I had read that chewing your food thoroughly helps with the digestive process, makes you feel fuller, and triggers healthy enzymes and hormones. Chewing at least 40 times before swallowing ensured *something*…but I forgot what. I had also recently undergone a 7-day colon cleanse, and without going into the gory details saw a lot of things that surprised me.
So I think I’m going to try to make an effort to chew my food more thoroughly. Maybe not 40 times per mouthful, but definitely more than the half-chew-swallow routine I’ve become accustomed to. But before I blindly decide to chomp more, I’d like to look into why it may be beneficial. And, of course, that means I’d like to share my findings with you.
What does any of this have to do with Endometriosis? Meh, probably nothing. BUT…if it can help my body become an optimal working machine, well-greased, and healthy: you bet I’ll try chewing better!
How the digestive tract works
Understanding how your food travels through your body may help understand why proper mastication (*snicker*) is important. It all starts in our mouth : chewing and swallowing. Once swallowed, it travels down our esophagus and into our stomach. The stomach secretes acids and enzymes to digest and break down the food. Once that process has taken place, the food drops down to our small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed through the continued breaking-down of the food. Those nutrients are sent to various systems in our body for purification and distribution, which also help our next meal digest (pancreas, liver, and gall bladder enzymes will be sent to our stomach for the next meal). The food, however, continues on through our large intestine and colon, where it eventually exits our system through pooping (I couldn’t bring myself to say bowel movement…because sometimes I’m just a giggly 12-year-old girl).
It’s a crazy process, which all begins with our chewing! Let’s start this off right!
Benefits of chew, chew, chewing
While we chew, we create saliva. Saliva is a little powerhouse of good bacteria and chemicals that not only lubes our food for its journey through our body, but also protects our mouth and teeth from harmful bacteria and damage. It also plays a role in our sense of taste. Saliva may also help ease heartburn by combating over-zealous stomach acid.
By not swallowing large or incompletely-chewed chunks of food, you decrease the chances of lodging food in your throat, or scraping/tearing your esophagus on the way down. Ever swallow something, and have to immediately run for a glass of water because it feels stuck? If we chew our food better, it may not happen as much. Chewing slower and swallowing less-big chunks may also reduce our chances of swallowing air, which may make us feel less bloated or gassy.
Our stomach is alerted by the brain to the type of food that is in our mouth and about to enter the stomach. So the stomach, based on those chemical senses, releases certain digestive enzymes to better help digest the food that will be in our stomach. Well-chewed food is also much easier for the stomach enzymes to digest properly. Larger chunks may take time, or not be properly digested before passing on through the rest of our system. Studies also have shown that food that has been thoroughly chewed costs the body less energy to digest. Improperly digested food may lead to gas and bacteria (which may lead to constipation or diarrhea) in our intestines. Bloat and fart much? Chew better! See how that feels.
Properly digested food (aka smaller particles…chewing more thoroughly) allows for the absorption of more nutrients while the food is being zipped around our intestines. A study presented at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo showed that people who chewed almonds more absorbed the nutrients faster; however, people who chewed their almonds less passed the almonds more quickly, absorbing less goodness into their bodies. Some foods are naturally difficult to digest (nuts, seeds, and the infamous corn); chewing these foods more thoroughly may help our bodies break down and digest them a bit easier.
It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to tell your stomach you’re full. You may find that you’re eating less food than before because you’re allowing your body to properly gauge how full it is before stuffing your stomach. A 2008 study suggests that eating slowly leads to a more full feeling at the end of the meal as compared to a fast-eaten meal feeling less satiated. A study presented by Iowa State University in 2012 showed that chewing food more carefully actually increased hormones that reduce hunger:
“When people chewed the pizza 40 times before swallowing, there was a reduction in hunger, preoccupation with food and a desire to eat. There was an increase in CCK, which is a hormone related to fullness and satiety. And there was a reduction in ghrelin, another hormone that stimulates the brain to increase appetite.” ~James Hollis
A 2014 study by the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Kyushu University found that chewing more thoroughly aids your body’s digestion, which may even alter it’s metabolism, leading to a greater chance of weight loss (with healthy diet and exercise, I’m sure).
How much to chew?
Well, it depends on who you ask. Some say to chew a minimum of 40 times her mouthful before swallowing. In the 1800’s, Horace Fletcher encouraged people to chew their food 100 times before swallowing. Others say to chew until the texture is uniform and you can no longer distinguish what you were chewing. The best advice I can find online about how to properly chew your food is to make sure it’s a pulpy or as liquidy as possible before swallowing. Mash it up real good with your teeth & saliva. Each person will be different, as will each mouthful. Another great piece of advice was to put your eating utensils down between bites. That way you’re less tempted to scoop up the next mouthful before you’ve finished chewing and swallowing the present bite.
I’ll be making a conscious effort to chew my food better! Will you?
U.S. National Library of Medicine – 2008 (abstract) : Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women
U.S. National Library of Medicine – 2014 (abstract) : The number of chews and meal duration affect diet-induced thermogenesis and splanchinic circulation
~ Again, I am a layman. I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge. Please take what I say with a grain of salt. If curious, do your own research 😉 Validate my writings. Or challenge them. And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always. Yours ~ Lisa