Something to Chew On

Something to Chew On

The bright benefits of chewing your food

We are willing to bet that you don’t give a lot of thought to how you chew your food.  Maybe, now is a good time to start.

Seventy percent of our country suffers from some type of intestinal discomfort, and there are 41 million doctor and hospital visits per year related to intestinal concerns in the U.S. The surprise is that being mindful of chewing your food can help. The simple act of chewing your food properly can prevent bloating, heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion, gas, and more.

In addition to breaking down your food to reduce stress on your esophagus, chewing allows time for your saliva to provide enzymes. Enzymes are critical to the digestive process and will make it easier on the rest of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). This is particularly true in digesting fats, where failing to allow time for the saliva enzymes to begin breaking down fats can lead to indigestion. Your digestive enzymes therefore set the stage for the digesting all of the foods you eat .

Food contains many types of molecules, including proteins. Proteins are critical because they are broken down into amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks for growth and development. Amino acid intake is vital for our health because we can’t create or store amino acids in our body. If we do not chew our food properly it creates a barrier to digesting proteins and ultimately to the digestion of amino acids.

Proper chewing also allows you to absorb more nutrients from your food. Given that our food may already be less nutrient dense than it used to be, (due to factory farming, soil quality, etc.) it’s even more important than ever to ensure that you absorb all the nutrients you can.

Studies have shown that people who eat more slowly and chew their food longer tend to consume less food overall. That is a significant benefit for those who are struggling to lose weight. Keeping distractions at a minimum while eating will allow you to be more mindful of how much you are eating and how long you are chewing.  Eating in front of the TV or computer screen will distract you from your ability to savor and appreciate your food.

In addition to chewing your food more thoroughly, there are a few other things that can help your GIT operate more efficiently:

  • Eat more fermented foods. The beneficial bacteria in fermented foods can help to break down your foods in addition to helping you absorb additional nutrients. (sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, kefir)
  • Walk, don’t run. The digestive process takes a lot of energy, and strenuous exercise immediately following a meal can divert energy needed for effective digestion.
  • Drink 30 minutes prior to, or 30 minutes after eating if you suffer from digestive issues. Drinking too much during a meal can actually dilute enzymes throughout the GIT, making digestion more challenging.
  • Talk to a practitioner about using probiotics. Many things can create imbalance in our bodies, and taking probiotics regularly can highly beneficial.

Chewing is automatic, but if we can stay mindful of the many benefits chewing can bring to us, it’s easy to pay more attention to this simple act.

Your GIT will thank-you for it.
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In case you missed it, check out Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV in our series on Gut Health and Immunity.

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