In "The Little Engine that Could", the small locomotive would choo-choo around the countryside, attending to his tasks dutifully. I tell my kids at dinner time that they need to be like that little engine.
"How so Dad?"
"Well, you need to chew-chew that food before you swallow !" I reply.
Chewing is something our grandparents did. I mean who has time to chew these days? These days we have a gulp-gulp culture. We hurriedly gulp down our food on the way to our next task. Sometimes we don't even sit down to eat !
What's wrong with that you ask?
Well, it all comes down to state. We can either be in one of two states – a parasympathetic state, or a sympathetic state. When we are in a parasympathetic state we are in a 'rest and digest' mode. When we are in a sympathetic state, we are in a 'flight or fight' mode. What does this mean for our food? EVERYTHING ! Read on...
Our food can be our medicine or our poison.
In fact, the same food can be our medicine or poison depending on how we approach it. It is hard for us to be upset when we sit down in a nice environment and chew our food properly, focusing on its taste and texture. Likewise, it's hard to be calm and gulp down our food. When we gulp our food we are typically anxious, or eager to rush off to our next task. But beware ! Our gulps can easily become toxic globs. How so? I'm glad you asked !
When we don't chew our food properly, we don't begin the digestion process properly. That is, we aren't consciously eating. Digestion starts in the brain and the brain quickly signals our saliva that food is coming – yum yum ! Entertain me for a few moments... Think of a juicy lemon. Look at that lemon in your mind's eye. Feel the lemon in your hands. Take a knife and cut that lemon in half. Smell the citrus oils and the lemon juice oozing out. Now cut a slice and put that slice into your mouth. Hmmm... By now you should have plenty of saliva in your mouth.
In that saliva of yours are many things, but one of those is salivary amylase. This is an enzyme that helps break down carbohydrates, and it's important because it helps in the digestion process.
Chewing your food thoroughly will help mix the amylase nicely amongst the food particles and will help stoke the fires of your belly as the food moves down
Gulping your food means little digestion is occurring in your mouth, and your brain isn't engaging either. "Hey those two are on strike," says the stomach, "what do you want me to do? No one has told me anything! I ain't doing anything !"
And so we have a situation where digestion isn't occurring properly. You'll know it too. How? Most probably you'll start to get a burning feeling in the stomach. Ouch! That hurts. Sure does! That's your body telling you something. That's your body telling you need to be like the little engine that could. And if you don't, all that undigested food can cause an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria, which can lead to inflammation and a 'leaky' gut, which can in turn lead to undigested particles entering the blood stream, food intolerances, possibly auto-immunity and a host of degenerative diseases can result. Phew. All that because we missed step one of the digestive process too many times.
So remember, sit down, take your time and chew-chew your food and you'll be up for any challenge life throws at you.
Happy Chewing !
Thomas is a student of the NTA with a special interest in soil biology. He plans to help people with severe Ulcerative Colitis make the same remarkable recovery through nutrition. Watch this space!