There are several reasons why eating too fast can be one of the major causes of stomach gas, bloating and flatulence. The most obvious one is poor digestion, but eating too quickly can cause other digestive problems as well.
Digestion is a long series of processes, each with their part to play, each reliant on the one before.
Rushing down our meals misses out on the important first steps of chewing the food thoroughly to break it down to a more usable size and state for the stomach. It also reduces the amount of saliva and its enzymes that are mixed into the food to begin digesting it.
When we eat in a hurry, we are also more likely to swallow air with our food, which is a known cause of stomach gas and bloating. Taking a little extra time to enjoy our meals might just save a lot of discomfort later on.
The Importance of Chewing Food Properly
With so many aspects of our lives seeming so rushed, eating really should be a chance to slow down, relax and enjoy what we’re eating. This doesn’t seem to be the case for many people. We eat distracted in front of the TV, or hurrying down lunch staring at the computer screen at work, even walking down the street, sandwich in one hand, phone in the other. Are we even tasting our food anymore or just shoveling it in out of habit?
If we want to avoid indigestion, stomach gas, bloating and flatulence, and possibly larger health problems in the future, it’s worth remembering to slow down when eating, taste and enjoy the food and start chewing each mouthful more thoroughly.
Digestion starts in the mouth, not in the stomach. Chewing breaks up the food into more manageable pieces, increases its surface area and mixes it with saliva. This saliva contains the enzymes amylase, which starts breaking down carbohydrates in the meal and lingual lipase to begin the proper digestion of fats. The whole digestive process can impaired when we are eating too fast.
Along with the enzymes in saliva, there are also antibacterial agents such as immunoglobulin A, lactoferrin, lysozyme and peroxidase and a substance called epidermal growth factor (EGF), which can help heal inflamed intestinal tissues. And if we’ve been eating too fast and scoffing down our food with very little chewing, there is a fair chance of some inflammation somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract.
Slowing down your eating and chewing well produces more saliva with more epidermal growth factor to give any possible inflammation of the GI tract a chance to heal.
Why Drinking Affects Digestion
If you’re thirsty, it’s best to drink before eating. Saliva should be what moistens the food in our mouth. Washing each mouthful you eat down with a drink minimizes its important functions.
Too much liquid taken into the stomach during a meal also dilutes the digestive juices that are supposed to be working on breaking down the food. Worse still are high sugar colas or acidic coffee that can really interfere with the digestion process.
Drinks and high liquid foods like certain fruits should be had before meals, not with them. They can then pass quickly through the stomach rather than getting trapped in it with the digesting food and messing up the whole process.
A small amount of water or a healthy herbal tea like peppermint with a meal is probably fine. But gulping down a super sized soda or large processed juice with lunch or dinner is likely to impair digestion and lead to flatulence later on. The massive amounts of sugar in these drinks will also probably spike your insulin levels and increase the chances of storing more body fat.
Drinking plenty of water between meals, before and at least an hour (preferably two) after, is good for digestion and therefore for preventing flatulence. It can also help you to eat less and lose weight, as many of us confuse dehydration with hunger. If it’s not time for a meal but you feel like a snack, try a big glass of water first. It’s very possible you were just thirsty rather than hungry.
Eating Too Fast Feeds Intestinal Bacteria
While some food components, such as certain carbohydrates, are unlikely to be digested, regardless of how well we chew them up. Others, like proteins that can be digested more fully with slower eating, often aren’t when we eat too quickly.
Having too much protein in too large a meal is a common cause of digestive problems and excessive flatulence. Undigested protein can putrefy in the heat of the large intestine and, with bacterial action, lead to the production of gases like hydrogen sulphide, indoles, skatoles and mercaptans. It only takes a small amount of these gases to create some really bad smelling flatulence.
Digestive enzymes can help with protein digestion, but ideally consider having smaller portions. Good quality protein is very important for overall health and well being. But large servings of protein, particularly from poor sources like overcooked or processed meats, are unlikely to be digested well.
It’s worse than just wasting all that excess protein when you have a massive steak or huge burger. Too much protein puts a real strain on your whole digestive system and can lead to numerous health problems. It’s also a major cause of those really smelly farts. So go easy on the meat. Quality over quantity makes for better digestive health and less flatulence problems.
Take A Little Extra Time Eating
Taking our time eating and chewing our food well, particularly in meals with protein, starts the digestion process off properly and increases the likelihood of the food being absorbed in the small intestine. Rushed eating and not chewing food properly on the other hand often causes digestive problems. By hurrying a meal down we risk a good portion of it ending up undigested in the large intestine.
The more undigested food that we send to our colon, the more the billions of bacteria down there go crazy turning it into excessive flatus gas. When we have smaller meals and take our time, rather than eating too fast, we are much less likely to be feeding them so well. Additionally, poorly digested food is a major cause of constipation.
Eating more slowly also helps reduce stomach gas and bloating from swallowed air and gives a feeling of fullness and satisfaction after a meal that eating quickly rarely does. In this way, slowing down how we eat often leads to losing weight.
Life can be pretty busy sometimes, but eating is one of those things that are really worth slowing down for and taking the time to taste and enjoy. Your body will thank you for it later.