When I ask most people where digestion starts, many say confidently, “The stomach.”
But a number of things happen before food reaches the stomach. You can just THINK about food and have a visceral response. Exposure to food in your environment starts the digestive process. Of course, you usually see it and smell it too.
Then, comes chewing, which signals again, that food is on its way – get ready!
Next, there is the taste of the food. Sweet, salty, pungent, and bitter flavors will all ignite a different digestive response. We know, for instance, that the bitter taste improves digestive function by increasing hydrochloric acid in the stomach, bile flow, pancreatic enzyme production, and overall peristalsis in the gut.
Finally, the food hits the stomach.
So what do gum, waiting tables, and artificial sweeteners have in common?
All of these things dysregulate digestive function.
Let’s start with chewing gum, which doesn’t do your body any favors, whatsoever. When you chew, your body expects food to be on the way, but is left wanting. You can see where your digestive system becomes confused, thinking it should get ready to go to work and then nothing happens.
(Xylitol mints are an excellent way to avoid gum AND support the health of your mouth and teeth. My favorite brand is Zellies.)
A similar situation occurs with waiting tables. I remember waiting tables where the shifts were very long. I was surrounded by food and was starving. I suffered from a fair amount of loose stools during that time frame. Once again, the body sees food, it smells food, but nothing is coming in for nourishment. Traditional Chinese Medicine calls this stomach deficiency. Looking at food and not eating it depletes digestive vitality.
I’ve saved the most disastrous for last: artificial sweeteners. In nature, sweet taste implies nutrition. Think about berries, nuts, meats, and honey – all of which are naturally occurring and are nutrient dense.
Artificial sweeteners are a chemical shit storm in your mouth. The body tastes that sweetness and asks: “Where’s the beef?” But the nourishment never comes.
Over the years and decades of tricking your digestive system, the metabolism and appetite get very confused. You will eat more in an effort to obtain the nourishment that never came. Studies have shown that people (and rats) who consume beverages with artificial sweeteners are overweight and suffer from the dysregulation I have described here.
(See sources below).
Now is as good a time as any to share with you my perception of sweeteners from the worst to the best:
Artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and saccharin – poison, avoid at all costs
High fructose corn syrup – poison, avoid at all costs
Sugar – acts like a drug, avoid as often as possible
Natural sweeteners, like maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar – use in moderation
Stevia – use whenever appropriate. Stevia is an extract from a plant. It is a naturally occurring substance from nature with a positive nutritional profile when consumed in its whole plant form. The body will recognize this on some level and it won’t wreak the havoc that artificial sweeteners do, especially because artificial sweeteners are sweeter than anything found in nature.
Over time, gum, artificial sweeteners, and constant exposure to food will cause you to lose the trust of your body. Trust is a two way street! You trust your body and your body trusts you. These three things violate trust. You’re participating in these activities, and there is no food coming. It’s an unfortunate scenario for many, many people.
Obviously, I am not telling you to change careers if you are in the restaurant industry, but what I am saying is be aware. All transformation starts with awareness. Avoid the things that don’t serve your highest good. Gum and artificial sweeteners are easy – just say no.
Small changes, over time, have great impact.
One last note...
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Sources for this article: