Think about the following scenario. Your favourite food has just arrived to your table. You take your first bite. Yes, it tastes amazing and delicious. You chew it a couple of times and you swallow it. Perhaps just a couple of times is too little? But, what if you chew 10 times? Have you ever counted how many times you chew your food before it passes to your stomach? Test yourself and a surprise will come. There isn’t an official number, but people don’t chew enough.
Apparently, dense food such as meats and vegetables should be chewed up to 30 times before swallowing. Softer food between 5 to 10 times, according to experts at the Ohio State University. Colleagues from the Westchester University of Pennsylvania suggest chewing 30 to 50 times per mouthful. Clearly, more than 30 times seems like the right number. Do you chew your food at least half of this “official” number? Possibly not, although it can have a great impact on your digestion. Bloating, indigestion, heartburn, headache or constipation are some of the side effects of fast eating (1). For this reason, only properly chewed food can avoid issues with the digestive system.
Where does digestion start?
Digestion starts in the mouth and not in the stomach. The process of chewing food has a unique purpose: to break down food into smaller pieces before it passes to the stomach. If chewing is done properly, the stress in the stomach reduces considerably.
With each chew, your mouth produces digestive enzymes. They pass to the stomach where they carry on breaking down larger food particles into the smaller ones. After that, the body can convert the chopped food into energy. It is a simple equation: more mastication equals more saliva. More saliva equals more digestive enzymes. More digestive enzymes equals easy digestion.
In this case it is easy to understand why the mastication routine is essential in keeping the healthy gut. The lack of digestive enzymes can compromise the whole process and it ends up by firstly deteriorating the digestive system and secondly the human health. Many studies affirm that the human gut houses 70% of cells that make up the immunity system (2).
It may be hard to chew the food up to 30 times, but it really is a matter of habit (3). Set up your goal. Start by slowly increasing your mastication on a daily basis. Make a plan for a couple of weeks. In the first week, chew every bite 15 times. The second week, increase to 20 chews. The third week 25 and in the fourth week you will reach the optimal goal of 30 chews per bite. Your gut and your general health will be grateful to you for this little change. And the most important aspect is that you will also feel the difference.