What Are the Health Effects of Chewing and Spitting Out Food?
I've been chewing and spitting out food as a way to manage weight. At first, I would do it every once in a while, when there was a special dessert or something, to get the taste without the calories. Now, I've started spitting more often. I eat regular, healthy meals three times a day — lots of fruits, lean proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats. I am on the swim team at school, so I get lots of exercise. I spit to get the taste of foods — mostly sweets (cake, cookies, brownies, etc.) and bread.
What are the health effects of chewing and spitting? I know it can't be good for me, even though I am getting a lot of good nutrition from the foods I actually swallow. Also, I read online that you start digesting sugars in the mouth so a lot of the calories are still being absorbed into your body without swallowing. Is this true?
It's true that chewing starts the digestive process. Even if you spit a food out, your saliva has already begun to break down the sugars.
People who chew and spit out food can end up with dental problems, including cavities and gum disease. Chewing food also signals stomach acids to kick in, ready to do their job of digesting food. But without the actual food to digest, this may cause stomach problems.
Some calories in the food you chew will be absorbed into your body — how many depends on the type of food, how long the food is in your mouth, and how much you might swallow. What's interesting is that many people who chew and spit food end up gaining, not losing, weight. Why? Experts don't know for sure, but it's likely that people who try too hard to restrict calories or certain foods end up compensating by overeating later. And, depending on how often you chew and spit, your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs.
Chewing and spitting out food is a sign of disordered eating. A habit like this may not sound serious, but chewing and spitting out food can be the start of unhealthy attitudes toward food and may be part of a more serious eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.
It's best not to think of certain foods as "forbidden." Instead, eat a food in moderation rather than eating lots of it but spitting it out. There's nothing wrong with treating yourself to the occasional indulgence — especially because you are so active and a healthy eater in general.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: April 2010
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.