Updated: Oct 9, 2020
This is part 2 in a 3 part series on how digestion works. Here's part #1.
Chewing is champion
The next step to good digestion is in the mouth where you chew food. Chewing mixes food with saliva, which contains enzymes to begin digestion. Chewing food breaks it into smaller pieces so that the rest of the digestive juices can more easily access the food and while you are chewing the stomach is making hydrochloric acid so it’s ready to sterilize the food.
There’s two main problems that occur in the chewing step. First is simply not chewing so you don’t get the benefit of breaking the food down and mixing it with saliva. Try to chew and resist swallowing until your food is completely liquefied and wants to slide down your throat.
Chew your drinks
The second problem I see is drinking your food - Smoothies and vegetable juices are a combination of healthy and a pain in the stomach. When enjoying a smoothie or vegetable juice each sip has to be “chewed” – mixed with saliva and warmed up before it goes into the stomach.
Smoothies and vegetable juices fit all these great antioxidants into one glass that is really hard to digest. The stomach can’t warm up that much cold liquid or create enough hydrochloric acid to sterilize that much liquid. The result is indigestion of any form. If the food is perfect, but you can’t digest it, you won’t get any of the nutrients and your stomach will hurt. “You are what you eat” should actually be “you are what you can digest”.
The exercise for today is to grab a cracker or ¼ slice of bread and chew it in your mouth without swallowing until the starchy flavor turns sweet. The sweet means the enzymes in your saliva have begun digesting - converting the starch to sugar.
Moving down to the stomach
In healthy digestion, the stomach uses hydrochloric acid to sterilizes and break down your food. Healthy stomach acid is so acidic it could burn a hole in your hand, but the stomach lining is protected from the acid while it goes to work on your food. Stomach problems are too varied and individualized to go into here, but you can review the quiz below to see if you have a problem in this area.
O Pain under the right rib
O Acid reflux or heartburn
O Bloating or burping
O A small amount of food fills you up
O Food feels heavy in the stomach
A healthy stomach is essential to digestion and bowel function. The cool thing is, these things are easy to fix! Set up a time to talk about fixing these symptoms here. Read part 3 on digestive health here.