Your mouth and digestion
Published: July 17, 2015
We are what we eat! But how does the food you eat become you and especially a healthy you? What happens to the food you have consumed once you have chewed it and swallowed it?
The process of digestion begins in your mouth the second that you put food into it. This process makes nutrients contained in the foods and beverages you consume available for absorption into your body.
Although food only remains in your mouth for a short period of time your mouth not only breaks down your food into pieces small enough to swallow, but also plays host to several other processes.
Together these processes form the first step of the digestive process which ultimately releases essential and non-essential nutrients from the foods and beverages you consume.
Your mouth is a laboratory which initiates a series of chemical reactions which drive the digestive process and which contribute to your health.
The first step of the digestive process in your mouth is the break down of food into smaller pieces which is performed by the combined mechanical action of your teeth, tongue, and jaw. In addition to this mechanical action, your mouth is host to enzymatic action.
As you begin to eat food, and often before you take your first mouthful, your salivary glands release saliva into your mouth (oral cavity).
You have three main salivary glands: parotid, submandibular, and sublingual, which are situated under your jaw bone (below your ear), under your lower jaw, and under your tongue (forward of the submandibular glands in relation to your mouth).
Salivary glands are exocrine glands which secrete saliva through ducts directly into your mouth. Exocrine glands differ in this respect from endocrine glands whose products are secreted into your blood and transported in your blood to other areas of your body.
Aromas and anticipation of food can elicit a salivary response in the absence of food.
Saliva is a fluid that contains water (98%), amylase (a digestive enzyme), electrolytes, mucous, antimicrobial enzymes, and other substances such as hormones and bacterial cells.
Amylase is a carbohydrase enzyme, one of a group of enzymes which hydrolyze carbohydrates (starch). Hydrolysis is a process which splits large molecules into smaller molecules. Amylase splits amylose molecules into dextrins (short chain carbohydrates) and...link to the full article to learn more.
Whitney, E. & Rady Rolfes, S. (2005). Understanding Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth
Gropper, S.S., Smith, J.L. & Groff, J.L. (2005). Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (4thEd.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth