Parasympathetic Nervous System

The network of nerves that creates the system that’s known for the ‘rest and digest’ feelings is the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is what aids in digestion, slows your heart rate and give you general feelings of well being.

I want that. I want a lot of that. I bet you do too.

Sympathetic Nervous System

The opposite is the Sympathetic Nervous System—otherwise known as the fight or flight system. While this is responsible for kicking things into a higher gear, the aforementioned system kicks it into a lower one, while still taking digestion up a notch.

The Color Green

I have always felt (quite literally) the effects of being around green—particularly the green of nature—trees, grass, etc. I’m pretty sure you have as well. There’s more to it than just a simple preference. it has actually psychological effects on us. Guess which of the two systems it also activates?

Lets talk about our parent’s warning about swimming after eating, what you can do to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and the fact that I say that word like ten times in the podcast and don’t even mess it up.


Transcript of episode:

Rest and digest. Doesn’t that sound nice?

Well, hey there, welcome back.

What I want to talk about today is not something that’s really linear, but more a number of things that are all connected, like we are, in our system, in our nervous system. Do you remember how we were always told to wait an hour before swimming because we’d cramp up and die and drown? Well, it turns out that’s not exactly true.

In fact, something very close to the opposite of that is true. So, let’s start there. So, a recent sports medicine meta-study found that walking after eating has some tremendous benefits.

It affects cholesterol, the efficiency of how you digest your food, feelings of relaxation. There’s less of a spike in sugar. And if you’ve ever read The 4-Hour Body, you know just how important spiking glucose, or rather, not spiking glucose, can change the way that your body even stores the food.

In addition to all of that, walking also stimulates your vagus nerve. It’s a rather long, large nerve in your body that connects to something called the parasympathetic nervous system, which I just love saying, by the way. Isn’t that a fun word?

The parasympathetic nervous system is also known as the rest and digest system. It’s the opposite of your fight and flight system, and that’s your sympathetic system. So the parasympathetic is basically the opposite.
It’s the, oh my God, we went through this really stressful time. Let’s kick in the parasympathetic so that we can rest and digest and calm down and feel nice. So, oddly enough, movement after eating, in fact, you have this little window that right after eating should be used to then start movement, and the movement can be as little as 10 minutes.
In fact, the sweet spot’s probably, from what I keep researching, probably about 20 minutes or so. So if you go for like a 20 minute walk after eating, you’re going to kick in your parasympathetic nervous system, and that’s going to do all those wonderful things I just talked about. So imagine that you can literally affect the way that you’re absorbing food and its effect on your body just by taking a little walk.

So I would highly, highly recommend doing that. I would venture a guess that most people weren’t even aware that there’s these various layers of systems, oh, there’s that word again, various layers of systems that we have on top of our nervous system. You think we just have a nervous system.

Oh, okay, I have a nervous system. I can feel stuff if you poke me, ow. But the nervous system manages a whole bunch of stuff and just, you know, anxiety and other feelings.

And imagine that you have this system that says, hey, we’re gonna rest and relax, it’s cool. And then you have this other system when like a bear is chasing you that says, okay, we’re going to get hyper now and run as fast as we possibly can and get the heck out of here. But the latter system sometimes gets kicked in.

And you know, you’ve felt it. Even people you know, you’ve probably even seen the fight or flight mechanism kick in even in a conversation. You’ve probably heard me say in the past that I’m a big fan of green and that I’ve recently found that it really is important to me.

I feel a physiological effect from green. And I don’t mean staring at a square of green. I mean looking at natural green grass, trees, things like that.

It just really has a wonderful effect on me. So of course, like everything else, I had to research that. I had to look into it.
Were there studies done? Did people research it? Does it affect everyone the same way?
Is looking at a tree on your monitor the same thing as being out in nature and so forth? If you’ve heard my podcast episode on how ancient people couldn’t see the color blue, or at least that was the belief, we delved a little bit into that about the rods and the cones and how we see green easier and better than any other color. We’re built to see green.
So if you throw aside all the psychological things that we have built into green, oh, go take a walk in nature, oh, nature’s beautiful, all that stuff. If you say, okay, but is there some sort of direct connection between our brain and green and seeing greenish things? It turns out, yes, there actually is.

So besides what you would imagine, like, oh, it’s just so nice to be out in nature, it’s actually nice to be out in nature. Because guess what else stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system? That’s right, the color green in that fashion.

So you get all those benefits, everything from the release of gastrin as a hormone that allows you to digest better, to, you know, the calming effect, to the better blood flow, all that stuff happens also when we see green in this particular fashion. And the fashion, I mean, is seeing rolling hills of beautiful grass and things like that. How cool is that?
So now we have two things that create the same effect that actually can be multiplied when you combine them together. So imagine taking a walk after eating, that the walk itself and the stimulating of muscles and blood flow and all that stuff, and like I said, the release of gastrin and the massaging of things going on in between that allows you to digest things easier and the more readily available enzymes and all that stuff that allows you to sort of digest the food properly, almost like we were designed to eat on the run. Maybe we were because we take a bite out of something and run before the other animals get us.
Who knows? But you combine that then with something else that kicks in parasympathetic nervous system. I still haven’t messed up that word.

And then you get an even, like a multiplier that even helps all that stuff manifest itself in your system to an even greater extent. And you know what’s interesting because now throwing all that scientific stuff aside for now and all the this works this way, vagus nerve and all that stuff, if you just think back with your emotional memory, you think back to a time when you were at a gathering, let’s say, it was a gathering where you didn’t really sit, right? You walked around, talked to people, like maybe a networking event, maybe some other kind of event, maybe it was a baseball game or something, and you had to chase the kids a lot, so you didn’t just sit.

I bet you can remember a time multiple times when you were eating and doing a lot of standing where you didn’t really feel like you were eating all that much. It just felt really natural to eat. Like, you might have even gone home and thought, man, I ate a lot, but like, I almost feel like I lost weight, or I feel really better about what I ate, even though I ate bad food.
And that’s because the movement and the activation of this parasympathetic nervous system, I just said it to test myself, is what helped all the food get digested. So, I tell you all this because I want you to feel good, I want you to feel better, and I want you to understand how life works. And if it’s a system, I want to see it, and I want to discover it, and I want to explain it to you.
So, what’s your takeaway? If at all possible, try to get up and move for at least five or 10 minutes, possibly 20, right after eating. It is especially important if you ate like a lot.
Like, you feel like, oh, that was really good, oh my God, why did I eat so much? Now, I feel bloated, now I feel terrible, and I’m just a big glump just sitting here. Get up and go for a walk.
If you can walk outside and you have green available, I’m looking at you, Phoenix, Arizona, then you can even sort of multiply the effects. If you can’t get out, like, literally marching in place, I did some research, literally marching in place, as long as you’re moving your legs and so forth, can create the same effect. And it may look silly to you, your husband may be like, why are you marching in the bathroom by yourself?

Oh, no reason, I’m fine. I’m all good. So go for a walk.

Go for a walk after eating, and just understand you have these two systems in place. One of them is to help you rest and digest. One of them is to help you fight or flight.
And there are things in your life that can activate both of them. And now I just gave you the two things that you know are going to activate the fun one, the fun one that makes you relaxed. And like a lot of things in life, it’s counterintuitive.

The one that makes you move is the one that makes you relaxed and digest. But the one that you wouldn’t activate by just sitting there and having chips on your stomach and eating out of a bag, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. So get out there and move.

Thank you so much for listening. I really, really appreciate you and your time. Take care.
Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed it, I’d appreciate a like, share, or subscribe.
Feel free to reach out and better days.