I found that rather hard to swallow.
As a fitness trainer I’m a movement professional, so for this month I thought, ‘why not focus on the movement of eating: the chewing.’ In truth, the idea of writing about the human's use for chewing came around the backdoor: I am in a renewed place of interest around the gut microbiome, how you build a strong gut ‘garden’, how you maintain it and what it means to the health of your body when you have a good gut biome. What I realized while reading the sometimes murky and ever-abundant content regarding the study on gut microbiome, is that the role of competent chewing in digestion is an easy first step to better support your gut.
My personal experience with chewing is ‘slight’. I’m in my 4th decade of this life span and I essentially use chewing for its core competency: prevent choking. Beyond that, I do not spend any further time with chewing my food. Which just said a lot, without saying much.
Chewing your food well has some obvious benefits, as in breaking down the food particles into more passable and more accessible bits for the digestive organs. Chewing your food well also has benefits that surfaced from lab work, testing the bodies values of hormones linked with absorption and satiation of our foods.
A hallmark of the Chewing Challenge (of course that’s a real thing, this is America) is to chew each bite 30 times... since I think that is a great way to rob pleasure, I like the idea that you chew each bite to a near liquefaction state. When the food in your mouth is nearly liquid, I make 2 assumptions, that your teeth crushed the food into tiny particles and that the food is loaded up with digestive enzymes from your saliva. It looks like saliva contains digestive enzymes that break down starch and fats if given a chance, and that is linked with easier digestion properties in the stomach and esophagus. Likewise, the higher concentration of salivary enzymes can lead to less acid production, and they are responsible for helping to signal the digestive tract to prime itself for the presence of food to digest. Further, it is believed you may absorb more essential amino acids the longer proteins are able to be with the saliva, which is important since we don’t make essential amino acids ourselves and we must eat to acquire them (they are used to build muscle/hormone/neurotransmitters- critical human body tissues).
Chewing your food to liquefaction does take more time, AND it gives the body more time to respond with the awareness that it has been fed. This is where the lab work can show us that our gut hormones have a relationship to our chewing, in such a way that they tell us we are connecting with satiety. Otherwise stated, chewing your food to liquid slows how much food you can consume over a given amount of time, but it also allows for the hormone response to kick in that inhibits hunger. Lots of chewing does seem to correlate with a more ‘pragmatic’ quantity of food than we consume if we use the choking-prevention style of eating. Additionally, while increased presence of salivary enzymes and well crushed down particle sizes aid digestion, they are also thought to ease digestion. Chewing your food well is thought to help with bloating and gas, food coma, and constipation—common digestive dysfunction that we invest a lot of time in trying to fix by changing what we eat, may have substantial resolution in simply chewing our food better.
Historically, I catalog myself as a healthy eater. I have determined that my food servings host the right amount of calories with the right nutrients. My healthy eating was all plenty thought through, as it’s the result of planning and portioning out servings of food that I have attentively constructed within my mind. With the chewing model, I have a significantly greater physical experience with the mental project of eating. I find it oddly relaxing, which is also how I would prefer to consume food, as a relaxed person and not a voracious maniac. This is a very different relationship to the process of ingestion. I find fulfillment in this doing-chewing, that I’m not used to.
For all the effort I’ve given trying to understand the macronutrients and their impact on the body, with the aim of feeling real good a lot of the time, I don’t recall much experience of fulfillment. With the planned and portioned model, I actually had a lot less physical experience with eating my food. For me, chewing my food to liquefy is radically different. I feel my body more as it relates to the food I am putting in it, weird as that is. I don’t exemplify being ‘in the moment’ but I have to be in the moment to liquify bite upon bite of an entire meal. It’s so simple, and it’s a challenge. Perhaps feeling fulfillment happens when my mind is behaving for my body the way my body needs my mind to behave—albeit one blip at a time.
In robust health,