Something to think about… Our mouth has teeth, our stomach does not; which means that chewing is meant for our mouth and not for our stomach. Simple, right? So why do I see so many people rushing through meals (not chewing) and then throwing blame to their bodies when things get a little “weird and gassy”?
Let’s get into it…
Digestion is really important. It’s where our body gets ALL of the nutrition it needs to function (think vitamins, minerals, antioxidants – all of the fuel for our cells, our skin, our bones, our organs, our health!). Digestion is also how we get the toxic waste and garbage out of our body (think poop). The health of our digestive system is directly related to the health of our body, so if we want a healthy body, we want to make sure that we have a healthy digestive system.
Chewing is the only part of digestion that we have control over, so we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to chew our food! Chewing is where digestion begins, and the way we chew will determine how the next 18-24 hours are going to go down (the typical transit time from mouth to toilet).
In an ideal world, we would eat every meal sitting down in a calm environment with little to no distractions. This allows us to really be with our food, eat mindfully, and ingest our food while the body is in a calm state (which means digestion can be in full swing). When we are stressed, our digestive system typically shuts down because the body wants to preserve any energy it has for “escaping” – think “fight or flight” from high school science class.
Now, I understand that not every meal can be eaten in such a calm and peaceful way, but we can still chew! Remaining conscious of our chewing not only helps our digestive system run more smoothly, but it helps us stay connected to our food even when we are in a busy environment.
Here’s a glimpse of chewing in my world…
I love to begin each meal with a few deep breaths, which helps me to get present and calm, reminds me of what I am about to do (eat) and also starts the digestive juices flowing in my mouth (when we acknowledge that we are about to eat, our brain lets the mouth know its time to begin producing digestive enzymes). I make an effort to chew each bite of food until it is liquid, which is usually about 20-30 times. I pause in between bites and let the food settle into my belly.
By taking the time to chew food until it is liquid, we are doing our part in breaking down our food so that the stomach can then do its thing and continue the digestive process. The stomach isn’t meant to digest bigger pieces of food, and when it has to, we usually experience all kinds of upset in the gut – hello gas and bloating!
Chewing food thoroughly also helps us to slow down while we are eating, which gives the body time to feel full and then let us know before we are stuffed to the brim. When we are paying attention to the way we are chewing food, we are more in touch with the experience of eating, and more in tune with the signals from our body.
For me, beginning to notice how I was chewing was the perfect introduction to mindful eating. At first, the thought of eating in peace and quiet with no distractions sounded like torture! But chewing, now that was something I could handle. As I continued to practice mindful chewing, I watched my relationship to food begin to change. I grew more aware of how much food I needed to feel full, what kinds of foods made me feel best, and which foods left me feeling not so hot. I also noticed that I wasn’t as bloated after meals and experienced less digestive upset. After spending some time with chewing, I slowly began introducing other mindful eating habits in my routine which have continued to deepen my relationship with the foods that I eat.
So, if you want to support your digestive system, decrease your gas and bloating, increase your nutrient absorption, learn to recognize cues from your body, notice which foods make you feel best, and begin to shift your relationship to food, try chewing mindfully! Begin to pay attention to how you eat, how you chew, and see where you can make adjustments. This is about doing what works for YOUR body, so honor that!
And of course, if you want support, I am here to help!
with love and mindful chewing,