A few months ago, I decided I was going to participate in a 21 Day Chewing Challenge, I know it sounds kind of silly and you might be wondering- what exactly is a “chewing challenge”. I realized that it was time to take control of my health, not just in regards to what I was eating but how I was eating it. In particular, I realized I knew very little about gut health and the process by which our bodies digest what we eat and drink.
Learning how to chew my food (yes I truly had to re-teach myself how to chew) and learning how to eat at a slower and more relaxed pace was the first step on my path to achieving greater gut health. Something that really struck me was a quote from the organizer of the chewing challenge, she kept saying to us, “your stomach doesn’t have teeth”. We cannot expect our stomachs to do all the work when it comes to digestion so we have to help it, and we do that by chewing…a lot! Chewing gives our brain time to catch up with our stomach and get in sync so that we can digest our food and beverages correctly. At first I tried to chew a certain number of times regardless of what I was eating, but I quickly became impatient and got tired of counting 🙂 So I took a new approach- chewing until my food was essentially liquid or very close to liquid (yes I even chewed my smoothies and soups- which definitely took some getting used to). I had to be patient and vigilant and I did a lot of eating by myself so I could totally focus on my chewing. I made it through the 21 days and I truly did notice a remarkable difference in my energy levels and my overall stomach and gut health, and I felt full and more satisfied after eating much much less food.
Chewing is so very important, so often we inhale our food and our stomach and intestines are forced to do so much of the work! When we let our mouth do the majority of the work we are able to absorb the minerals and nutrients from our food better and we don’t overwork our stomach and intestines. When we gobble down food we set off a problematic series of events because we are making our stomach and intestine work much harder than they should. When we swallow without chewing many other organ systems are forced to assist in the digestive process- taking them away from all their other important jobs. When this series of events take place it often results in inflammation- which we want to try and steer clear of!
So we should all just keeping chewing, and chewing and, CHEWING!!!! It takes time to retrain our brains and our mouths but it is so worth it and your stomach will be so so grateful you did. I cannot claim I am a perfect chewer but I do my best to be mindful of it at every meal. Here are a few tips of mine to help you make positive chewing changes….
- Make a little place card (or use a sticky note) for your spot at the table that says CHEW. I did this for about a month and it was just simple reminder that whenever I sat down I needed to focus on chewing.
- Eat alone at least once a day. I don’t mean for you to isolate yourself for a whole 21 days and eat all meals alone but I did find that when I ate alone it helped me focus on chewing because I wasn’t as distracted by conversation or others eating habits.
- Focus on chewing harder more substantial foods first and then once you’ve started to master your chewing you can move onto chewing soups, smoothies, and soft foods. It’s really bizarre to chew liquid like food so I focused on chewing harder foods first (vegetables, meats, grains) and then once I had a handle on those I moved onto munching my morning smoothies…be patient with yourself it does take time.
In addition to prioritizing chewing I made few other changes to support my overall gut health.
- I stopped drinking liquids with my meals as much as possible.
- I started each day with a cup of warm lemon water and wait 10-15 minutes before eating.
- I started eating more fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and the occasional bowl of homemade yogurt).
- I started incorporating more anti inflammatory foods into my diet (ginger root, turmeric, dark leafy greens, chia seeds, and flax seeds)
- I started taking a daily probiotic pill- one of my favorites brands can be purchased here.
Happy Munching!! If you want to learn more about the 21 Day Chewing Challenge visit the website here.