Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I remember as a child being told to chew my food 27 times. I have no idea why the number 27 -- or even the reason children were instructed to follow this mealtime rule. But I recently have come across several studies that show that careful chewing can reduce acid reflux and help you lose those unwanted pounds.
RESEARCH SHOWS
Acid reflux is an uncomfortable condition in which food and stomach acids pulse back into the lower esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When the subjects in several studies slowed their eating -- taking 30 minutes to consume an average-sized meal versus downing it in five minutes -- they reduced acid reflux episodes by nearly one-third. The researchers speculate that the reason for the improvement was likely that subjects had less food in their esophagus at any given time. This in turn reduced pressure on the LES as well as distention of the stomach, both helpful when it comes to curbing acid reflux. I wondered if there was more to the story, so I called Chris Meletis, ND, former dean and chief medical officer, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, to find out. Dr. Meletis told me that he enthusiastically endorses the concept of small bites and ample chewing. In fact, he suggests chewing 15 to 20 times per bite as part of a general approach to reducing acid reflux. Thorough chewing starts to break down food before it reaches your stomach, making it easier for stomach acids and enzymes to finish up the job. In addition, focusing in this manner is actually meditative, serving to relax you mentally, thereby reducing stress that can sometimes exacerbate acid reflux.
OTHER BENEFITS OF SLOWING DOWN
Chewing slowly can be helpful as a weight-reduction strategy as well. This was confirmed recently in a North American Association for the Study of Obesity report on a study in which 28 overweight subjects all ate less when they slowed their eating of a typical meal. Admittedly, this hardly qualifies as an important study -- it was much too small and the study's conclusions are far too vague -- but it intrigued me enough to call weight-management expert Jana Klauer, MD. Dr. Klauer tells me that slower eating definitely helps people reduce weight. The reason for this, she says, is that the stomach and small intestine signal the brain when the body has been fed and doesn't need more. But it takes about 15 minutes for the message to arrive. Slow eaters are able to receive and then act on this message. Rapid eaters overeat the signal. To correct the speedy-eating habit, Dr. Klauer advises turning mealtime into more of a ceremony. Sit at the table instead of eating on the go& and avoid finger foods in favor of eating with utensils. Savor the color, texture, smell and the taste of your foods -- remember, you are nourishing your body and honoring it in the process.

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