Where does digestion begin? Hint: it’s not in our stomachs. Digestion actually begins in the mouth and this is your simple reminder to do what your mom once told you and chew your food.
Here’s the thing about our ‘simplest health tips’: our series of basic reminders are mostly as obvious as can be — and yet we seem to spend half our adult lives cyclically neglecting and then picking back up the same simple habits again and again. Whether it’s drinking enough water, eating plenty of greens, or just taking deep breaths throughout the day, we all need reminders about these easy little habits that so easily get tossed aside. And chewing our food well is one of them.
Think of your last meal. Were you talking, reading, working, consuming media, driving or also feeding a child while you ate? It’s possible you were doing at least one, if not two of these activities while you scarfed something down. Heck, you’re probably munching on something right now while reading this! There’s an overall consensus coming through the wellness world right now and that’s that our love for “multi-tasking” may not be so smart and healthy after all. Whether it’s poor digestion from not properly chewing our distracted meals, waning brain health from constant mental wear, or relational stress stemming from a lack of focused attention, it turns out that too much multi-tasking can actually take it’s toll on our overall well-being.
Chewing our food is key for great digestion and healthy energy levels. Digestion takes more energy than perhaps any other function in the body — if we burden our digestive system by eating our meals whole like a T-Rex, we can create a major burden on our daily energy levels.
Thoroughly chewing every bite we eat allows plenty of saliva to be released to start the digestion process. We all understand that when the mouth “waters”, it’s not actually water, but saliva that’s pooling under our tongues or drooling from our lips. Saliva is an essential bodily fluid that’s easy to take for granted, but actually contains a combination of enzymes that are key in beginning the process of digestion including amylase which breaks down complex carbs and lingual lipase which helps break down fats. Chewing also obviously mechanically breaks down our food to be better processed by the rest of our digestive system which in turn helps us to absorb the maximum amount of nutrition from our food and avoid digestive upset.
Maybe, if you’re an ambitious A-type or young mom juggling the circus of working from home right now, you’ve learned to think of inhaling your lunch as a highly developed life skill. The truth is that by not properly chewing, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Even if you’re eating a healthy diet, take note of how you eat your next meal. Are you taking enough time? Are you rushing and eating bites nearly without thought? Make the small adjustment to properly chew your food to ensure you’re getting the most benefit out of everything you eat and to save the rest of your digestive system the extra work. Some experts claim 32 chews to be the ideal amount per chew. If you need specific direction, that’s a good place to start, but we’d say it’s more of a bite by bite decision and a little simple awareness is all you really need!