Chew on this! Literally and figuratively. What we’re talking about today is something to think about and to do – chew. I mean, have you ever really thought about chewing? What it is? What it does? And if there is a wrong way or a right way to do it?
Well, there is.
No, I’m not talking about your parents reminding you to chew with your mouth closed. Although, please do. I’m talking about how many times you chew your food before you swallow. The number you should chew is probably higher than you think and more important than you think.
Did you know the digestion process actually begins BEFORE you even put food in your mouth? It’s true. Think about it. We refer to foods being “mouthwatering” all the time. Why? Because just thinking about food starts the digestion process by activating the production of saliva. Hence the mouthwatering.
Once in our mouth, food needs to stay there for a bit to activate the first stages of the digestion process – chewing and saliva.
Chewing is the physical act of breaking the food into smaller pieces to make it safe for swallowing, but more importantly, for better digestion.
Saliva is the liquid necessary for lubrication to make swallowing easier, but it also starts to break down the food. It’s the first digestive enzyme your food comes into contact with. Not chewing long enough or letting the food get saturated by saliva hinders the digestion process.
Think about a pipe, say, a drain in your home. If a small piece of dirt goes down the drain, no problem, right? What if a toddler starts dropping marbles down the drain, one might not cause an issue, but 5, 10, 17 – now things could go horribly wrong.
Simply put, your digestive system is a really long pipe. Small pieces of food will be easily broken down into smaller microscopic pieces, absorbed into the blood and things will work properly. Big pieces of food, well…that’s a different and often damaging story.
Food that is not digested properly can lead to indigestion, bloating, constipation and acid reflux. (Can you say purple pill anyone?)
So, what should you be doing? How long do you chew?
The first step to chewing properly is to take smaller bites so the food can stay in the mouth longer AND more saliva can be absorbed into the food.
Then, the number of chews should range from 5-35 (yes, 35 or even more) depending on the food. Softer foods (fruit, ice cream, yogurt) don’t need as many chews. While steak or chicken need more.
My challenge to you is to be more aware of how many times you’re chewing. That’s right, I want you to count. During your next couple of meals (so you test various foods and textures) count the number of chews you take.
See if you can tell, by the chewing you do, if you’ve taken too big of a bite. If so, take a smaller bite and see how that feels and how the number of chews might be able to change.
Do you ever use your drink to help you swallow your food? Then you definitely need to take smaller bites and be more intentional about your chewing. That mean food pieces are too big and not ready for the soft lining of the esophagus or your stomach. It also means the extra liquid is diluting the digestive enzymes in your stomach needed to break down the food and get your body nutrients. (Drinking while you eat is a whole other topic so be on the lookout for that soon.)
After you get a feel for if you’re helping or hurting your digestive system with your chewing habits, a good guideline (if you don't want to count) is if the texture of the food has changed then it's probably ok to swallow.
Just as important as what we eat is how we eat. I hope this helps bring some relief to many of you who are suffering.
Until next time, be well!
A special Thank You to my dog, Guinness, for being such a great sport and a handsome model.
Thank you for being a member of Tricia’s Wellness Tribe. 😊