Did you know, chewing your food is an important part of digestion? It is! It is often overlooked as part of the digestive process and many times, with certain foods, we chew our food a couple of times and swallow. If this food is meat, you feel it slowly go down your esophagus. I remember this feeling well. When I ate meat, I felt it so tedious to chew that I often swallowed after a couple of bites and felt it almost getting stuck in my esophagus. This is not good, instead of the stomach receiving a smooth broken down mass of food (called a bolus), it receives chunks of food.
We need to chew our food well. When we do, we start the chemical process of digestion which enhances saliva production. Saliva contains enzymes like Amylase that help to break down and moisten the food. Your teeth and tongue help to mix the food and enzymes so that the food glides down the esophagus easily and can help take some strain off the rest of the digestive system.
How is this? When you chew your food, your intelligent body sends chemical messengers to the rest of your body, it tells your stomach to start producing digestive juices because food is coming. If your food is chewed thoroughly, the digestive juices can get right to work efficiently because the surface area of the food is bigger. If your food is received in chunks this can result in gas, bloating and indigestion. Did you catch that? Not chewing your food can result in some of the symptoms that bring you to me! As we travel further down the digestive tract, if we miss this one critical step in digestion, it can also result in leaky gut which can open the doors for so many health issues.
So, how well do you chew your food? Examine your oral health. Do you have teeth that hurt, dentures that don’t fit right? Sensitive teeth? This can all impact how thoroughly you chew the food. The amount of times you chew the food will vary depending on what food you are eating. For instance, if you are having a smoothie, just a few times is sufficient, if you are consuming animal foods, you want to chew that to an almost liquid state. As the saying goes “chew your liquids and drink your solids”. Chewing may seem like an insignificant task, but it is the first step and essential to optimizing your digestion!