Digestion Starts With The Mouth

Digestion.  First let’s think of digestion as a process of breaking down food.  Where do you think that begins in our body?  If you didn’t read the title of this post, most people want to think of the stomach as the place where digestion begins however digestion starts in the mouth.  The stomach is an important organ for breaking down food however this process first begins in the mouth.  I want to share with you why it’s important to know this.

The reason for eating is to break down food to absorb the nutrients inside.  It’s very important.  When we put food into our mouth we are breaking down food in a couple of ways – mechanically and chemically.  Mechanically we break down food through physical chewing of our food with our teeth.  Chemically we break down food even further when it mixes with our saliva.  Saliva, secreted by the salivary glands, contains enzymes that work to begin the breakdown of food.  Even just the smell of food can generate saliva (thus some may challenge me that digestion begins even before food is put into your mouth).

The process of chewing your food is not one you should rush through.  As I have said, it breaks your food down from large particles into smaller particles.  This is important because it helps to make those particles more easily digested thus improving absorption of nutrients from the food particles.

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Chewing your foods thoroughly may be a simple way to improve your health.  Digestion itself requires a great amount of energy so it’s best to avoid making the job harder by forcing it to digest improperly chewed food.  Chewing your food so that its partially liquefied is the best way to start your digestion.  You should chew your food 30 times before swallowing!  Now you can probably understand why.

Why am I talking about this?  I want to challenge you to be more conscious about the way you eat.  Do you chew your foods down to liquefied mush?  Maybe you swallow large particles of food.  Could you slow down your eating instead of rushing through your meal?  Another advantage to chewing your food more, the longer it will take you to finish a meal  can ultimately help you to eat less.  You may or may not know that it generally takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal to your stomach that you’re full.

Drink your solids and chew your liquids.

So the best way to feed is to eat in a non-distracted environment.  Don’t eat on the run.  Make a conscious effort to take smaller bites of food and chew your food slowly until it becomes liquefied and lost its texture.  Make sure to finish chewing and swallowing BEFORE you take another bite of food.  You may be surprised how you eat once you start paying attention to your habits.

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Ultimately taking these steps to chewing your food properly will help you enjoy your food, slow down your eating and really get the opportunity to taste all the flavors within your meal.

Happy Eating!

-Dr. Stephanie

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