Over time how we think about food and eat or drink has changed. We live fast, play fast and eat fast.
Even in our own homes we are distracted when we eat – by electronic goods, lists in our heads, thoughts about whether what we are eating is “good” or “bad”. We don’t chew our food, we don’t breathe properly. We don’t relax, give our food our attention or enjoy the eating process. These changes have all had consequences on how we digest food.
Digestion is the process through which the body harvests back the nutrition from the food that we eat and the fluid that we drink. It is this nutrition that helps us build cells and tissues, fight infection and diseases and keep all our body systems operating properly. The only think that is of more importance to keeping us alive than what we eat and drink is the air that we breath. We now know that what we eat, how we eat and what is around us in our environment can turn on (and off) genes in our body. We call this “nutrigenomics” or “epigenetics”. The impact of this is that every mouthful we take could either harm or heal us.
To reverse these changes in how we eat, it is important to know how we digest food, what our body is capable of, and how we can improve digestion through little changes.
Digestion … It all starts in the mouth
Actually it all starts when you think about, look at, smell or touch food. Think of sitting in front of your favourite food. Even the thought of it is enough to fill your mouth with saliva.
What is saliva?
Saliva is basically water. However it also contains a whole host of little goodies that start digestions.
Saliva coats the mouth and teeth, preventing the mouth from drying out when you speak or eat. It coats food as you eat, helping it move to the back of the mouth and down the oesophagus. It starts the digestive process. It helps to keep your mouth healthy.
If you don’t have enough saliva in your mouth your teeth and gums are more likely to get infection, cuts and scrapes. This can lead to dental decay, bad breath (halitosis) and bacterial overgrowth in the mouth.
Chewing mixes saliva with the food you have just eaten. If you look at what saliva contains (digestive enzymes, bacteria, antibacterials etc) then mixing it with food is a very important stage in the whole digestive process. Imagine making a cake without having put the right ingredients in the bowl together. If you don’t chew your food enough then the right ingredients from your saliva can’t start digestion.
Did you know … Saliva contains a protein that coats vitamin B12. This protein protects vitamin B12 in the stomach so that it can then be used appropriately in the body. Vitamin B12 is essential in many of the body systems that keeps our brain and nerves working properly.
Things to do:
Fix it …
Mouth image courtesy of Supertrooper at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Katrina Pace, Dietitian
Gut bugs fascinate me. Diet and gut bugs intrigue me. Cooking is essential. Add them all together and you get a fairly interesting opinion on life! In my humble opinion.