We’re gearing up for a (socially distanced) Thanksgiving over here, and I thought it was a good time share one of my most important and effective strategies to improve your digestion. It comes straight from Ayurveda, and I’ll share how modern science is in agreement.
Before we get into that – one quick update on my Thanksgiving schedule. I’m offering a 75-minute yoga class available for download for the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a vinyasa yoga class that you can keep forever. When you purchase the class, you’ll also get a 15-minute yoga for digestion sequence. It’s $18, and 30% of proceeds are going to World Central Kitchen, which is Jose Andres’ charity that feeds nutritious, delicious food to COVID healthcare workers and victims of natural disasters. Thanks for your support! Learn more and purchase here.
OK. Now let’s get into this digestion strategy. It’s been used by my clients to cure acid reflux, gas and constipation, or feeling overly full or uncomfortable after eating. It is truly powerful.
Here’s your strategy: Actually chew your food.
Yep. It’s that simple. Most of us do not chew our food! Whether it’s because we’re distracted or because we’re in a rush, we tend to take bites that are too large and then don’t actually chew our food.
You may have seen this tip used as a weight loss strategy – they’ll tell you to chew each bite of food 20 or 40 times. Unfortunately, that’s a recipe for getting really bored and having a sore jaw. Instead, focus on chewing your food until it becomes a soupy liquid in the mouth. This might take 3 chews. It might take 15. Chew as much as you need to actually liquify the food.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I’ve had clients who have literally cured their acid reflux or bloating problems by chewing their foods thoroughly.
Here’s why it works.
You Actually Digest Your Food
From an Ayurvedic perspective, we want to do everything we can to make digestion easier on the body. That’s the reason why we recommend eating mostly cooked foods, sitting while eating, and not snacking between meals. When you chew your food thoroughly, your stomach acid doesn’t have to do as much work to break down your food, meaning it’s easier to digest and absorb the nutrients. This is particularly relevant for people who have acid reflux – the stomach acid is having to work too hard to digest your food, which is why it gets hyper acidic and can come up the esophagus.
You Reduce Stress Hormones
Equally important, chewing slows us down physically and mentally. If you’ve ever eaten in a rush, you know that it can cause an adrenaline/stress hormone surge. Adrenaline is an anti-digest hormone. It diverts blood and resources away from the digestion and to the extremities (preparing for fight, flight, freeze). So when we slow down the process of eating by chewing our foods, we can prevent that stress spike, and our body will be better able to completely digest our food.
You Allow Digestive Enzymes To Do Their Work
Your saliva contains important digestive enzymes to begin the digestion of your food. I’m intimately familiar with the research on this – I recently spent *many* hours researching digestive enzymes for consulting I do for a supplement company. When our salivary enzymes don’t have time in contact with our food, they may not get a chance to work again and it can throw off the entire digestion process. Amylase, which breaks down starches into smaller carbohydrate units, is one such enzyme found in the saliva. Once the food passes to the stomach, amylase is ineffective because of the highly acidic environment. So when you don’t chew your food properly, amylase doesn’t get a chance to do its work, and digestion gets stalled. A second enzyme is needed to break down those smaller carbohydrate units to glucose, the molecule that can be absorbed in the intestines and used by the body as fuel. Without amylase getting to function properly, glucoamylase can’t do its job. So it’s not just that digestion can’t happen as quickly, rather, it’s completely stopped by the lack of amylase. (Whew! Thanks for going down that nutrition science rabbit hole with me.) The bottom line: letting your food spend time in your mouth is a necessary part of the digestion process.
In your next meal, I invite you to notice how much you do (or don’t) chew your food. See what you would need to do to get your food to a soupy liquid state. And then (here’s the fun part!) notice how your body responds afterwards. You might just find that you feel lighter and more energized now that your digestive system isn’t overtaxed and can actually receive the nutrients from your food.
I’d love to hear your reflections on this week’s newsletter and what you find when/if you chew your food!
If you’d like more digestive support this Thanksgiving, consider purchasing my 15 minute yoga for digestion class. It’s a great practice that’s perfect for waking your digestive system up in the mornings, and supporting you if you’ve over-indulged. It’s available as part of my Thanksgiving Yoga package. You’ll get a 75-minute vinyasa class and the yoga for digestion class as digital downloads you can keep forever. It’s $18 with 30% of proceeds going to World Central Kitchen. Message me with questions, or purchase it here!