Mastication is the art of what you do with food in your mouth – chewing. In today’s modern society everyone is constantly on the move, always in a rush, with no time to sit and contemplate life – this has led to a reduction in the time available to sit and eat a meal. The modern man or woman tends to eat on the run, between meetings, at their office desk while answering emails, whilst on the phone, in meetings discussing business issues or while trying to get the kids ready for school or bed. This might just be one of the reasons for a large increase in digestive problems such as bloating, gas, abdominal pains, constipation, allergies, eczema and many more.
This post is about one simple premise, something very simple that our mothers always told us when we were young. I remember my lovely Mum at dinnertime constantly telling my two brothers and I to “Slow down your eating”, “Chew correctly and slowly” and “There is no hurry, the food is not going to run away off the plate”. If only we had listened to our parents when we were younger then perhaps we would all be eating in a more healthy manner (although we may have also all ended up with curly hair from eating our crusts). But in this case Mum was right, it is very important to chew correctly, slow down our eating and allow ourselves more time to spend over meals.
From a body physiological standpoint it is essential to chew slowly and eat correctly so the digestive system can most effectively absorb all the essential vitamins, minerals and other molecules needed for your body to function in a healthy state. We see so many people with food allergies and health related illnesses that could possibly be resolved through improved digestion of food simply by chewing slowly.
The following is an example of what not to do:
Saliva contains a unique enzyme called Ptyalin. Ptyalin breaks downs the mucopolysaccharide that holds food molecules together, a bit like glue. This means that the food is partly broken down in the mouth by this enzyme and it cannot be properly digested anywhere else in the digestive tract. Stomach juices inactivate ptyalin, so as to prevent the stomach and intestines being digested along with your food.
Here are some basic concepts to keep in mind when it comes to eating a meal, especially chewing your food to increase the effectiveness of your digestion:
- Chew slowly
- Use a teaspoon or small fork instead of a regular spoon, shovel or pitchfork – this means less food goes into your mouth at one time
- Chew everything you put into your mouth until it turns in to a thin liquid
- Avoid eating by yourself – slow down your eating if you are with others. When you are talking to people you eat slower and when watching how others eat you slow down too
- Don’t eat meals in front of screens (TV, computer, tablet, smartphone) – you need to concentrate on what you are eating and how much you are putting in each mouthful
- Don’t eat on the move – the body appreciates digesting food in a relaxed environment. When eating on the run the body is pumping blood to other systems (musculoskeletel) and not directing enough to your digestive system thus decreasing its efficiency
- Take a smaller portion size than normal when eating – meal size can decrease when you eat slower because you will feel full sooner
- Sit on your hands between each mouthful if you are having trouble eating slowly
- It is best to drink after you finish eating your meal not during – liquid disrupts the digestive process whilst eating
- Don’t eat when tired
- Don’t eat too late at night
- Eat fresh foods
- Avoid processed foods
- Don’t eat when angry, sad or nervous
The benefits of chewing correctly and slowly are:
- The digestive process can start in the mouth
- Food is partly broken down for easier digestion in the lower digestive tract
- Preparing and activating the correct enzymes along the digestive pathway
- Improving nutrition by enhancing the absorption of nutrients
- Allowing the body’s natural satiety signal to turn on – this signal tells you that you are full and don’t need to eat more
- Allowing you to taste all the flavours of the food you are eating
- Allowing you to enjoy your food more
- Allowing you to detect any problems with the food you are eating before passing foreign bugs into other parts of the body
Questions for Readers
This has been written to provide some very basic ways of improving your digestive system, it is simple and easy to do. I am not claiming this approach will help everyone but it may improve some issues that you have. Give it a try for a month and let me know the results you get or let me know what you tried that did not help or you could not do.
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on Food Nutrition and different eating models.
So remember CHEW SLOWLY – EAT CORRECTLY.