Digestive Processes – the value of the slow chew

Bridget Penningtonblog, Lifestyle4 Comments

Tasting some raw cacao balls had us all consciously eating

Last week I hosted The Natural Health Reset at Impala and Peacock (a wonderfully delicious organic tea house/yoga hub) in Brunswick, Melbourne.  I know there are loads of important things to chat about when we talk holistic health, so I chose three topics dear to my heart that I felt had the most immediate value for my people – Digestion, Nutrition and Sleep.

We covered some of the most common roadblocks that you might be coming up against with your digestion, such as leaky gut syndrome (here’s a cool summary), inflammation (neatly explained) and a poor balance of gut bacteria (here’s Chris Kresser’s word on that). 

What was fabulous and I think had such impact was the practical part of the digestion talk. It’s one thing to sit and listen and nod but it’s a whole other thing to partake. So I had made some scrumptious raw balls and handed them around to my gorgeous guests.

NHR 9During my presentation we discussed the value of eating slowly. Sounds logical, right? Sure but I dare you to go and sit in a cafe and watch how we eat these days – it’s one huge “gotta get back to work” mouthful after the other. Chew? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

NHR 9Here’s the lowdown on why eating slowly is sooooo beneficial for your health. Firstly, the digestive enzymes in your mouth start the breakdown of food and this goes such a long way to ensuring great digestion. As we are practically a walking ball of chemistry, it’s no surprise at all that potentially thousands of signals get sent to the digestive players in your body to let them know food is on the way ‘ “hey guys (or gals) get the digestive juices and enzymes ready – food coming down the cake hole!” But before food even hits your mouth there is a lot going on getting ready to break it all down.

How do I explain this? Perhaps just try now – look at something you could eat (if there’s nothing in front of you just play ‘favourite food fantasy’). Imagine you are about to eat it… can you feel the increase in saliva in your mouth? When you ‘eat something with your eyes’ the rest of your digestive system gets ready to disco, baby.

Eating slowly allows you time to chew so that your food is super mushed up – which in turns means LESS work for your stomach (aka the digestive washing machine). This is supreme as low levels of hydrochloric acid is common these days and the more chunky the food is you swallow, the more hydrochloric acid is needed to help break it down (and the longer it will take – or it possibly will just not break the food down enough leading to a major headache for your small intestine and beyond). 

I recently spent a week studying under Paul Chek and I love how he phrases it – ‘drink your food and eat your drink’. 

Slowing down and chewing properly is awesome, but there’s a little bit more you can do to boost your digestive superstardom. Here is the procotol I offered to my guests to guide them through ‘healthy eating 101’:

  • Stop before you start – this one is cool and lines up with setting intentions. As we sit to eat, why not take time to recognise WHAT you are eating, WHERE it came from and HOW it can serve your fabulous body. Whatever it is will very soon become part of your cells so you may as well start loving it right now!
  • Avoid drinking with your meal – this simply dilutes the gastric juices and hydrochloric acid needed to break down your meal. From my understanding, resuming drinking about 1 -2 hours after consumption gives your system long enough to digest.
  • Chew, chew, chew. Teeth! We have ’em and although many think they’re just to look pretty, they are major tools of digestion.
  • Add fermented food to meal. Yay for fermented food – our ancestors included it in their diets and golly gosh so should we. Although you may be a little ‘put off’ by the smell or the strength of some of the flavours trust me when I say they are an awesome ally for your gastro intestinal health. For all of the elements of our lives that can slam down the positive bacteria count (stress, caffeine, medicine, alcohol, children (kidding – sort of) it is by this simple inclusion that we can help recreate some healthy balance.
  • Engage in the meal – no TV or books. While you may think nothing of settling down on the couch to watch a solid hour of (gut wrenchingly bad) news or even a benign comedy, you need to be truly focused on your food and not distracted in order to allow optimal digestion. Watching anything distressing (even if it’s not happening to you) also impacts your sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight) which in turn suppresses your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Put simply, that means your body thinks it’s running from a lion and as we can well imagine, digestion quickly gets put on the back burner when it comes to fleeing for survival.  Just imagine if that didn’t exist – you’d be panting and puffing as you scale walls and speed along trying to escape from (insert life threatening situation) and then you think “oh I wish I had more of that salad at lunchtime”. Your sympathetic nervous system does not know the difference between the real time ‘gunna eat your face off’ lion and the guns blazing in a remote village on the tv.
  • Eat   s l o w l y. How do I put this simply….the slower you chew chew, the better you poo poo (hopefully!)

The group was amazed at not only how long it takes to actually chew, but how strikingly different that is to how they normally eat. A great lesson in consciousness indeed! Why don’t you try it at your next meal or snack? 


Please leave comments and feedback if you fancy. Stay well and healthy 🙂


4 Comments on “Digestive Processes – the value of the slow chew”

    1. Bridget Pennington

      It’s so simple isn’t it Kerry – and yet it seems like it’s so simple NOT to do.

    1. Bridget Pennington

      Oh thanks Sarah 🙂
      I love sharing this info and heck if I can make it a little entertaining, why not!

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