The mouth is a truly amazing space that serves a very unique set of functions:
- It is a receptacle for receiving solids and liquids
- It is our mechanism for mastification (chewing) of the foods we consume
- It is the place where saliva and digestive materials are mixed together
Did you know that approximately three pints of saliva are produced each day?
The mouth can also have issues that painfully remind us to take care of it.
- Teeth Problems: includes cavities and pyrea (gum disease).
- Canker Sores: normally small, painful lesions that develop in your mouth or at the base of your gums.
Issues with the mouth are bound to cause discomfort and pain. They can make eating, drinking, and talking uncomfortable.
Another mouth problem people can experience is dry mouth.
Dry mouth is a sign of dehydration and can even indicate Sjogren’s Syndrome (pronounced show-grins sin-drome). When Sjogren’s Syndrome is suspected, a person will usually experience dryness in their eyes, tear ducts, vagina or joints as well as experience a dry mouth.
A presence of increased silicone in the body is conducive to Sjogren’s Syndrome. Too much silicone can be a result of breast implants or products within the work environment, given the right conditions.
Silicone blocks the flow of moisture in the body and is difficult to clear out.
What the Mouth Does
The mouth provides obvious benefits such as a receptacle for food and drink, a place for audible sound (sometimes inaudible) to escape, and a place where Mom’s can easily check temperatures of their little ones.
But what role does the mouth play in health? After all, it breaks down the foods we consume into such tiny morsels until those morsels slide down a massively small canal and into the stomach. It is an immensely strong piece of equipment.
But in order for the body to utilize the food we consume, it first has to digest that food (and liquids). And that’s where the mouth stands front-and-center.
Because digestion begins in the mouth, well before food reaches the stomach. When we see, smell, taste, or even imagine a tasty meal, our salivary glands in front of the ear, under the tongue, and near the lower jaw begin making saliva.
As the teeth tear and chop the food, saliva moistens it for easy swallowing. A digestive enzyme called amylase (pronounces am-a-laze) starts to break down some of the carbohydrates (starches and sugars) in the food before it leaves the mouth.
When food leaves the mouth it moves into the throat (pharynx pronounced fair-inks). The pharynx is a passageway for food and air. A soft flap of tissue called the epiglottis (ep-ih-GLAH-tus) closes over the windpipe when we swallow to prevent choking. When you feel that choking sensation and begin coughing when you’ve eaten something too fast, it is the epiglottis that keeps you from choking to death.
From the throat, food travels down a muscular tube in the chest called the esophagus (e-sof-a-gus). Waves of muscle contractions called peristalis (perry-stall-us) contractions force food down through the esophagus to the stomach. A person normally isn’t aware of the movements of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine that take place as food passes through the digestive tract.
At the end of the esophagus, a muscular ring or valve called a sphincter (sfink-ter) allows food to enter the stomach and then squeezes shut to keep food or fluid from flowing back up into the esophagus.
The stomach muscles churn and mix the food with digestive juices that have acids and enzymes, breaking it into much smaller, digestible pieces. An acidic environment is needed for the digestion that takes place in the stomach.
Why is This Important?
Because the foods we consume do nothing on their own to help us become healthy or sick.
It is the body’s ability to utilize the foods we eat … literally creating a manufacturing environment in which what we eat can be transformed into something the body can use.
The body can’t recognize or utilize a hamburger … it can only recognize and utilize the nutritive value of the hamburger and break it down into proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, sugars, etc. It is these nutrients the body can use to make us stronger, provide more energy, or even cause us to feel lethargic or have a headache.
Your body is different from everybody else’s body since no other body has gone through what you’ve put your body through. We are each unique and as such have unique nutritional needs in order to obtain and maintain homeostatis.
The good news is that all of our bodies recognize the same nutrients. In order for us to understand the nutrients, we’ll need to know how our manufacturing machine handles the foods (nutrients) we provide it.
The mouth is the beginning. Let’s move on to the stomach and see what happens there.
Catherine Smith, ND LMT
Louisiana Massage License _____