Prominent naturopathic physician and professor Dr. Dick Thom teaches his patients and students to chew each bite of food 31 times. Why 31 times and not 30? Dr. Thom was convinced with the extra one, we would actually count how much we chewed.My clients and I typically agree this is the hardest part of eating mindfully. I can prepare my meals, set a table, sit down, relax before I eat, say grace, smell, taste and appreciate my food, but chewing (really chewing) is a challenge. I sat down to brunch recently to determine why this was such an obstacle.
I started chewing and counting to 31. Inevitably, I would begin swallowing early. Hmmm…why is that? I noticed that I actually felt anxious, like I needed to hurry and swallow so I could take a breath. I shared my observation with my brunch companion. She had an astounding idea—put less on your fork and take smaller bites. Eureka! It worked.
Another common issue with chewing comes up with people who grew up in large families. Historically if they wanted to get seconds, they needed to eat fast. As adults, this pattern no longer serves us. It is okay to recognize and release this old belief.
Why is chewing so important? In order to absorb nutrients from food, it needs to be broken down into small enough particles that it can cross the barrier of our intestines and move into our blood stream. That’s really small! The process of breaking down our food optimally begins in the mouth. Food gets chewed apart and mixed with an enzyme called salivary amylase. When your salivary amylase is not adequately produced, then your stomach function is impaired and blood flow to your small intestine is inadequate. The faster you eat, the longer it takes your body to assimilate and utilize the nutrients in your food. Help your body out—take small bites and give yourself time to chew. Chances are you’ll need less digestive medications and have fewer nutrient deficiencies later in life.