How Chewing Food Properly Could Vastly Improve Your Health

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

The idea of being taught a proper procedure for chewing food seems ridiculous. After all, you’ve been chewing for a very long time and have never had any complaints. But quickly mashing something between your teeth so you can swallow it and swiftly finish your meal is not the same thing as REALLY chewing your food–which involves taking the time to extract every ounce of goodness from what you’re eating. Once you start doing this properly, you’ll understand just how beneficial it can be to make this small change to your eating routine.

Assumptions about Chewing Food

A woman chewing food properlyChewing properly isn’t about meditation or mindfulness, and it isn’t about wasting time on something when you could be doing more interesting things. As we learn more and more about the body, we often learn better ways of doing things, and it turns out that how you chew your food is more important than was previously thought. Chewing food incorrectly can result in large lumps of food passing through your digestive system without nutrients being properly extracted. When this occurs, you are basically wasting a lot of nutrients that your body wants and needs to function properly.

The Basics of Digestion

When you eat, your body is actually digesting food at every point throughout the process, not just inside your stomach. So while you’re chewing food, your body is working hard to extract the nutrients it needs to function properly–the process starts in the mouth! Your mouth contains parotid glands, which secrete an enzyme specifically designed to digest carbohydrates. The enzyme is mixed with your saliva and you need to make sure it’s well mixed with your food before you swallow in order to begin the digestive process. Your intestines secrete this enzyme in small amounts, but they don’t have teeth that can really mash and grind your food. Not being able to do this means a lot of the nutrients in carbohydrates just pass through the intestinal area completely undigested. So your body is, in fact, designed to extract nourishment from your food while in your mouth, with your teeth helping the process along. If you aren’t chewing food correctly and completely, your body is missing out on a lot of essential nutrients.

How to Chew Properly

Looking for advice on chewing food properly might seem like a waste of time, but most people don’t know how to chew their food properly. Instead, they quickly mash up their food before swallowing so they don’t choke and promptly go for another mouthful. While this may make for quick meals in front of the television, it certainly doesn’t help your digestion.
Use the following advice primarily with carbohydrates and vegetables. Some foods aren’t easy to chew properly, but these will mash down well between the teeth. The enzymes needed to digest complex carbohydrates, like those in wheat–called amylase–is mainly produced by the salivary glands, making it critical to chew any foods made up of complex carbohydrates.

To chew properly, try the following:
A woman wating alone, chewing food mindfully

  • Practice mindful chewing alone, instead of when you are out on the town with friends. Practicing at home means there aren’t any social pressures. So while you are watching your favorite TV show or reading your new favorite book, take some time to practice using your chompers a bit more.
  • Don’t try to practice thorough chewing when you’re hungry. Eat a small amount of your meal as you normally would to satisfy your hunger, then focus on your chewing technique for the rest of the meal.
  • Don’t talk while you’re experimenting with new chewing techniques. Otherwise, people may look at you strangely as you pause for a whole minute between sentences.
  • Make sure you bite down 50 times for every mouthful. You can go higher than this, but start at 50.
  • Chew the last third of your meal. If you really need to blast through your lunch, as most of us often do, then at least be sure to chew some of it properly! This will allow you to save time, practice mindful chewing, and send some of those key enzymes, like amylase, into your gut, which is critical to proper digestion.
  • Don’t let your food dry out and ensure there is plenty of saliva in your mouth. If your mouth is dry, don’t take a sip of water since this will just dilute your saliva. Instead, add a small amount of pickle to your food.
  • Don’t swallow while chewing. This is more difficult than you might think. Once you become more aware of how you’re chewing food, you’ll realize that you’re probably swallowing small amounts while you chew. Close up the back of your mouth during your 50 chews and if you have trouble with this, tilt your head forward a little so that you can’t swallow.
  • Chew as fast or as slow as you want, but make sure you get to 50.
  • Add fermented foods to your diet. Eating a spoonful of sauerkraut, pickles, or olives before eating your main meal. can stimulate the flow of saliva making the act of chewing much easier. Not to mention, fermented foods are loaded with healthy bacteria, which will help you digest your food further down the digestion line.
  • Eat more fruit. In general, fruit and sweets don’t require much chewing. This is due to the high levels of complex sugars that are easy to break down. We’ve added a bonus guide to storing fresh fruit at the end of this article, to honor the hard work fruit does in helping with digestion. Do proceed with care if you have advanced AFS because excessive sugar or fast carbohydrate loading may worsen symptoms and may trigger adrenal crashes. Those with systemic candida are also at risk of this, and should be careful.

The Benefits of Better Chewing

You won’t believe some of the benefits you’ll enjoy once you start chewing food properly. It’s amazing how one small, simple change can make a huge difference to your life.
Try this technique if you want to enjoy the following effects:
A woman with improved bowel movements because of chewing food properly

  • Increased energy since you’ll be extracting more nutrients from your food.
  • Improved bowel movements.
  • Less bloating and gas.
  • A clearer and sharper mind due to the additional glucose you’re digesting.
  • Alleviated Adrenal Fatigue symptoms.

What is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a common disorder these days, although it isn’t well understood and can be difficult to diagnose. When someone has this disorder, they’ve usually been under stress for a prolonged period of time, which causes their adrenal glands to malfunction leading to a variety of problems.

A small amount of stress is a natural part of life, and there are many mechanisms the body uses to regulate its symptoms, such as the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response. The adrenal glands are part of this stress response, but when they become fatigued, they no longer work as well, and the body’s ability to handle stress is reduced. When this occurs, your doctor may not be able to detect any discernible problems with your adrenal glands, however, sufferers usually find symptoms of stress symptoms to be worse than usual, or longer lasting.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and Nutrient Intake

When you have AFS, one of the main treatment methods is the Adrenal Fatigue Diet, which encourages you to improve the quality of the food you eat. When people are stressed, they usually eat less, or the wrong types of foods. This only adds to the problem, as the body struggles to keep going without the nutrition it needs to function at its best. This can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and even a mild form of malnutrition.

Malnutrition is fast becoming a common complaint, despite the excess variety of food available in Western countries. This type of malnutrition is caused by people eat the wrong types of foods too often. Unfortunately, poor food choices are often easier to find and may taste better. Plus, our busy lifestyles mean it can be more difficult to find the motivation to prepare a healthy meal, especially after a long day at work. But if you suffer from AFS, you must get out of these bad habits and give your body the nutrition it needs to recover.

To combat AFS, adopting a natural, whole food diet containing plenty of vegetables and fruit may help you recover more quickly. If you have this disorder, and even if you don’t, you should be eating at least 5 to 6 servings of vegetables each day, precisely the types of food that are suited to your new chewing regime.

Better Digestion and Elimination

Improving the way you chew your food can alleviate other problems with your digestion such as diarrhea or constipation. These conditions can be painful and embarrassing. But chewing food properly will help your intestines to process it better. This can clear up the digestive tract allowing for easier bowel movements. It may also help you to cut down or eliminate indigestion problems.

A Clear Mind

A man with a clear mind because of chewing food mindfullyOne of the most annoying symptoms of AFS is a foggy head that often accompanies chronic tiredness. Chewing your food properly may help, and could make it easier to get through your day. Chewing food properly will increase the amount of glucose released into your system, which is absolutely essential for optimal brain function.

Weight Loss

Weight gain is frequently associated with AFS and it can be difficult for sufferers to shed the weight again. People under high levels of stress tend to eat more, make poor food choices, and exercise less. All of these can contribute to weight gain. But when you chew your food well, you become more aware of what you’re actually eating and how much, which can lead to reducing your intake. In addition, the extra nutrients being absorbed by your body could results in less cravings, making it easier for you to stay on your healthy diet.

Final Thoughts

Chewing food properly can provide a whole host of benefits and will make you realize just how inefficient your old way of eating really is. Once you get some practice in this technique and start to see its advantages, you’ll never want to go back to the old way of chewing again.

© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

When you chew food incorrectly, you actually don’t extract all the nutrients from it. This means you’re basically wasting at least part of what you’re eating. Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome occurs when you’re stressed and tired, and to alleviate the symptoms you need to properly nourish and take care of your body. Chewing food correctly will give your body the nutrients it needs with little extra effort or expense.

Chewing food