Now, it seems funny, that last night before I went to bed I chose a picture of a rodent to accompany this post. At 2 am, I was woken up by a tapping noise close to my head. It sounded like a tiny animal was in the wall.
When I got up to check it out, I thought I saw something move near a suitcase on the floor, but thought it was my sleepy imagination. Then I remembered the snacks that were in the suitcase for an upcoming trip.
There aren’t many things I am actually, physically afraid of, but mice are one of them (snakes and heights are the others). I know it’s irrational, but when I see one, or even think there is one around, I feel afraid and can’t help squealing, whimpering and/or jumping up on a chair, just like the stereotype.
I flipped open the top of the suitcase and saw tiny yellow shreds from the package of an RX bar. It took me a few minutes of standing there staring at it before I could do anything. I squeamishly began taking everything out, hoping the mouse was not still in there.
Once I put the snacks in a pillowcase on top of the medicine cabinet, and closed the bathroom door, I got back in bed with the lights on, totally freaked out, wondering if the mouse could somehow climb into my bed. Just when I was wondering if the mouse got into my room through the walls or by using the stairs, I SAW it scurry along the wall, out my door and into the hallway.
This caused me to scream, jump up, and turn on the hall light. I didn’t see where it went, but it could have only gone into the bathroom or my messy teenage son’s room. I turned on his light, waking him up, and began collecting snacks, plates and anything else that might be attractive to a mouse.
Next I went downstairs to make sure there wasn’t anything a mouse would like downstairs, and ended up in the pantry getting some food up off the floor and onto higher shelves. By then, I was wide awake and unable to get back to sleep for what seemed like hours. Now I’m sleepy and might need a nap today.
Sometimes one tiny, little thing can have a big impact. It’s like that with chewing.
Chewing is an often overlooked yet crucial step of digestion. It sounds like such a simple, obvious thing, but many people don’t chew their food sufficiently and it can lead to many health problems.
It’s free and relatively easy to do. When you chew well, you are helping your digestive system do it’s job. When you don’t, you are burdening your digestive system and possibly creating health problems.
Digestion is such an amazing process that when functioning optimally, is almost automatic. There are many substances involved, often one is signaled by another. Any break in chain reactions can lead to problems. Chewing (and relaxing!) is the only part that requires your conscious effort.
For example, when you chew, your saliva, which contains a digestive enzyme called salivary amylase, mixes with your food and the breakdown of the carbohydrate component begins. Without this crucial step carbohydrate digestion isn't complete and digestive dysfunction can result.
Benefits of chewing better:
1. It will slow you down. You will receive the hormonal signal that you are full before you have overeaten.
2. Chewing may prevent the overgrowth of bacteria and yeasts that can thrive on inappropriately digested food particles.
3. It can prevent inappropriately sized food particles from damaging your GI lining, which can lead to food sensitivities and/or allergies.
4. About 80% of your immune system is along your GI tract, so preventing damage from inappropriately sized food particles can benefit your immune system.
5. Inappropriately digested carbohydrates can ferment, causing gas, heartburn and acid reflux.
To get in the habit of chewing better, practice mindful eating:
1. Sit down at a table to eat. Don’t multitask.
2. Take a moment to relax and take a few breaths. Digestion begins in your brain with the sight and smell of food. Take a moment to look at your food, take in the smells, and get those digestive juices flowing.
3. Focus on chewing your food well, tasting, enjoying (isn’t that the point?!) and savoring the delicious flavors.
4. Put your fork down between bites. Don’t put another bite in your mouth before the first one is chewed well and swallowed.
5. Don’t eat on the run or in your car.
As you work on slowing down and chewing better, you may begin to notice how fast the people around you are eating and how little they chew! You may also notice those same people have digestive problems.
Weather you are here in Central Oregon or far away, I would love to help you improve your digestion! I’m currently accepting new clients and scheduling appointments for late October/November. You can schedule online here, call (541)318-4757 or email BendNutritionalTherapy@gmail.com.