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How Poor Chewing Habits Can Contribute Towards Digestive Issues

General DentistryHealth Tips

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Imagine enjoying a tasty meal only to end up feeling uncomfortable, bloated, and sluggish. Many of us have felt this way, usually blaming it on the food we ate or eating too much. But there’s another important factor that we often miss, how well we chew our food. Chewing is the first key step in digestion, but it’s often ignored because we’re so used to eating quickly. 

Dr Smita Mehra, Principal Dentist here at The Neem Tree Dental Practice, has explained exactly how not chewing food properly can contribute towards bloating.

In this article, we’ll look at why chewing food properly is so important and how skipping this simple step can cause bloating and other digestive problems. By learning about how chewing works and why it’s crucial for digestion, we can develop better eating habits that reduce discomfort and improve gut health. 

The Chewing Process

Chewing, or mastication, is a crucial first step in digesting food. It involves breaking down food both mechanically and chemically to prepare it for further digestion and nutrient absorption.

Mechanical Processes of Chewing

Breaking Food into Smaller Pieces:

  • Biting and Tearing: The front teeth, called incisors and canines, cut and tear food into smaller, manageable pieces.
  • Grinding and Crushing: The molars and premolars at the back of the mouth grind and crush the food into even smaller particles, increasing the food’s surface area for digestive enzymes to work on.

Mixing with Saliva:

  • Saliva Production: The salivary glands in the mouth produce saliva. As we chew, the food mixes with saliva, moistening and softening it into a semi-liquid mixture called a bolus.

Chemical Processes of Chewing

Enzymatic Action:

  • Salivary Amylase: Saliva contains an enzyme called salivary amylase, which starts breaking down carbohydrates into simpler sugars right in the mouth.
  • Lingual Lipase: This enzyme, produced by glands in the tongue, begins the digestion of lipids, although it mainly works in the stomach.

In summary, chewing is essential for both the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food, preparing it for digestion and nutrient absorption. Proper chewing enhances digestion, promotes oral health, and supports overall well-being.

Dr Smita Mehra explains “There are several possible causes of bloating. Certain types of foods can naturally cause bloating, as can certain allergies and intolerances to different foods. However, bloating is also often caused by gas or air getting trapped in the stomach, causing it to extend or expand. This is usually caused by issues with chewing. One of the ways this can happen is because you’ve rushed your eating process – you’ve simply eaten your food too quickly.” Not chewing your food properly can seriously affect your digestion, causing problems like bloating. Inadequate chewing can contribute to bloating due to several factors:

  1. Undigested Food: When food is not properly chewed, larger food particles reach the stomach and intestines. These larger particles are more difficult for the body to break down efficiently, leading to incomplete digestion. Dr Smita says, “If you’re eating on the go, you’re probably in a bit of a rush and not giving too much thought to chewing properly. You’re also probably walking (or at least standing up). These factors combined, lead to food not being properly digested and air being swallowed along with it. Talking or slouching while eating can also cause air pockets within the digestive tract too. If you’re lying down or walking around, that will not lead to proper digestion. It could go down the wrong tube but it’s also going to cause air pockets and lead to bloating.”
  2. Fermentation: Undigested food in the intestines provides a substrate for bacteria to ferment, producing gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen as byproducts. This fermentation process can lead to the accumulation of gas in the intestines, causing bloating and discomfort.
  3. Delayed Gastric Emptying: Poorly chewed food can delay the emptying of the stomach into the intestines, leading to prolonged exposure to stomach acid and increased risk of bloating and discomfort.
  4. Increased Digestive Workload: Inadequately chewed food places additional strain on the digestive system, requiring more energy and time to break down, which can contribute to bloating and gastrointestinal distress.

In summary, not chewing food properly leads to larger food particles entering the digestive system, increasing the workload on the stomach and intestines, reducing the effectiveness of digestive enzymes and stomach acid, and causing fermentation that produces gas. This results in bloating and other digestive issues. Proper chewing is crucial for good digestion and to avoid these problems.

Click here to read more about how many times you should chew.

Common Symptoms and Signs of Poor Chewing Habits

Not chewing your food properly can cause a lot of tummy troubles and discomfort. Here are some signs to watch out for that might mean you’re not chewing well:

1. Bloating and Gas Symptoms:

  • Bloating: A feeling of fullness and tightness in the abdomen. The stomach may appear swollen.
  • Gas: Frequent passing of gas, either through burping or farting.

2. Indigestion and Heartburn Symptoms:

  • Indigestion (Dyspepsia): A general term for discomfort in the upper abdomen. Symptoms may include fullness during or after a meal, pain or burning in the stomach, and nausea.
  • Heartburn: A burning sensation in the chest, often after eating, which can extend to the throat. It is caused by stomach acid refluxing into the oesophagus.

3. Stomach Cramps and Discomfort Symptoms:

  • Stomach Cramps: Sharp, intermittent pains in the stomach or abdomen.
  • General Discomfort: A persistent feeling of unease or pain in the stomach area.

Did you know

  1. Did you know when you chew, you’re activating over 60 muscles in your face and jaw? That’s some serious exercise, according to the British Dental Health Foundation. (Source)
  2. Chewing actually helps increase saliva production. Saliva is your mouth’s natural defence system, washing away food particles and helping to neutralize plaque acids that can lead to cavities. (Source)
  3. Studies suggest that chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating can improve alertness, memory, and reaction time! Maybe it’s time to ditch the afternoon slump for a chomp session, according to a BBC News report. (Source)
  4. The enamel coating on your teeth is the hardest substance in your entire body, even stronger than bone! That’s why it’s important to chew food properly to avoid putting too much stress on them. (Source
  5. Most people tend to favour chewing on one side of their mouth more than the other. Right-handed folks often chew on the right, and lefties on the left! This is thought to be linked to brain dominance, according to a fun fact from the Oral Health Foundation. (Source)

Practical Tips for Better Chewing

Improving how you chew can make a big difference to your digestion and how you feel overall. Dr Smita says, “You may have been accused of ‘inhaling your food’ before. Well, sometimes that’s literally true! When you swallow food too quickly, without chewing properly, or with poor posture, you’ve also swallowed air along with it. This air then gets trapped in the digestive tract and causes that feeling of bloating we all hate.” Here are some simple tips to help you chew better:

1. Be Present When Eating

  • Pay attention to what you’re eating, notice the taste, texture, and smell of your food.
  • Eat slowly, enjoy each bite, don’t rush through your meal.
  • Take a moment to appreciate your food and be thankful for it.

2. Take Smaller Mouthfuls

  • Cut your food into smaller pieces before eating, so it’s easier to chew well.
  • Don’t put too much food in your mouth at once, take smaller bites.

3. Chew Your Food Properly

  • Try to chew each mouthful at least 20-30 times before swallowing. This helps your food break down properly for digestion.
  • If you’re not sure how many times to chew, count until you get used to it.

4. Avoid Distractions While Eating

  • Eat in a quiet, calm place without distractions like watching TV or using your phone.
  • Focus on your meal and the people you’re eating with, rather than doing other things.
  1. Eat Foods That Are Easy to Chew

Dr Smita says, “The worst foods for this are heavy meats like steak. Although other foods like legumes can cause bloating on their own naturally, it’s heavy meat that will cause bloating if you’re not chewing it well enough. Things like steak require more chewing, maybe up to 50 times per bite. That is the optimum statistic but not something likely to be followed strictly in real life. Just make sure you’re chewing long enough that the food loses its texture at least. Chew equally on both sides, if you’re avoiding one side there may be a dental issue and you’re probably making it worse by doing that.”

  • Choose whole, natural foods that need more chewing, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
  • Include fibrous foods in your diet as they’re good for chewing and your digestion.
  • Try to avoid foods that are tough to chew, like hard meats, candies, or foods with tough skins.

Benefits of Eating Slowly

  • Helps your digestion work better by starting the process properly in your mouth.
  • Makes you feel more satisfied with your meal, so you’re less likely to overeat.
  • Reduces tummy troubles like indigestion, bloating, and discomfort.
  • Helps you connect better with your body’s signals for hunger and fullness, making your relationship with food healthier.

Dr Smita quoted earlier said, “Take a break, sit down, and focus on eating for 5 minutes. The key to reducing the air and bloating is to chew the food properly. The more you chew or masticate, the more it is digested physically. This is the purpose of the molars – the dips and bumps on the teeth. The better chewed your food is, the easier to digest it will be – and this all starts in the mouth. The more you chew, the more saliva you make, which breaks it all down in the mouth. If you swallow a burger whole, there’s not much saliva produced and a whole lot of air is swallowed. This means that the stomach is going to have a much harder time breaking it down. The more your stomach has to work, the worse it’s going to feel in the long run. Getting the process started properly in the mouth makes things easier on your tummy.”

How can you make sure you are chewing your food properly?

Dr. Smita Mehra has shared some useful tips to assist you in chewing your food properly.

Adjust your chewing

“Adjust your chewing to what you’re eating (nuts and steak need more for instance), but foods affect people in different ways – it’s not all dental. Do a food diary and figure out which foods are causing you to bloat more. The best thing for bloating from a dental point of view is to chew properly. As dentists, we need to make sure patients have an optimum equilibrium of the mouth – teeth working together on all sides of the jaw. However, the most common causes of not chewing properly are missing, damaged, painful, or misaligned teeth. If there’s something wrong with your bite, there’s something wrong with your chew!”

Get regular dental check-ups

“Regular dental checkups are essential to avoid all of this. We often see people who say they haven’t had a checkup in ten years but have no dental issues. We ask do you have any digestive issues and they say yes – it’s often because unrealised dental issues like missing teeth or misaligned teeth are contributing to digestive issues like bloating. TMJ, lack of vitamin D, Arthritis – any of these can affect your jaw and your ability to chew – we check on all of these things in checkups.”

Make sure dentures fit properly

“It’s not just natural teeth, though – dentures are also a big culprit if they haven’t been seated properly. If they’re not seated securely – the lower jaw is notorious for ill-fitting as the tongue doesn’t like anything taking up its space – then that will affect your ability to chew your food properly.”

Consider the impact of stress and teeth-grinding 

“Grinding and bruxism can also cause real problems with chewing. Teeth grinding is often a stress response. It’s tooth to tooth rather than tooth-to-food. If you’re stressed, then you’re probably rushing around. This means that not only are you not chewing enough in a rush, but you’re also causing damage to your own teeth with grinding.”

Long-Term Benefits of Proper Chewing

Learning and sticking to good chewing habits can really help your digestion in the long run and keep you feeling good overall. Here are some important benefits:

1. Better Digestion and Getting Nutrients: Chewing your food properly breaks it into small pieces, helping your body’s enzymes to digest it more effectively. This thorough chewing ensures that nutrients are extracted efficiently in your stomach and intestines, allowing your body to absorb more of the beneficial nutrients from the food.

2. Less Bloating and Tummy Troubles: Chewing your food enough prevents large pieces from reaching your intestines without being properly digested, which can cause gas, bloating, and discomfort. Proper chewing ensures that your gut bacteria receive well-digested food, maintaining a healthy balance and preventing tummy issues.

3. Overall Tummy Happiness: Chewing your food properly ensures that it’s thoroughly broken down before reaching your stomach and intestines, which prevents your tummy from becoming upset, inflamed, or experiencing other issues. Additionally, well-digested food moves smoothly through your digestive system, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing problems like constipation or diarrhoea.

4. Keeping Away Big Health Troubles: Good chewing habits not only benefit your tummy and guts but also play a crucial role in preventing chronic illnesses such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and various digestive issues. Maintaining a healthy digestive system is essential for overall well-being, as it enables your body to absorb essential nutrients from your food and eliminate waste effectively, contributing to your overall health.


In the quest for a healthier tummy, chewing is important. It’s like the door to good digestion, soaking up all the nutrients and making your tummy happy. When we take our time to chew properly and think about what we’re eating, we can stop bloating and other tummy problems that bug us after eating.

Let’s try to slow down when we eat, enjoy every mouthful, and give our bodies the chance to deal with the food properly. By doing this, we’re not just helping our digestion but also getting closer to our bodies and the good stuff they need.

So, next time you have a meal, remember the magic of chewing. Your tummy will be grateful, and you’ll feel better inside and out, way beyond the dinner table.

As Seen In

Leading Dentist Explains How Not Chewing Properly Can Contribute Towards Digestive Issues
How Not Chewing Food Properly Can Contribute Towards Bloating