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Benefits of Chewing Your Food Well

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You may have heard the phrase before, “You are what you eat.” When it comes to our physical health, this is not entirely true. It would be much more accurate to say “You are what you digest.” The truth is, it doesn’t matter how healthy you eat if your body is not capable of properly breaking down, absorbing and utilizing the nutrients from the foods that you eat.

In order to thrive and optimize your health, you MUST support a healthy digestion if you want to get the most out of the foods that you are eating.

Did you know that even healthy foods, if not properly broken down, can become food for a wide variety of opportunistic organisms that can wreak havoc on your health? Not to mention, if you have a leaky gut, undigested food particles that enter into the blood stream can trigger a multitude of inflammatory reactions depending on the individual, including but not limited to migraines, joint pain, acne, anxiety and weight gain.

So, how can you support a healthy digestion?

There are tons of ways to do this through targeted supplementation, eating more of specific foods such as anything fermented (think sauerkraut, kombucha etc.), but today I want to focus on one very simple yet practical and very under estimated way you can start supporting your digestion TODAY!

CHEWING YOUR FOOD

Yep. That’s it.

Seems simple huh? Just chew your food! While this may seem like a simple thing to do, I can bet you that most people do not take nearly enough time to chew their food properly, including me most days. Ideally you should be chewing your food until it becomes a liquid in your mouth before you swallow. Depending on the food you are eating, this could take anywhere from 20-40 chews per bite. Here are a few reasons why we need to be intentional about slowing down at meals times and chewing our food well!

Digestion Starts in the Mouth

When we take the time to chew our food well, it allows time for the food in our mouth to mix with digestive enzyme rich saliva. Digestive enzymes are what help break down the foods that we eat into smaller pieces to eventually be absorbed through the intestines. For example, amylase is a specific digestive enzyme in the mouth that helps to break down starches (complex carbohydrates) into sugars which your body can more easily absorb. Saliva also contains lipase which helps break down fats.

Helps Calm Us Down

Focusing on chewing will naturally help you to slow down when eating and focus on the food you are eating rather than the million other things you may have to do or may be worried about. When we focus on slowing down and chewing our food, we naturally stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the ‘rest and digest’ system.

The opposite of this system is the sympathetic system, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ system. This is the system that kicks in whenever we experience ANY kind of fear, real or perceived. The goal of this system is to prepare us to handle whatever stress is at hand. One of the main ways it does this is by diverting our energy and blood flow to our outer extremities.  This is a GOOD thing, for example, if we are in the presence of a bear and need to run, or need to escape any kind of dangerous situation.

This is a BAD thing however when it comes to digestion. Digestion becomes far less important when our body perceives that is in danger. While blood flow is diverted to the extremities it is also diverted AWAY from our intestines and our digestion is negatively impacted, making it nearly impossible to properly break down and absorb the foods that are being eaten.

So while you may no be being chased by a bear or be in any kind of immediate danger most days when it comes time to eat, you still activate your sympathetic system under any kind of perceived fear as I mentioned before. This includes thinking about the never ending ‘to-do’ list full of urgent deadlines, running late, anxiety about being stuck in traffic, or even judging yourself for what you are putting in your mouth.

So, while it may take more than just chewing to help relax your mind and body before eating, this will help tremendously!! I think you will be surprised how much it will relax you to focus on this. It will naturally help you to slow down and breath instead of inhaling your food while your mind is already on to the next thing for the day.

So this week, and the weeks to come, I challenge you to slow down and CHEW your food. Your body and even your mind will thank you for the small increments of rest it allows you to have each day.

 

 

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