Posted on : 30-10-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Behaviours, Bowel, Research
Does your tummy gurgle and churn or bloat after a meal? There could be a simple solution – one that your parents or grandparents may have told you repeatedly as a child – chew your food! “Some of my patients have reduced their symptoms by 20-30% simply by chewing each mouthful 32 times,” says Clarice Hebblethwaite from ‘Dietary Specialists’ in Christchurch, New Zealand. Clarice is a NZ and UK registered dietitian, who specialises in helping people with digestive problems. She was also a chef for ten years so I guess she has seen the full spectrum of diners – from those who hurriedly gobble their food to those who linger and savour each bite. Now she’s teaching some of those ‘gobblers’ to slow down and chew – 32 times per mouthful to be precise! “Digestion doesn’t start in the stomach, it starts in the mouth – with the digestive enzyme amylase. When we chew our food well, it gives the amylase a chance to work. Food should be a puree before it leaves the mouth,” Clarice tells me.
Next stop on the food’s digestive journey is the stomach and gastro-intestinal tract. When we sit down to eat a meal, our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and re-directs blood from the muscles to the gastro-intestinal tract to help with digestion. “There’s a six-fold increase in blood flow when we sit and rest after a meal,” says Clarice. How many of us jump up straight after a meal to rush off to the next appointment in our busy lives or worse still just shove some food in on the run? It certainly explains why, on a Wednesday night when I go to swimming training straight after dinner, my stomach doesn’t feel too good. The blood that should be supplying oxygen to help all those digestive processes is rudely interrupted in its job and urgently pulled out by the sympathetic nervous system to assist my kicking legs, flailing arms and screaming lungs!
Of course there are other reasons why we may suffer digestive problems, and I’ll be writing about them in the next few weeks, but let’s help our body do its food digesting job properly by following these simple, yet scientifically correct, ‘old wives tales’: chew your food 32 times and rest after eating.