Published April 20, 2021, 2:13 p.m. by Jagdeep singh
You might be surprised to learn how important chewing food properly really is and how many functions chewing affects. Chewing your food properly is essential for adequate digestion. Meals should be eaten sitting down, in a relaxed environment to ensure that food is sufficiently chewed.
Chewing is the first step in digestion. Chewing helps the stomach metabolise (process) food by breaking larger food particles into smaller fragments. Chewing also increases saliva production so that it can be swallowed without aggravating the oesophagus. If food is not chewed properly larger particles enter the digestive tract causing digestive problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, food reactions, headaches and lowered energy levels.
As you chew your food more digestive enzymes are produced. These help to breakdown food further to assist digestion. The process of chewing also triggers the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, this further aids digestion, by regulating the pH to increase acidity levels assisting with food breakdown.
Breaking down food into smaller particles means that it is easier for your body to absorb a greater amount of nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) from the food you are eating.
The more you chew your food, the longer it will take to finish your meal. In general it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal to your stomach that it is full. Therefore if you are eating slower, it is less likely that you will over-eat.
Chewing increases production of saliva which contains epithelial growth factor (EGF), a polypeptide that stimulates growth and repair of epithelial tissue. Thoroughly chewing your food increases production of this EGF, nourishing the gut.
Food particles that are not properly broken down can cause bacterial overgrowth and increased fermentation in the gut, leading to conditions such as indigestion, bloating, increased gas and constipation.
So how many times should you chew your food for adequate digestion?
According to studies food should be chewed about 32 times, foods that are harder to chew, such as steak and nuts may need up to 40 chews per mouthful. For foods that are softer such as mashed potato and watermelon you can get away with chewing just 5-10 times.
Salivary glands secrete saliva which has many benefits for the oral cavity and health in general. These benefits include:
Saliva consists of proteins (for example; mucins) that lubricate and protect both the soft and hard tissues of the oral cavity. Mucins are the principal organic constituents of mucus, the slimy visco-elastic material that coats all mucosal surfaces.
In general, the higher the saliva flow rate, the faster the clearance and the higher the buffer capacity, hence better protection from dental caries. Therefore, people with a slower rate of saliva secretion, combined with a low buffer capacity, have lessened salivary protection against microbes.
Saliva forms a pellicle on the surface of the tooth to prevent wearing. The film contains mucins and proline-rich glycoprotein from the saliva. The proteins (statherin and proline-rich proteins) within the salivary pellicle inhibit demineralisation and promote remineralisation by attracting calcium ions.
Demineralization occurs when enamel disintegrates due to the presence of acid. When this occurs, the buffering capacity effect of saliva (increases saliva flow rate) inhibits demineralisation. Saliva can then begin to promote the remineralisation of the tooth by strengthening the enamel with calcium and phosphate minerals.
Saliva can prevent microbial growth based on the elements it contains. For example, lactoferrin in saliva binds naturally with iron. Since iron is a major component of bacterial cell walls, removal of iron breaks down the cell wall, which in turn breaks down the bacterium. Antimicrobial peptides such as histatins inhibit the growth of Candida albicans and Streptococcus mutans. Salivary Immunoglobulin A serves to aggregate oral bacteria such as S. mutans and prevent the formation of dental plaque.
Saliva can encourage soft tissue repair by decreasing clotting time and increasing wound contraction.
Saliva contains the enzyme amylase, which hydrolyses starch into maltose and dextrin. As a result, saliva allows digestion to occur before the food reaches the stomach.
Saliva acts as a solvent in which solid particles can dissolve in and enter the taste buds through oral mucosa located on the tongue. These taste buds are found within foliate and circumvallate papillae, where minor salivary glands secrete saliva.