The Beginning of Digestion

The value of tasting what we are taking into our digestive organs is a very simple principle that can easily be lost in the age of pills.  Pills as a storage and delivery system are one of the wonderful modern inventions that allow us to easily transport and consume different supplements and herbs.  They even allow us to help our patients consume herbs with a very strong flavor when they can’t handle the taste.  In my clinic I like to have my patients carry around pills to protect their digestion when they are out and can’t eat properly.  I have very good results and compliance with this technique, but the real healing happens when they take the raw herbs, which might not taste great.  This variation in clinical outcomes is due to a few different reasons, but one of them is because digestion starts in the brain.  The brain uses the vagus nerve to regulate the cephalic phase of gastric secretion through information that it receives.  This information can come in the form of sight, smell and hunger ques, but one of the best activations of this system is found in the taste of food.  Our tongue acts as the ambassador of our stomach and is the first one to meet the new visitors that will be staying in our GI tract.  As the taste of food is revealed, the tongue communicates with the brain which will prepare our GI tract to receive it.  This allows our digestive process to work as efficiently as possible, but this isn’t the only benefit of the flavors of food or herbs.  One of the best benefits is the production of saliva.  Salvia springs forth out of six salivary wells and acts as a life giving river for our mouth and digestion.  The Classical Chinese texts even give very specific instruction on salvia cultivation and they refer to it as, the “golden dew” and “elixir of life”.  This is because saliva contains an important mix of electrolytes, enzymes, immunoglobulins and many other chemicals that are important for oral and digestive help.  The enzymes found within help to start digesting our food, as well as support our immune system by breaking down harmful bacterias.  They can even break down slippery biofilms which hide pathogenic bacterias who are looking to set up shop and steal valuable resources.  This is just a small snapshot of the benefits of taste, and this is what I remind myself when I drink herbs that have a strong unpleasant flavor.  If you would like more information please send me an email and I will be glad to share it with you.

Dr. Daniel Finley Phd. Lac.

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