Chew it over

Updated: Jun 5, 2019


You can eat a healthy diet but if the nutrients are not being absorbed from the food you eat, there is little point to eating at all.

Nowadays many people lead fast-paced lives, often just trying to get food down. The act of chewing may seem superfluous but it is vital for digestion. You can eat a healthy diet but if the nutrients are not being absorbed from the food you eat, there is little point to eating at all. Before the nutrients in the food can be absorbed from the gut, the food needs to be digested first. The food contained within your gut is not actually inside your body per se. It is only once food is absorbed through the gut lining into the blood can it be used by the body.

It is only once food is absorbed through the gut lining into the blood can it be used by the body.


Imagine you’re at home cooking a flavourful meal. The scents are wafting and your senses are heightened. The anticipation of food stimulates secretion of enzymes and acid that will break down the food so that it can be absorbed. 30% of digestion happens before the food even enters your mouth. You sit down undistracted and relaxed and take your first mouthful. The enzymes in your saliva will start to digest the carbs and fats in your mouth. The saliva moistens and shapes the food for easy swallowing. The more you chew the more effective this process is and chewing also increases the surface area of the food allowing the enzymes, acid and bile to get in there and do their job.

30% of digestion happens before the food even enters your mouth.

Eating whilst relaxed is pivotal, as your body will be focused on digestion rather than the “fight or flight” response. After swallowing, the food will now glide down your oesophagus with ease, adequately moistened and in the proper form. Your stomach will be ready for the arrival with sufficient stomach acid to further break down the food. The food passes into the small intestine where most of the nutrients are absorbed. By now most of the nutrients have been extracted and the lump passes into the colon where the last remaining water and salts are removed. At the end of it you will be left with a large mid-brown coloured stool which will pass easily around 2 times per day.

Eating whilst relaxed is important, as your body will be focused on digestion rather than the fight or flight response....


In contrast, you grab a sandwich on the way to a stressful meeting, wolfing it down whilst you’re walking. Hardly any enzymes will be present in your mouth to start the break-down of carbs and fats. A large chunk of undigested food scrapes its way down your oesophagus. Your stomach is suddenly faced with a lump of food which it isn’t ready for. You start burping as your stomach is filled with air, swallowed during the quick intake of food. It also hasn’t produced sufficient stomach acid to properly break-down proteins and carbs. These will start to putrefy and ferment, causing gas, bloating and bad breathe. Fermented carbs will cause loud flatulence whereas putrefied proteins will give off silent but deadly flatulence. You will also start to feel tired as the carbs have not been adequately broken down into glucose for energy.

Your stomach is suddenly faced with a lump of food which it isn’t ready for.

It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to register that it is full, so wolfing down a sandwich may leave you unsatisfied and you may overeat leading to weight gain. This large chunk of undigested sandwich passing through your gut can damage the layer of cells lining the gut wall. This may cause "leaky gut" - undigested food particles pass into your blood – things that ordinarily wouldn’t be there. Your immune system will react triggering inflammation. Inflammation in the gut can lead to autoimmunity, malabsorption, nutrient deficiency and/or food sensitivities. In addition to all of this, your bad gut bacteria will be having a party, feasting on the undigested food. They will multiply and push out the good bacteria who help digest food, make vitamins and protect the body from invaders.

It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to register that it is full....


After prolonged periods of eating whilst stressed and not chewing food properly, your gut may be in bad condition, riddled with inflammation, bad bacteria and a damaged intestinal lining. Not to mention the bones holding your teeth in place may have become weak due to insufficient "exercise".

Don’t worry, there is hope, next time you eat try this:

  1. Eat in a relaxed, undistracted environment

  2. Take smaller bites of food to begin with

  3. Put your cutlery down between bites

  4. Chew slowly and steadily

  5. Chew until your mouthful of food is liquefied or lost all of its texture

  6. Finish chewing and swallow completely before taking another bite

If you have symptoms of gas, bloating, abdominal pain and flatulence after eating, you can also try these foods that may provide some relief:

  1. Sucking on a piece of pineapple can help stimulate saliva production (before meals)

  2. Apple cider vinegar (before meals)

  3. Bitter foods, such as chicory (before meals)

  4. Ginger tea (after meals)

  5. Mint tea (after meals)


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MICHELLE BOEHM

BANT Registered Nutritionist,  

Registered Nutritional Therapist CNHC & Health Coaches Academy Certified Health Coach

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© 2016 by Michelle Boehm