Our mouth is a complex organ, but it is our saliva that is most fascinating.
Saliva is a watery fluid containing protein, salts, digestive enzymes and disease fighting antibodies. Saliva is a very vital part of both our immune and digestive systems!
Here are a few interesting facts you might not know about it: Saliva, a Natural Painkiller?
Our salvia contains a natural painkiller called Opiorphin, this substance is six times more powerful than the pain killer- morphine but without the addictive and psychological side effects.
Most recently, researchers have also found that, Opiorphin may also have important anti-depressant properties. Unfortunately, the exact mechanism of how it works is still under investigation.
Saliva contains enzymes vital for digestion.
Digestion starts before food even hits your lips! The anticipation of food causes our salivary glands to kick into action, releasing digestive enzymes (ptyalin) which are vital for breaking down carbohydrates commonly found in fruit, pasta and dairy.
These enzymes break down complex carbohydrates into smaller, more manageable particles, making digestion easier in the gut later on in the digestive process.
Chewing your food well is important, with each bite taken, more saliva is released. Try chewing each mouthful 10 times to maximise digestion.
Could the amount of saliva you produce be responsible for your bad breath?
Bad breath also known as halitosis can be caused by a number of reasons- including not enough saliva or dry mouth.
Without enough salvia, the bacteria in your mouth which is responsible for that unpleasant odour multiplies quickly.
This issue is particularly bad at night when the production of saliva reduces significantly, allowing the bad bacteria to grow rapidly, which is why you generally wake up with bad breath in the morning. This is the reason why brushing your teeth before we going to bed and first thing in the morning is so important.
Furthermore, some medication can cause a dry mouth and reduce saliva production. These include anti-depressants, antihistamines (used to treat hayfever and allergies) and beta- blockers (used to reduce blood pressure) as the most common offenders.
Finally, fad diets and not eating enough can be another cause of bad breath. This is normally due to two reasons.
When you aren’t eating, you aren’t chewing and stimulating your salivary glands; which means all those nasty bacteria can run wild, without saliva to keep it at bay.
If you are on a very low carbohydrate diet or in starvation mode your body converts fat to ketones. Ketone breath often smells very sweet and almost like acetone or nail polish remover. Recommendations:
- Stay hydrated- drinking water helps rid your mouth of residual food and helps lubricate the mouth.
- If your mouth becomes dry, try sugar free gum or hard candy
- Avoid mouth washes that contain alcohol as they can have a dehydrating effect.
- Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day and don’t forget to floss daily!
- Too much sugar feeds the bad bacteria, consume a balanced diet.
Jessica Ammendolia writes her weekly health column for The Area News.