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Good Digestion and Health Start Here

Feb 29, 2020 04:39PM ● By Ingo Mahn Olena Kachmar (Follow)

“Chew your food!” Even as an adult, your mother’s words may still be ringing in your head. In my case, they came from my German grandfather. “Gut gekaut is halb verdaut,” he would say. It sounds much cleverer in German because it rhymes; translated it means, “Well chewed is half digested.”

As a reader of this publication, chances are you put more thought into what goes in your mouth than the average American. Yet despite all that careful meal planning, it is still easy to rush through a meal without properly chewing your food.

You may think you’re chewing each piece of food thoroughly, but when you find out that around 30 chews is the generally agreed upon number, you quickly realize you may not even be close.  Before swallowing, your food should ideally almost be in liquid form with no remaining texture.

So besides making your mom happy, what are the benefits of chewing your food properly?

1.     The digestive process starts in the mouth. Your saliva contains a number of enzymes that are incorporated into the food during the chewing process. The most important of these enzymes is amylase. This particular enzyme breaks down complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars that are easier to absorb and serve as the prime energy source for our bodies.  It is important to note that drinking too much liquid with a meal can, in fact, dilute these enzymes and actually inhibit digestion.

2.     It prepares the body for digestion. The chewing process has also been shown to prepare the stomach for the release of hydrochloric acid, which stimulates the pancreas and helps the lower part of the stomach relax. Since stomach acid only works on the surface of a food particle, larger pieces often go undigested in the stomach and lead to bloating and indigestion. Unfortunately, most Americans reach for an antacid, which only worsens the problem.

3.     It slows you down. By taking more time to chew your food, it gives the stomach the needed time to signal the brain that it’s full. We’ve all finished a meal with the words, “I ate too much.” While that’s bound to happen on occasion, it’s best to eat slowly and mindfully.

4.     It’s healthy! The process of chewing does more than just break your food down into smaller pieces. Each tooth sits in a bony socket suspended by the periodontal ligament. During the chewing, the teeth actually move up and down, stimulating the flow of lymphatic fluid in the head and neck area.

All things considered, having a healthy set of teeth and taking the time to chew your food is well worth the effort.

By the way, right after we ate our salad at the end of the meal (in Germany, we always ate the salad last), my grandfather would always eat the remains of our standard apple cider vinegar dressing because, as he intuitively knew, it was good for digestion … how right he was.


Dr. Ingo Mahn is a 1985 graduate of Marquette University School of Dentistry. He is an accredited member of the IAOMT (International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology) and earned a doctorate in integrative medicine from Capital University, in Georgetown. He is the founder of Natural Dental Partners (602-775-5120), a high-tech, health-centered practice in North Phoenix. Visit for more information and a listing of upcoming events.