I chew, chew chewse you.

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Let’s start at the very beginning (that’s a very good place to start), the mouth.

Digestion begins the moment you look at food. Signals are sent to the brain to start the production of saliva and stomach acids in readiness for the goodies coming your way.

Our mouths contain more nerve endings than almost anywhere else in the human body, that’s why mouth ulcers hurt so much and a tiny chia seed stuck in your teeth feels like a giant boulder. In 2006, scientists discovered a painkiller in saliva stronger than morphine (it’s called opiorphin). Luckily we only produce small amounts of this substance, otherwise I guess we’d all be ‘spaced out on spit’ most of the time. Interestingly though, it has been postulated that one of the reasons some of us might comfort eat is to produce more opiorphin (which may also have anti-depressant effects). So maybe we are getting high after all…

Did you know? Saliva is made up of filtered blood and we produce about 700mL to one litre of saliva every single day.

Most of the bacteria in our mouths are beneficial, forming biofilms (a thin layer that stick to a surface) to keep out the ‘baddies’. It’s also now thought that the bugs in our mouth might help to regulate our blood pressure by producing nitric oxide, which helps to relax our arteries. Want to get more nitric oxide in your diet? Eat beetroot. There is a strong link with periodontal (gum) disease and cardiovascular disease – maybe this is the link?

When we go to sleep at night we produce very little saliva and that’s why we end up with that delightful morning breath (night time means party time for your microbes). If you have bad breath outside of these times it may mean you are producing more non-beneficial bugs (an overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori can sometimes be a culprit) or you are not flossing and brushing your teeth very well.

Bad breath remedy

  • 500mL of boiling water
  • 30gms dried Rosemary.
  • Cover and steep for 30 minutes.
  • Strain and gargle several times per day.

A note on chewing; I went to boarding school and every night the headmistress would dine with us (very Dickensian). We didn’t much enjoy this, especially if you were seated at her table for the ENTIRE term. We would all scoff our food down very quickly, only to be left waiting for Miss Barr to finish her dinner. She insisted on chewing every mouthful 26 times, which to a precocious teen was an eternity. Turns out, she was onto something. Chewing your food thoroughly, affords many benefits such as:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Absorbing more nutrients
  • Easier digestion
  • Better for your teeth
  • Less non-beneficial bacteria in your intestines

Next stop…down the throat and into the stomach.