The Importance of Chewing
Those over 40 remember our elders telling us to chew each bite 100 times. There was a phrase, "drink your solids and eat your liquids," which meant in essence, "chew really well." Today most people get only three or four chews in before swallowing. For those who have gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) or are dependent on the "little purple pill" (Prilosec) and antacids, chewing can make all the difference.
GERD happens because acid is pushed up through an "insufficient" lower esophageal sphincter (a muscular band that opens and closes), that separates the esophagus from the stomach. Pain commonly referred to as "heartburn" results.
How do we repair a weak muscle? We exercise it to increase muscle tone. That's what chewing does for the esophageal sphincter. It also activates saliva and other oral secretions that protect esophageal tissue and decreases acidity in the lower esophagus.
A study in the March 1996 issue of Gastroenterology concluded that "a profound and significant increase in the secretion rate of protective components in saliva during masticatory stimulation (chewing) suggests its potential value as a therapeutic approach in the treatment of patients with gastro esophageal reflux disease." Since then, many studies also have shown the benefits of chewing gum after meals to decrease the occurrence of GERD.
Best advice: chew each bite 25 times. What do you have to lose but some heartburn? And with money saved from discontinuing the pharmaceuticals, buy some tasty after-dinner gum. Preferable chewing gums of non-mint varieties, since mint can increase GERD.
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Writer: Nancy Welliver, Core Faculty, Bastyr University and Bastyr Center for Natural Health
Republished with permission from Seattle Post-Intelligencer