What do indigestion, bloating, excess wind, heartburn, and weight gain all have in common?
They can all be caused by not chewing food properly!
It’s a simple thing to do, but chewing so often gets neglected in favour of eating quickly due to short lunch breaks, or multitasking with food and a laptop.
Retraining yourself to chew food thoroughly is a vital first step to digestive wellbeing and healthy weight balance.
Let’s look at why…
The action of chewing tells your brain to send messages to your stomach alerting it to the fact that food is on its way. These nerve signals tell the stomach to start producing the gastric juices that break food down.
Chewing mixes food with saliva and salivary amylase, an important digestive enzyme that begins the breakdown of carbohydrates. This is why food taste sweeter the longer you chew it: amylase is busy breaking down carbohydrates into simpler sugars.
Your stomach does not have teeth! If food isn’t chewed in your mouth, it won’t get broken down properly anywhere else. So, you can be eating the perfect diet and still be nutrient deficient, simply because your body can’t access the vitamins and minerals bound up in the food.
Chewing properly means you eat slower. Remember at school there was always one child who took ages to eat dinner? That was me! Sitting there chewing away whilst my friends were itching to get outside and play! But eating slowly is no bad thing. It allows you to tune into satiety signals, and realise exactly when you have eaten enough rather than ploughing on and finishing your plateful regardless of how you feel or how big the portions were.
Taking the time to chew food is part of the overall practice of eating mindfully. By eating in a calm relaxed manner, savouring each mouthful, you begin to appreciate each food and flavour and receive those all-important hunger and satiety signals.
Try these 5 basic steps to eating mindfully;
As you sit down to eat, take 5 slow deep breaths. This relaxes your nervous system, preparing you to ‘rest and digest’ (parasympathetic dominance), rather than trying to eat whilst in the stressed out ‘fight or flight’ response (sympathetic dominance). When stressed, the body down regulates digestive functions producing less stomach acid and digestive enzymes – pretty much guaranteeing that you’ll end up with indigestion and bloating!
Chew. Exactly how many times you chew each mouthful will depend on what you’re eating: yoghurt needs less chewing than steak for example. And yes, you do need to chew yoghurt and other soft foods like smoothies and mashed potato – otherwise, how will your stomach know that it’s on its way? If it helps, put your knife and fork down whilst you chew, and don’t prepare the next mouthful until you’ve swallowed what you’re chewing.
Savour the flavours. Really appreciate how each food tastes and feels in your mouth.
Once you’ve finished eating, sit still for 3-5mins to allow food to pass comfortably down to your stomach.
Wait for at least 10mins before deciding whether you want dessert or not. It takes roughly 15-20mins from the start of eating for your brain to register the actions of satiety hormones like leptin. These hormones work in a complex way, registering how stretched your stomach is, and how much fat you have stored in your body overall. They tell your brain when you are full, but if this message is ignored you eventually become resistant to their signals.
Eating mindfully does involve changing habits, and this can take time. It’s not always easy to do, especially if you’re juggling your own meal with feeding a couple of cranky toddlers! It really is worth persisting though, as no amount of supplements or nutrition guidelines can replace the benefits of good chewing.
If you’d like the benefits of mindfulness to spread beyond the kitchen table, and support other areas of your life, say hello to Joanne Bull at CalmWorks. Joe offers a range of mindfulness training options designed to build your inner calm and resilience to ongoing stress.
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Need nutritional support for dealing with ongoing stress? See HERE for options of how we can work together.