Chew your food

Your momma told you to chew your food.  Did you listen?  Read on to see why she was right and why this is an important part to maintaining a healthy life.

You may be eating a varied, nutrient diet with all sorts of veggies, fruits, whole grain breads, and proteins, but if you are inhaling everything you eat, therefore only partially digesting it, the part that isn’t being digested will just sit in your body and ferment.  Now all those wonderful nutrients that were in the food are all bound up in the poorly digested mass and now your body will not be able to extract from it what it needs to function properly.  This opens the door to sluggish digestion and constipation.

Not only will you not be properly digesting your food, you are more likely to overeat as well.  The body sends signals to the brain that it is satisfied and doesn’t want or need any more food, but because you just inhaled your meal you still may feel hungry, which isn’t to say you are in need of more food, it’s because you haven’t allowed your body to register the meal in your brain.

Eating quickly can be a symptom for those who struggle with binge eating.  When you rapidly eat you are not able to recognize and appreciate the different flavors and textures in your foods which prevents you from feeling satisfaction from your foods.

Most people think that digestion starts in the digestive tract, however, it really starts when you put the food into your mouth.  (Smelling food will also stimulate digestion).  Your saliva produces an enzyme called amylase.  Amylase is needed to break down simple starches.  The more you chew your food the more this digestive process takes place.  Did you know that there are antibacterial properties in your saliva which makes your food clean before it hits your stomach? Another enzyme in your saliva is lingual lipase.  This enzyme is secreted by glands under your tongue.  This enzyme starts digesting the fat content found in the food that you eat.

The body is so amazing, that by chewing you are actually sending messages to your stomach about the type and amount of food that is about to be digested.  If your stomach knows in advance that there is an ice-cream sundae, chocolate covered doughnut or a Pepsi  making its way down(not that any of you would be eating these types of foods), it knows it needs to prepare the right amount of acid to help digest this mess. Fascinating, eh?

Chewing also provides more oxygen to your brain and is great for your magnificent memory.  Short-term memory is enhanced the more you chew your food.  When people get older, many can lose their teeth and need to eat soft foods.  The short-term memory may be compromised as a result of this change in the diet and behavior.

I can hear you asking; so howmuch should I chew my food?  Well, I have read anywhere from 20 to 100 times per bite!  100 times?  You would be full after three bites of food, not to mention it taking about an hour to eat!  Different foods require more chewing than others, like raw vegetables for example.  These foods need plenty of chewing in order to break them down enough to help aid in the digestive process.  Therefore, my suggestion is to chew until the food becomes a liquid before swallowing.

Here’s an interesting little study I found :  30 college-aged women had plates of pasta.  When they were asked to eat quickly, they consumed 646 calories over the course of nine minutes.  Then they were told to slow down and chew the food 15 to 20 times.  Their calorie intake dropped to 579 calories in 29 minutes.  Not bad for a simple mechanical change, eh?

Another tip I would like to share with you that doesn’t really have much to do with chewing but I feel is important to mention, and that is, turn off the TV, put the newspaper down and enjoy eating with those you love by giving them your full attention.  Pleasant conversation and togetherness are also beneficial to your health!

 Happy chewing!

Just Breathe!

So far we have discussed very basic principles in establishing good health such as, drinking adequate amounts of quality water, and chewing our food thoroughly.  I now want to cover another simple, no cost tip that you may find odd that it would even need to be addressed and that is, breathing!  Specifically, deep breathing.  Read on to learn why something so natural as breathing can be so important in maintaining a healthy body.

But, before we start, I would like to ask you to stop reading and take a deep breath.  First, place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen.  Go ahead, take a deep breath.  Now, when you took that breath did your hand on your chest or your abdomen rise first?  If the hand on your chest rose first you tend to breathe from your chest (shallow breathing).  If the hand on your abdomen rises first, you are more of a belly breather, which is very beneficial.   You see, most people are shallow breathers, so when they take a deep breath you will see their shoulders go up, which does not allow for the necessary oxygen to enter the body.

Drawing in of oxygen nourishes every cell of our body and promotes relaxation.  Exhalation helps to rid the body of stale air and toxins in our lungs.  Shallow breathing will actually slow metabolism.  Not only that, but recent studies show fast breathing can be linked to high blood pressure.  In a study published in The Lancet, cardiac patients who took 12 to 14 shallow breaths per minute (six breaths per minute is considered optimal) were more likely to have low levels of blood oxygen, which “may impair skeletal muscle and metabolic function, and lead to muscle atrophy and exercise intolerance.”

 Deep breathing releases endorphins (our bodies own painkillers) into the system.  This can help relieve headaches, sleeplessness, backaches and other stress related aches and pains.  Having problems with fuzzy thinking?  Deep breathing helps to clear the mind and can help you to focus.  Another added bonus of deep breathing, it strengthens weak abdominal and intestinal muscles.

Additionally, deep breathing has also been shown to benefit asthma sufferers.  It can reduce stress, because when stressed we tend to breath in short, shallow bursts, so to relax we need to do the apposite –   breathe deeply.

Breathing serves as a pump for the lymphatic system.  The lymphatic system is the body’s sewer system.  Lymph vessels form a drainage system throughout the body.  The lymph fluid drains into the circulatory system at the base of our neck through two ducts.  This becomes part of the blood and plasma that pass through the kidneys and liver.  However, the lymph system does not have a built-in pump like the circulatory system.  It has to rely on the act of breathing to be able to move out all the waste fluid.  (They lymphatic system can be also move through exercise and massage, but for now we are focusing on how deep breathing affects this system).

So what happens if the lymphatic system becomes sluggish?  You cannot detoxify wastes properly.  Which means if you aren’t breathing deeply or moving regularly, then your lymph fluid is not flowing as well as it should.  In time, this will lead to health concerns including weight gain, muscle loss, high blood pressure, fatigue and inflammation.  Great news!  You can improve your lymph system’s ability to cleanse by learning to practice deep breathing.  The expansion and contraction of the diaphragm will actually stimulate your lymphatic system and massage your internal organs, helping the body to rid itself of toxins, therefore leaving more room in the cells for an optimal exchange of oxygen.

Let’s go over some deep breathing guidelines:  Deep breathing should be incorporated into your every day routine.  If you think you can’t find time to practice deep breathing regularly, take a deep breath, then think again.  Generally, women forget to breathe because they are so busyfocusing on what they need to do for everyone else, yet deep breathing is something you can do anywhere,  doing just about anything.  Some reminders I have found helpful were to post sticky-notes with the word “Breathe” around the house, or on your desk.  When you reach a stoplight make it a point to stop and breathe.  When feeling stressed, stop and breathe deeply.

To get started, sit in a comfortable position or lie down.  Relax your shoulders, in fact, relax your entire body.  Gently place your hands on your abdomen.  Take a deep breath through your nose allowing the abdomen to expand and your chest should move only a little, count to four as you inhale.  Now hold that breath for four counts and slowly release exhaling for the count of four.  Repeat.  Do this for about five minute or longer if you have the time.  At first this will feel very unnatural, it may even be uncomfortable, but in time you will find that you can extend the length of inhalation and exhalation to several seconds.  Be patient, like anything else, proper breathing is a learned skill and practice is important.  Soon you will find it becomes natural.

I hope this article has convinced you of the many health benefits of deep breathing and you will want to incorporate this simple practice into your daily routine.