I’m in the midst of an intensive health practitioners’ course all about digestion, and a recent lesson has become a game-changer now that I’m putting it into practice. For all my gals and guys who struggle with bloating and gas after eating, find it hard to lose weight, or feel run-down, this one’s for you.
The good news? This practice doesn’t involve changing your diet AT ALL. It just requires giving a little more attention to something you already do every day.
Let’s talk about chewing!
How often have you thought about chewing? Not much, right? Chewing is a voluntary action (you can stop and start at will), but it’s more like an unconscious reflex. You put food in your mouth, chomp on it a few times, and down the hatch it goes.
It turns out that chewing is as important as anything going on internally. Since it’s the first step in the process of digesting food, the way you chew, including how long you chew, determines how smoothly the rest of the process goes.
That’s because the act of chewing not only breaks food down into smaller pieces, it’s also a heads up to your stomach that food is on its way and it should get the place ready. More enzymes and gastric juices are released into your stomach, so when the food arrives, it can be easily broken down, sent through the intestines and then delivered to cells.
If you’re tossing back big, barely chewed lumps of food at a quick pace, it’s gonna be a ROUGH ride. Your stomach won’t be ready with enough enzymes and gastric acid to break things down very well. Hello indigestion. These oversized particles of partly undigested food then get pushed into your intestines where bacteria start to work on them. This is when bloating and its trusty sidekick gas kick in. You wind up feeling crampy, burpy, gassy, and not unlike a walking parade float.
The simple act of chewing the right way can get rid of bloating, gas, and stomach pain.
The longer you chew, the more food gets broken down in your mouth, the more efficiently your stomach will work, and the easier the rest of the digestive process will be.
Three more reasons to start chewing slow n’ steady:
1.) You’ll absorb more nutrients from your food. Chewing well breaks food down into small pieces that the stomach can easily digest. This ensures food particles reach your intestines in a small enough size that the maximum amount of nutrients can be efficiently absorbed. If you don’t chew well, you’ll miss out on a lot of nutrients. This is true even if you’re eating the cleanest organic diet known to man.
2.) More nutrient absorption = more energy. Energy comes from the nutrients we absorb – think carbohydrates, fat, protein, etc. If you’re not chewing well, you’re not absorbing as many nutrients, and you’re not going to have as much energy. The digestive process is pretty demanding on the body and uses up a good deal of energy. If you stress out your body by making it work even harder to break down improperly chewed food, it’ll require even more energy. That’s less energy available to be used elsewhere. This might be one of the reasons you feel so damn tired all the time.
3.) You’ll eat less food. Chewing more slows you down. Since your body doesn’t know it’s full until after a lag time of 20-30 minutes, building extra time into your meal by chewing longer means your brain has a good chance of getting the “I’m full” message before you’ve cleaned your plate and gone back for seconds. If you feel like you’re eating all the right things and not seeing the weight loss results you want, you might be overeating. Chewing well is one way to address this.
So, what’s the best way to chew?
Take smaller bites of food.
Chew until your bite of food is liquefied mush. Don’t worry about counting chews.
Finish chewing and swallowing one bite before taking another bite.
Don’t guzzle water while you’re eating.
That’s it! It seems like a giant “duh,” but I’d be willing to bet this isn’t how you’re chewing. Give it a whirl! Start at your next meal. If it feels super laborious at first, aim for mindful chewing at one meal a day.
I’ve been surprised at how much less food it takes for me to feel full and how much more I’m enjoying my meals with all this chewing! It’s also been a good reminder that sometimes it’s the simplest of actions that have the most powerful effect on how we feel.
Go get your chew on!