Tuesday, June 1, 2010

[Article] Chew Your Food!

Did your mother ever tell you to chew your food? Perhaps she did. You probably thought that was just one of those things you do to be civil, to save the food longer, to be polite - but did you know (and did your mother know) that chewing your food is a very important step in digestion?

Consider a whole fruit or vegetable; consider a carrot. Your body needs to turn that carrot into liquid in order to get the benefits into your bloodstream. The finer you chew it, the better your stomach will be able to do it's job.

The next time you're eating, consider how long you chew each bite before you swallow. Notice how much you swallow that can be felt in lumps going down your throat. Why is it that we chew our food so little?

One theory is because of the other thing your mother said; chew with your mouth closed. Notice (when you're alone) how much easier it is to chew with your mouth open. Part of this could be because of how much easier it is to breath with your mouth open. After taking several bites of observation, and several bites with your mouth open, then try several bites where you breath in deeply through your nose. I personally found that taking deep breaths through my nose made it easier to chew my food more thoroughly.

Another technique that helps is to really think about the food. Consider it's smell before each bite. Consider it's texture as you begin to chew. Consider the flavor you notice at first, and then how the flavors change as they blend with your saliva. This could be considered an introductory food meditation. I find this also exceedingly helpful; and it makes food more enjoyable; even food I dislike.

Using the above techniques, I discovered that two foods I've been shunning my entire life were no so bad after all. I've always dislike cucumbers and spinach my entire life, but when tentatively trying some on my salad with an open mind and a determination to really taste the blend of flavors and really enjoy them, I found that the texture of a cucumber is interesting and refreshing, even if I still don't find it delightful. Likewise, I found that spinach makes a good salad base after all; it's not as though it's bitter like many other greens out there. In fact, with vinegar on it, it's really good.

Changing to a raw food diet will not make you magically decide you chew your food more thoroughly. It is a conscious effort. But your stomach will thank you, and you will find meal times to be more enjoyable.

Other aspects that affect your digestion are; who you're eating with, your mood, how much exercise you have before, during or after eating, how much you have to drink, what combination of foods you've eaten together and how much you like what you're eating.

One of those I'd like to mention in particular is your mood. If you're eating because you're depressed, you are very likely to put on weight. Not just because you're more likely to go for cookies and other poisons but because your brain cells will send off signals into your body that will affect all the millions of new cells that are forming each hour. Every hour you spend depressed you are deepening the pathways in your brain that are negative, whereas every hour you spend thinking positively you will deepen your self empowerment. Imagine what happens when your deepening negative pathways in your brain while eating junk food at the same time?

Perhaps it just sounds like I'm spouting theories, but I'm not.

"The entire digestive system is closely tuned to a person's emotions and state of mind," says William E. Whitehead, PhD, a professor of medicine and an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina.

"People with irritable bowel syndrome often suffer flare-ups during times of stress and anxiety, and even perfectly healthy people can worry their way to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or other problems. Even if a doctor can't find anything physically wrong, the misery is real," says Chris Woolston.

Our brain and our digestive organs are constantly exchanging a stream of chemical and electrical messages, and anything that affects one, affects the other. This is why our attitude is so close linked with our health, and why our health is so closely linked to our attitude. You can not heal one without healing the other.

The connection between the two is so tight that scientists are now referring to them as one entity; the 'brain-gut axis'. It may surprise some people to learn that the gut actually contains as many neurons (nerve cells) as the spinal cord. What is interesting about this insight is that the spinal cord has long been thought of as an extension to the brain; but now that this extension can made into the digestive tract, perhaps we can just move to thinking of the body as a whole.

The connection between the brain and the digestive system is a busy two-way street. The central nervous system releases chemicals (acetylcholine and adrenaline) that tell the stomach when to produce acid, when to churn, and when to rest. This is why your thoughts are so important. They have validity in more places than just your mind. They send out signals throughout the body, and even through the air.

The digestive system responds by sending electrical messages to the brain, creating such sensations as hunger, fullness, pain, nausea, discomfort, and possibly sadness and joy. Something interesting about this, is that often what we eat disrupts the signals that are sent back. If you're eating a diet heavy in sugar, you digestive system will continually send signals that needs more sugar. You will register this as hunger, but really, it's only a craving. When you transfer to a Really Raw Diet you'll be amazed as these cravings go away.

Wait, did you just ask me what the FDA has to say about this? Uh, hello people; news flash; the FDA gets paid to lie to you all day long. Do your research folks.

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