Thursday, October 09, 2008

"Chew and Spit" -- a habit you don't want to start

I hear so many people on OH asking if "chewing and spitting" is alright. Basically, instead of actually eating bad food, they want to know if they can chew it up to get the taste of it, then spit it out so it doesn't go into the stomach pouch. 

There was a recent thread on OH with this question and I posted an answer. Since I'm lazy and don't like to type stuff over and over again, I figured I'd post it here too. 

There are two issues with this. 

First, this behavior is the first steps of bulemia and getting into the habit of chewing food and spitting it out can lead to a very serious eating disorder. After WLS we are already dealing with changing the way we relate to food, so we want to instill good habits all along the way and avoid the bad ones as much as possible. 

Second, there's a biological reason not to do this too. Let me see if I can explain it as well as someone else who I originally read it from...When you smell food and when it enters your mouth and you begin to chew, the body goes into Prep Mode to receive food. Your salivary glands produce saliva, your pancreas produces insulin, your liver produces gastric acid and your brain begins to calculate how much nutrition you're about to receive from the food you eat so it can keep track of it's daily needs/calories --- the body is a well tuned machine and it knows how to deal with food when it knows it's coming. But then you spit out the food. Your body still has excess saliva, insulin, gastric acid and it can't figure out why it didn't get the nutrition it thought it was going to get so the brain accountants go nuts. 

Excess insulin in your body causes your appetite to increase so you'll eat more food to soak up all that extra hormone. Excess gastric acid in the stomach -- now released at the Y of your common channel -- can cause indigestion or heartburn or ulcers. And those brain accountants are now doing some creative math to recalculate the nutritional value of food because it thought it was going to get a certain number of calories, but none came, so next time you try to eat that same food the brain thinks you need twice as much to get the same nutrition as it thought it should have gotten last time. 

So not only is the whole "chew and spit" habit a training ground for bulemia, it's also a way to tease your body into thinking it's getting food when it really isn't. Bulemia is a very serious illness and not something you want to play around with. My cousin Teresa died from heart failure brought on by her illness of bulemia. I don't ever want a family to live through what we had to in losing a loved one so young to a disease that can be treated. 

 Please be careful. Be kind to yourself. 



  1. i'm not sure how this would cause bulemia? This has actually helped me quite a bit in my battle with my own eating disorder. I used to binge until it felt like I would literally burst open. I was addicted to food, once sugar was in my system, i was unable to stop. It was killing me, and I could not puke, but i used laxatives instead.

    Chewing and spitting out for a while allowed me to get a taste of what i was craving. Then, because I wasnt getting that chemical reaction from the addictive foods, I would just stop. I made sure that I rinsed my mouth, and ate something healthy to compensate for the digestive juices in my stomach. Now, binging is less and less and I only C&S every so often. But I really believe that this has saved me from a very painful addiction. (but only because I handled it right)

    In a perfect world, nothing would be processed or addictive, but this has helped me a great deal :)

  2. Pam here...

    I keep tabs on my site stats and notice that "chew and spit" is a common keyword search. It's bothered me that it's one of the top searches for my blog.

    And now I get this comment today and it bothers me even more. I hope that my message will help stop people from chewing-spitting and actually seek help for this eating disorder. It is a serious issue that should not be ignored.

    My cousin died as a direct result of bulimia. Her potassium levels dropped so low that her heart simply gave out. She left behind a new husband and a 4 month old son. I don't want any family to ever have to go through what we did when she died.

    I hope that this anonymous poster gets the psychological help she/he needs to face the eating disorder she's battling. No amount of justification can make it OK.

  3. It's not that they're saying chewing and spitting is good at all; it's not. But I suffer from bulimia myself and have found this to be a good way to not purge as much, actually. Instead of eating all the food and the purging it out, just chewing the food and spitting it out is healthy in comparison. It's not healthy compared to just eating normally, but to someone with bulimia it's a step forward. It's about baby steps, and maybe one day I won't purge OR chew and spit. But in the meantime, one is a better alternative to the other and does less damage to your body.

    I'm not saying people who no eating disorder should start chewing and spitting though. But if you want to look to the lesser of two evils...

  4. My name is Kristen Moore Glatstein and I am a graduate student getting my PsyD degree in clinical psychology at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. I am asking you to consider being part of my dissertation study. If you are a woman over the age of 18 who has eating disorder concerns, specifically chewing and spitting, and who would be willing to donate a half hour of your time to fill out an online survey questionnaire, I would really appreciate your help. This study is examining the role that emotions play in women who have eating concerns and who practice chewing and spitting. While there are minimal benefits from participating in this study, there are minimal risks as well. However your participation might help to advance our knowledge of eating disorders in general in women so that we as mental health professionals can develop better ways of identifying and treating these issues.To participate in the survey, simply click the link below and follow the directions from there.


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