Actually, we all know it, we have heard it countless times: chewing is important. Proper chewing is essential for good digestion. It is all the more surprising that the vast majority of us simply ignore this knowledge and gobble down our meals without paying much attention.
I want to get to the bottom of this obvious contradiction, and for that I'm talking to a real chewing expert in this interview. Not only will you learn how important proper chewing is and how many areas of our intestinal health - including our bowel movements - are influenced by chewing, but you'll also get good tips on how to integrate proper chewing back into your everyday life. And all this with a lot of fun and enjoyment.
Daniel Kövary (founder stuul):
Dear Barbara, I am very pleased that you in particular are my first interview partner in our new blog. In this blog, we want to explore intestinal health from all possible angles, and where better to start than at the very beginning of our digestive system - the mouth, or chewing properly. Why don't you briefly introduce yourself to our readers? How do you become a chewing expert?
Barbara Plaschka (weight loss coach, chewing trainer and founder of kauGENAU):
The pleasure is all mine. Thank you, dear Daniel, for allowing me to take your readers on an enjoyable journey. How did I get into chewing? I remember that very well. Unfortunately, it has a messy back story - but as is so often the case, there are always two sides. That's why I'm very grateful today that things turned out this way.
I had a severe herniated disc, which left my left leg 30% paralyzed. Fortunately, I quickly had the right surgeon at hand and after the operation the pain was also gone. But the leg was not yet healed. "It takes time for the nerves to regenerate." the doctors told me. Now you have to know that patience is not necessarily my greatest strength. So I set out to see what I could do in terms of nutrition. Logically, after all, I am a nutritionist. For healthy nerves, you need enough B vitamins. So I spiced up my breakfast with all kinds of grains and seeds.
One day my little daughter was in the restroom with me - anyone who has small children knows you're often not alone there - and she was very interested in my "business." "Mom, the sunflower seeds are all still in there!" she yelled. And yes, she was right.
That's when I had the flash of inspiration. I need to chew everything better if the valuable ingredients are really going to get to my nerves. It is in the intestines that we decide what gets into our bodies and what does not. With the sunflower seeds, I could have just flushed them down the toilet.
From that moment on, not a single bite left my mouth that wasn't chewed really, really well. I noticed how much better you can taste and that I also get full much faster. Of course, I immediately incorporated that into my consultations and since then it's no longer a matter of WHAT we eat, but HOW we eat. And by the way, my leg is completely healed again.
Daniel: I'm very happy for you! It makes sense: The better the food is prepared or chewed in the mouth, the easier it is for the intestines to make the important components available for the healing process.
But what fascinates me even more is the fact that most of us no longer pay any attention to chewing. Even though there is so much potential here for our well-being. As a graduate biologist and medically certified nutritionist, how do you explain this development?
Barbara: Yes, it is really exciting to observe. But the explanation is quite simple. It is due to the swallowing reflex. As the name suggests, it's a reflex. And reflexes - once triggered - run completely automatically. But I don't want to blame it in any way. Because without the swallowing reflex, we would not have grown up and become strong. As infants, we depend on swallowing our mother's precious milk quickly before it can run out of our mouths again. So we learn to swallow much earlier than we learn to chew, because the teeth come into play much later. Toddlers are still very good at enjoying food with all their senses. Unfortunately, there is often not enough time to let children eat at their own pace. In the morning, we have to make it to daycare on time, and in the evening there is usually also a program, so we are encouraged by our parents and educators to eat quickly. And the food industry also has a decisive influence here. Many products are designed in such a way that they crunch really well and taste delicious in the first five or six chewing movements. Then the high is over, and we quickly swallow so that we can experience the next batch of crunchy joy. This pleases the food industry, because we naturally eat a lot more as a result.
Daniel: The fact that the food industry knows exactly what the swallowing reflex is and exploits it for its own purposes doesn't surprise me. So it would also be worthwhile for us to take a closer look at the swallowing reflex. How can I learn to control it better?
Barbara: As so often, mindfulness helps us here, too. We can't turn off a reflex. Nor should we. But we can do a lot to make sure it's no longer in charge on its own. Teamwork is required here. The tongue, the palate and the swallowing reflex should work better together. Because between biting off and swallowing lies the important part: chewing and tasting. A feast for the sense of taste. The swallowing reflex can come at any time. Then it is important that the tongue is careful with what it satisfies it. Everything liquid and pulpy may be swallowed with pleasure, everything coarse and large should be chewed even further.
Daniel: This shows me once again how far we have moved away from our actual nature and what far-reaching consequences this has for our health. Not so long ago, people probably paid a lot more attention to food and the process of eating anyway. Simply because it was something special during the day. Work was much more physical and for that reason alone, people probably enjoyed every bite and rejoiced in the energy it gave them. And then there was the social aspect of eating together. The family met at fixed times to eat, which was very beneficial for social bonding. Today, we often eat alone while looking at the TV or on our cell phones. We live in an attention economy in which companies compete for our attention. There is often nothing left for ourselves. Especially not for mindful eating. That's why it's so important to bring food back into focus. Cooking for ourselves, eating together with family and friends, and - most importantly - chewing for a long time.
But back to the topic: What role does saliva play and what then happens to the food mush? Take us on a journey with you.
Barbara: Oh, the saliva. For me, it's a real magic juice. It's 99 percent water, but the remaining one percent is really something.
Saliva - quite clearly - helps us with digestion. It contains enzymes that break down carbohydrate chains. The longer we chew a loaf of bread, the sweeter it becomes, because long starch chains turn into individual sugar molecules at the end. Saliva also contains fat-splitting enzymes. Infants in particular benefit from this. This is because the organs for fat digestion are not yet so fit at the beginning. They need the help of saliva.
The defense against pathogens also begins with saliva. It contains enzymes that render bacteria and viruses harmless. As a child, you must have often tried to make spooky bubbles. Didn't you? All I'm saying is: boring car rides. This viscous mucus is made specifically to get bacteria and viruses caught in it. And, of course, to make it easier for us to swallow our bite without damaging the delicate mucosa of our esophagus.
Saliva also protects our teeth. For one thing, it remineralizes our tooth enamel. This is because the minerals contained in saliva strengthen our tooth enamel. Secondly, saliva neutralizes the pH value in the mouth if we have eaten acidic foods. So we have built-in protection against caries.
But there's more. Here's the beauty.
Saliva is a flavor enhancer. It is only through saliva that the flavoring substances are released from the food and our sense of taste can perceive them. Without saliva, there is no taste.
And last but not least. Saliva is a satiating agent. If we chew thoroughly and salivate well, the bite will be much bigger than if we gulp it down quickly. This has a clear advantage for satiety, because the sensors in the stomach are better addressed when the porridge is evenly distributed and does not lie heavily in the stomach as a large lump.
My clients, with whom I train chewing, regularly report to me that they are already full after smaller portions. Suddenly, they no longer devour the whole pizza, but leave half of it for the next day.
Daniel: I can only confirm that. Since I was made aware of the topic by you and really take your tips to heart in my everyday life, I feel three big advantages: I perceive food much more consciously and intensively, I am satisfied much faster and what I find quite enormous: My digestion has improved significantly, which is ultimately also noticeable in a very regular and good bowel movement. That really surprised me!
Can you describe the journey of a well pre-chewed food mash through our digestive tract in comparison to poorly chewed food in a bit more detail?
Barbara: Oh - that's great to hear, dear Daniel! How lovely.
Sure, come along for the ride. Why is a well-chewed bite so much better than a poorly chewed bite? The answer is surface area. The better the digestive enzymes - in the mouth, in the stomach and in the small intestine - can do their work, the better our digestion. Sure. A well-chewed bite provides a lot more surface area than one that's gulped down. The digestive enzymes get to everything better - after all, time in the digestive tract is limited, because the intestines keep transporting the food pulp in steady movements. The "yield" is regularly reported to the brain, which also has a positive effect on our satiety signals.
We can't get as much goodness out of large chunks. So the body keeps ordering longer, hoping to get everything it needs after all.
In addition, large chunks lead to putrefaction processes, which in turn change the pH, so that the intestinal flora suffers. This must be avoided if bowel movements are to function well.
Daniel: This brings us to the end of the digestive process: bowel movements. Everything that comes in at the top has to leave the body again at some point. But unlike in the mouth, where food should remain as long as possible to be thoroughly chewed, the stool must not remain in the rectum for too long, as putrefactive gases and other toxins can re-enter the body via the intestinal mucosa. This is where we come in with our toilet stool to support the intestinal health of our customers. By improving posture during bowel movements, we ensure that they are easier, faster and more complete.
What do you think of the idea of adopting a squatting position during bowel movements, and what parallels do you see with your mission to make chewing more popular again?
Barbara: Honestly? I LOVE the squatting position. Do you know where I first noticed this? At an old Italian highway rest stop. At one point, I had to pull out to the right at one of those rest stops and make do with what I found. At first I was a bit shocked to see the squatting toilet, but when I squatted down it was much more pleasant than I expected. Unfortunately, I am now not every day in Italy on vacation, but fortunately I have your toilet stool. Because with it I have the vacation feeling also on the toilet. It really is such a difference if you relax and empty completely, or if it is hard work.
What parallels do I see here? "Back to the roots" - that probably sums it up best. Both upstairs and downstairs remind us of the natural way of life that we have unfortunately forgotten over the last decades. Both approaches cultivate a loving approach to our digestive tract, so that the body can once again feel good in its skin all around. For me, this is a harmonious cycle. What has been chewed well at the top can easily come out again at the bottom. A dream for every intestine.
Anyway, I think we complement each other very well, even if we are on opposite ends of digestion: The time that people downstairs are given by your stuul during bowel movements can be reinvested upstairs in a well-chewed bite.
Daniel: I see it the same way! It is worthwhile in so many areas to return to a natural, species-appropriate way of life.
One last question: What three tips would you give to someone who wants to change their chewing behavior but is hesitant because they don't trust themselves to do it? How can they do it without turning their whole life upside down?
Barbara: Of course, with pleasure. In no way do you have to turn your whole life upside down to do this. This is what I recommend for the start
- Observe yourself first. How quickly do you usually swallow? Self-awareness is known to be the first path to improvement.
- Then it takes the desire to want to change something and then
- a few weeks of endurance training for the chewing muscles. I call it "chewing endurance training." In the beginning, three bites a day are enough, regardless of what you eat. The rest will happen on its own.
You want to know how the training works? Then take a look at Youtube. There I have the "Tuesday is Chewsday" - that's my gym for chewing endurance. There we can train together. I'm looking forward to seeing you there.
Daniel: Thank you very much for the nice interview. I learned a lot of new things and it was a lot of fun! See you next time.
MORE ABOUT OUR INTERVIEW PARTNER
Hi, I'm Barbara Plaschka, weight loss coach, chewing trainer and founder of kauGENAU, because my mission is to bring HOW we eat back into people's consciousness.
Those who want to lose weight often have little desire to tackle the feel-good weight project because of all the fun spoilers. Count calories, avoid carbohydrates, leave out chocolate:
I show my clients how they can continue to eat everything and still lose weight. Through my enjoyable chewing training, they eat more mindfully and are pleasantly full after smaller portions.
With joy they get their favorite clothes out of the closet, which fit loosely again and finally feel comfortable in their skin again - without a new diet!