The All-Important First Stage of the Digestive System How & Why Correct Chewing is so Critical
What is the Digestive System and what does it do?
Your body is a machine that is working non-stop all the time. To do its many tasks efficiently, it needs energy, which comes from the foods you eat – carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Your digestive system is designed in a particular way so that it can convert food that you eat and the air that you breathe into nutrients for the body to use as energy and tissue to keep your body (inside & outside) healthy and strong, as well as help it to grow and regenerate new cells and tissues (such as our skin) and to repair old tissues.
All this happens in the Alimentary Canal, which can be best described as a long twisting and winding tube beginning at the mouth and ending at the anus.
What is the First Stage of the Digestive System?
The First Stage includes the Smell, the Seeing, the Amount of food per mouthful, and the actual chewing to the maximum using the tongue, teeth, lips, cheeks, saliva and enzymes to get ready for passing it all on to the next stage which is the swallowing. In most cases the very first sense is “SMELL”.
Then the “EYES” come in to play. Does the food look inviting, tasty, crunchy or whatever you would like the food to look like?
How many stages are there in the Digestive System?
There are many separate stages and systems in the digestive process, all of them designed to do one or more specific functions so that the body will receive the full & best nutrients possible from the food, drink as well as the air we breathe.
Which stage of the Digestive System is the most important?
The First Stage of this amazing system – the chewing-well stage before you swallow - is the most important.
Why is the first stage- chewing well - the “most important”?
It is the only part of the whole Digestive System over which YOU have complete control. In addition, the rest of the system depends almost entirely on how you handle this first part. The more the food has been processed by chewing being changed from being a variation of foods to a nutrient that the body can use as energy, the easier it will be for all the other parts of the digestive system to do their respective duties and functions according to the needs of your body.
What do I have to do that will be best for the Digestive System?
You are needed to play your part simply by chewing or masticating every bit of food that you put into your mouth AS WELL AS YOU CAN. No shortcuts are allowed. Take your time and enjoy every mouthful. Take smaller mouthfuls and allow your tongue to control the chewing and duties of the teeth, cheeks, lips, saliva and enzymes. When the tongue is happy with the result, it will send small amounts of what is now known as bolus through the epiglottis (the little trap door) and into the esophagus.
It is extremely important that YOU get this stage right so that all the organs of the digestive system will be given the best chance to do all that they have to do efficiently, which will give you energy, help kids to grow and allow all ages to build new cells and tissues (such as our skin) and to repair old tissues.
How does chewing well affect me if I am fat?
Chewing well will also help you to manage and/or assist in fat loss (weight loss without losing muscle) because it slows down the eating process, which allows time for the body to signal to the brain when it is full and allows all the other digestive organs to extract and distribute the good stuff and get rid of the unwanted excess. Chewing properly is very satisfying.
How does chewing well affect me if I am thin / skinny?
Most thin / skinny people tend to eat less and are more active. However by chewing better, slimmer people will also ensure that the full value and volume of nutrients are being extracted from the food that they eat and these nutrients will enter the blood stream as quickly as possible where they are needed.
Will I eat more or less if I chew properly?
Much less! When you chew your food correctly, you actually end up eating a lot less. You actually feel fuller and much more satisfied. So this works well for those wishing to lose fat or for those aiming to keep their fat levels to a minimum but healthy level.
When I smell or see food that looks good, I can’t wait to get a mouthful. And my mouth starts watering. Is this normal?
Absolutely normal, which is where the saying comes from – My mouth is watering!
What are and Where are my Taste Buds?
Human taste buds line the surface of the tongue and portions of the mouth. Taste buds pick up the four basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, and bitter), but there are many combinations and variations which together with the sense of smell give various foods their unique tastes.
What is Saliva?
There are three pairs of salivary glands that produce the digestive juices called saliva to help with the digestion of foods. The salivary glands are situated in and around the mouth and throat.
What is an Enzyme?
Enzymes are proteins (long chains of amino acids that differ in order and number) made by living cells to promote specific metabolic reactions. Digestive Enzymes are enzymes that specifically work in the digestive system to help the digestion, absorption, energy production, metabolism, transportation of nutrients to cells, and elimination of toxins among many other functions.
There are more than 3,000 known enzymes in the human body. The body’s ability to function and repair itself is directly related to the strength and number of enzymes that are present. Every second, they are changing and renewing, sometimes at unbelievable rates. This is why an enzyme deficiency can be so devastating.
They also work to promote the efficient elimination of digestive waste products that are not of use to the body. Without enzymes, our cells would not get adequate nutrition and we would not survive
Do I need to chew slowly?
Chewing slowly and well in a relaxed way is the ideal method. But rather concentrate on chewing WELL even if you have a problem in chewing slowly. We do not recommend the general advice of counting the number of chews for every mouthful. This can be tiring, tedious and stressful rather than relaxing and, besides all that, every mouthful, type of food and amount of food may require a different number of chews, which is also very dependent on the condition of your teeth. So forget all that – chew in a relaxed way until each mouthful is chewed to the last and then allow the tongue to send it on its way.
What happens if I chew fast?
Nothing will happen if you chew fast as long as you chew well. But usually chewing fast makes the whole chewing process more difficult and less efficient.
Do different teeth have different jobs in chewing?
They certainly do. Teeth and gum hygiene are critical factors in the chewing process. There are specific teeth for specific jobs.
The Incisors (8 front) are shaped like knives for cutting and slicing. The Canines (2 on either side if the Incisors) have points for piercing and tearing. The Premolars (next after the Canines) and Molars have broad, uneven surfaces for grinding. An adult will have 32 teeth of which the 4 Wisdom teeth are often removed to avoid congestion.
What is Tooth Decay and how will or could it effect my chewing?
Teeth could literally die from tooth decay. Firstly, Bacteria will eat through the enamel, creating a cavity. Secondly, if cleaning is neglected and the cavity is not repaired, the bacteria will invade through the dentine into the pulp. The infection will stimulate a nerve, causing toothache which is a warning that there is a problem. Thirdly, the entire pulp and even the root canal may become infected. What is the answer? Clean and floss daily and visit a hygienist every 6 months. As you can now realize, the digestive process as well as the teeth will be affected which a minor inexpensive discipline can avoid.
Many people chew with their mouths open. It does not look too good. Besides that, is it good or bad?
As you correctly say – it does not look good. Mouth breathers are normally the one’s because they cannot breathe through their nose. Mouth breathers create other problems for themselves as well. It is certainly better to chew with your mouth closed which is easier to do if you take smaller mouthfuls. Then try to train yourself to breathe through the nose. Nose breathing also allows you to relax more. Refer to the article on “Natural Breathing” and “Nose Breathing”.
Can I put different types of food in my mouth together?
Yes you can unless you are prohibited because of medical reasons. The body knows how to attend to the sorting of the various foods.
I always drink after every few mouthfuls. It is usually water or a soda pop. Is it OK to do so?
Most foods contain sufficient water so that with good chewing you should not need to drink. This does not apply to a wine for example, which is drunk for different reasons to water or sodas. Avoid “washing” the food down.
I often get like a full, uncomfortable and sometimes burning pain in the middle upper part of my chest after I have eaten. Why is that? Can I change something to avoid it?
Yes. Check on how well you are chewing before swallowing. Big mouthfuls make it difficult to chew right. Avoid helping the food down by drinking sodas or water. Eating and swallowing spicy foods too quickly can often cause this “reflux”.
I always seem to be in a rush to eat and finish as soon as possible. Is it OK to do so?
This is definitely against all the needs and rules of the human digestive system. Eating is an essential requirement for a healthy body and the calmer and relaxed the process of eating, the better.
What actually happens when I chew food?
Correct chewing can only take place if a “reasonable” – like in small - amount of food is taken in per mouthful, so as to leave enough room for the food to be spread out over as large an area as possible in the mouth. This will allow the saliva and the enzymes to mix in with the food and do their work in the best way.
Too little is better than too much!
Faulty or insufficient chewing or mastication will place an extra work-load on the stomach and other organs which can cause many ailments and illnesses.
You will soon understand the functions of Saliva as well. The reason for such thorough mastication of sugars and starches contained in the carbohydrates is that their digestion begins in the mouth. The saliva begins to turn the starches and sugars into maltose (malt sugar/glucose), a form of sugar that the blood will be very happy to receive.
Better chewing allows the taste buds in your tongue and your mouth to fully register the various flavors of the food, which will allow you to really enjoy your eating experience and make it more meaningful. And you will be more satisfied whilst eating less.
Once your tongue has been allowed to control the chewing process to its fullest, it will then move the food (now called “bolus”) to the back of your mouth to be swallowed.
What do Cells do in the body?
Every cell in the body, from a 4 foot long nerve to the smallest cell performs an active job. To carry out all these tasks, the cells need energy and energy uses fuel. Fuel for your body’s energy comes from the food you eat – carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The food also provides the raw materials for building, growing, repairing and controlling the body’s systems.
How does the food that I eat get processed?
The digestion breaks down the food into nutrients, which are the basic materials that the body can use. This process takes place mainly in the Alimentary Canal, a long tube which starts in the mouth and ends at the anus. In adults, the tube is about 27 feet long.
There are two processes – one is mechanical whereby the food is chopped, cut, mashed and mixed into a soupy paste; the other is chemical whereby digestive juices break down and extract the nutrients.
The Liver and the Pancreas play important parts in the digestive process although they are not part of the alimentary canal.