoot. When you read about minimalist shoes, it becomes obvious that what you put on your child’s feet is pretty important for both spinal and overall health.
But did you realize it can impact their eating habits?
I mentioned that poor posture and spinal misalignment are perceived as stress by the body and this stress inhibits the nervous system from entering parasympathetic mode.
Since digestion is a north-to-south process, each step at the top must happen correctly for the following steps to work properly. Plus stress inhibits the stomach from secreting sufficient stomach acid to properly digest proteins.
When digestion is impaired, so is eating.
Think about it – do you have a normal appetite when you have sluggish bowels? Do you want to eat a big meal if you have stomach cramps? No way! And neither do kids.
What parents may perceive as picky eating could really be a child’s response to poor digestion caused by stress and spinal misalignment. They just don’t always know how to articulate it to you clearly.
Natural Ways to Improve a Child’s Posture
The solution? Fix the spine and eliminate the source of constant stress. Incorporating lifestyle changes to maintain good posture is also important.
There are a number of ways to naturally improve and maintain a child’s posture.
- Minimalist footwear – shoes that have a flexible sole, a wide toe box, no rise in the heel, and stay on the feet will help a child walk, run, and play with proper posture.
- Chiropractic care – regular visits to a chiropractor in combination with lifestyle modifications can improve spinal alignment and nervous system function.
- Craniosacral therapy – this goes a bit deeper than chiropractic care and can get the entire body in balance, helping to alleviate stress.
- Functional furniture – having seating that allows a child to keep his or her feet on the ground can help with posture. An appropriate-sized balance ball can also help with core strength. You can also skip chairs and use a standing desk for work.
- Exercise – any kind of exercise will help build strength. Non-aerobic activities like yoga, rock climbing, and balance work are especially beneficial for posture. Get the kids outside and let them climb and hang from trees!
Note from Katie: In this amazing Healthy Parenting Connector interview, Dr. Kay Toomey talks about correct sitting posture and how it can help everyone, but especially those picky eaters!
Simple Steps to Reduce Picky Eating
Before I had kids I never gave footwear a second thought – aside from what style looked good. Now four kids later, what I put on my children’s feet (and my own) is a big decision!
If you want to improve your child’s digestion and even their eating habits, don’t neglect their feet. Minimalist footwear is a simple way to have a big impact on reducing stress and improving health.
Teach your kids to slow down and relax before a meal. Mindfulness and meditation are great tools as well.
Add up each step and you’re on your way to healthy, happy eaters!
We’re still working on my daughter’s posture. But with the help of barefoot shoes and mindful eating, her digestion is definitely improving!