I like to be an avid observer and analyst of the information that is published regarding nutrition and any other information relating to the topic. Quality, quantity, and sources of cultivation and the production of foods are the main subjects. Whether we buy organic or not, whether the organic label went through the entire evaluation and examination phase of the certification process are two commonly discussed topics. Whether we should eat this or that depending on our personal needs, and whether we should count calories and measure the number of grams we eat or not are also commonly discussed ones.
Most of the information is based around what we eat, but very rarely does it also concentrate on how we eat. Most of the information we find is related to how important it is to consume healthy, organic, fresh macro and micronutrients. But what about how we chew and insalivate (mixing saliva and food in our mouths)?
We all know the famous phrase: “take your time and chew your food properly.” There is wisdom to be gained from it and the purpose of this article is to make a call for us to start paying more attention to the way we chew and insalivate. Sadly, we’ve forgotten to take into account that for there to be a healthy state of the body, the kind of food and how we digest and eliminate it must have the same level of importance. Chewing and insalivating properly are two extremely important factors when it comes to enabling the body to digest, break down, absorb, reabsorb, metabolize, and eliminate foods the best way possible.
Digestion begins with chewing
We refer to chewing as mechanical digestion because once you take a bite of food, you begin to mechanically break it down into smaller and smaller particles. While chewing, you activate your salivary glands, which release a lot of saliva containing important digestive juices and enzymes such as amylase, lysozyme and lingual lipase. Their functions are:
- Salivary amylase(enzyme) to begin the chemical digestion of starch
- Antibodies and lysozymes: to fight oral bacteria
- Lingual lipase (enzyme): to break down fatty acids
- Bicarbonates: to help neutralize acids
- Mucus: to moisten the food and oral cavity
Chewing also signals the body to begin the digestion process. It alerts the stomach, preparing it to make stomach acid, and it signals the pancreas to prepare for secreting its contents into the small intestinal tract. All this helps speed up the digestive process and relax the lower stomach.
To help ensure proper digestion
The mechanical breakdown of food into smaller and smaller pieces makes it much easier for the body to extract more nutrients from them. In fact, when you do not chew your food enough, some nutrients may go undigested. This can be a major problem since elements of this undigested food may eventually enter your bloodstream through small gaps that may exist between the intestinal absorptive cells (enterocytes) of the intestinal lining (simple columnar epithelial cells). On top of that, large particles that move slowly down the digestive tract can increase the risk of bacterial overgrowth which leads to indigestion, bloating and constipation. The longer food particles linger, the more they have the possibility to become catalysts for putrefaction, which can produce neurotoxins in the gastrointestinal tract .
How many times should you chew your food? That is a great question that no one can answer accurately. The most important thing is that the mass of chewed and moistened food, referred to as a bolus, starts to have a slightly sweet taste. Precisely at that moment, you are able to swallow.
Digestion is one of the most energy-consuming processes of the body, so it’s essential that you help your body along by doing your part.