The medicine of chewing is very simple. It’s the only voluntary part of our entire digestive system!
We tend to chew our food quickly and gulp it down with water, but in doing so we are cheating ourselves of essential digestive enzymes that are naturally created during the chewing process. These enzymes help us digest our food and in turn help us to better absorb nutrients. The healthiest diet in the world is not useful if we cannot properly digest and absorb our food. Here are a few pointers to help you create good healthy eating hygiene:
Breathe mindfully before taking a bite
Take a deep breath and slow down your nervous system. Calming and relaxing the body prior to eating while sitting in a comfortable, position can help to reduce indigestion.
Most of the time, we’re in too big of a rush. We chew and swallow before we’ve broken down the food in our mouth. You want to chew until your food is nearly liquid in your mouth. The more broken down, the more opportunity for nutrient absorption.
Drink water before or after your meal, not during
Yes, liquids are important! But hydrate in between meals. Excessive water intake can dilute needed enzymes and stomach acid, which can cause indigestion. Again, chewing until your food is liquid, and allow the digestive enzymes in your saliva do what they’re designed to do. Drinking water in between bites, or using water to swallow with actually inhibits those digestive enzymes.
When discussing this, clients also follow up to ask about soup. Soup is very nourishing and typically contains about a cup of water. It’s typically made from a liquid like bone broth, which contains amino acids and gelatin. Gelatin and amino acids can repair the intestinal lining and are good for the gut.
Focus on the meal without multitasking.
That’s right, put down the phone. Avoid the temptation to do a “working lunch” or take a Zoom meeting. This allows us to savor the meal more thoroughly and give the brain the entertainment it seeks (e.g. flavor, aroma, textures), helping us to more naturally eat the amount of food that the body actually needs.
Wait 20 minutes after the meal before having seconds or dessert
Overeating is so easy to do, because it takes 20 minutes for the body to release the hormone Cholecystokinin (CCK), which regulates hunger. This hormone is responsible for telling your body when it’s full. Allow your body time to tell you whether or not it’s actually still hungry.
Learning to chew mindfully (or making any sustainable lifestyle change) takes time and commitment. I hope this digestible wisdom was helpful. I want to be there to support, educate and encourage you along your journey. Sign up for a free discovery call to discuss what changes to your diet might leave you feeling healthy and happy.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2017. It was updated and reposted in 2021.