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Home » Mind-Body Medicine » Why Your Saliva May be the Real Reason You Have Digestive Issues

Why Your Saliva May be the Real Reason You Have Digestive Issues

Today l would like to talk about the chewing and the role of saliva from the Taoist and traditional Chinese medicine perspective.

I often find most of my patients with digestive issues tend to have quick eating habit;
No time to enjoy the meal, they almost swallow and get up and go back to work just for survival. They also find themselves changing the eating habit is very difficult and not thinking it causes many health issues.

From the oriental medicine and Taoist perspective, chewing and producing and swallowing saliva are all and respectively important in keeping healthy in mind and body as well.

“The clear well of the mouth and the corolla of a flower of the jade in the body are the pathways of body fluid. Saliva is the spiritual fluid in the body”
– Huangdineijing Lingshu

“If whenever the saliva swells up in the mouth, you gurgle, fill it with the saliva, and swallow it. And if you always have the seed of jujube in the mouth, you will keep your qi.”
-Tao Hongjing(456-536)- Yang xing yan ming lu

Haungdineijing is the father of all the traditional Chinese medicinal books and literally the origin of this medicine. In Huangdineijing it says the saliva is the spiritual fluid.
this implies there is the relationship between your mind- brain function and saliva. To have longevity, don’t spit your saliva, but keep it and swallow it, then your mind will be always clear and your skin never will be dry. Western scientific research has found some relationship between chewing and memory, this is to say, brain activity.

“If five jang is fertile, all the meridians flow well, and all the meridians flow well, saliva is welled up more in the upper part of the mouth, and which will make you not feeling hungry and thirsty although you don’t even drink water and eat food.” – Taishang yangsheng taixi qijing, Taoist cannon, zhengtong daozhang

And also in many taoist practices, swallowing the saliva and hitting teeth is highly recommended.
Therefore if you are interested in practicing taoist way of health life or qigong, try to hitting the teeth 30 times, which will resonate with your brain and swallowing the saliva with feeling it flowing down to your lower dantian ( about 4 finger-width below your belly button) as a first thing in the morning.

Traditional Chinese medicine considers Saliva consisting of xian and tuo, two different fluid from different origins.

Xian relates to the earth, that is to say, spleen qi and Tuo to the water, kidney qi.
In particular, without Xian, you’ll have some problem in tasting food.
Western medicine knows now saliva helps people to taste food now.
Many patients with chronic or acute pain conditions or sleep disorder, stress show the dry mouth, and even dry lips. In these conditions, I often find that acupuncture makes their mouths filled with saliva about 10 minutes after
And during qigong exercise, many people also experience having saliva welling up in the mouth and have to swallow it down. In the qigong class, I hear a lot of swallowing sound.

Saliva has been divided into three different kinds in Ancient taoist teachings, and I found some interesting similarity between western saliva anatomy and eastern.

Western Medicine: where does all this saliva come from?

The parotid glands: These glands, located just under the ears, produce a serous solution. The oral serous solution is clear and watery, and contains the digestive enzyme amylase, also known as ptyalin. It is no wonder that these salivary glands are the ones most associated with carbohydrate digestion. The ducts for these glands are near your upper teeth.
The Sublingual glands: The Submaxillary glands and the Sublingual glands also produce salivary amylase.
The Submaxillary glands: also known as the Submandibular glands, these are located near the jawbone, secrete both serous and mucous saliva

Eastern Medicine:

Kidney qi- yuyi, the sweet jade – saliva in the tongue body
Spleen qi –Liquan, sweet liquor- the tip of the tongue
Lung qi –lingye, spiritual liquid- inside the lips

Now I present the component of the saliva and the benefits of chewing well and saliva from western medicine perspective.
And you are also able to see some of the benefits in those of Taoist perspective above.


• Water (98%)
• Electrolytes:
o 2-21 mmol/L sodium (lower than blood plasma)
o 10-36 mmol/L potassium (higher than plasma)
o 1.2-2.8 mmol/L calcium
o 0.08-0.5 mmol/L magnesium
o 5-40 mmol/L chloride (lower than plasma)
o 25 mmol/L bicarbonate (higher than plasma)
o 1.4-39 mmol/L phosphate
• Mucus. Mucus in saliva mainly consists of mucopolysaccharides and glycoproteins;
• Antibacterial compounds (thiocyanate, hydrogen peroxide, and secretory immunoglobulin A)
• Various enzymes. There are three major enzymes found in saliva.
o ?-amylase (EC3.2.1.1). Amylase starts the digestion of starch and lipase fat before the food is even swallowed. It has a pH optima of 7.4.
o lysozyme (EC3.2.1.17). Lysozyme acts to cause lysis in bacteria.
o lingual lipase (EC3.1.1.3). Lingual lipase has a pH optimum ~4.0 so it is not activated until entering the acidic environment of the stomach.
o Minor enzymes include salivary acid phosphatases A+B (EC3.1.3.2), N-acetylmuramyl-L-alanine amidase (EC3.5.1.28), NAD(P)H dehydrogenase-quinone (EC1.6.99.2), salivary lactoperoxidase (EC1.11.1.7), superoxide dismutase (EC1.15.1.1), glutathione transferase (EC2.5.1.18), class 3 aldehyde dehydrogenase (EC1.2.1.3), glucose-6-phosphate isomerase (EC5.3.1.9), and tissue kallikrein (EC3.4.21.35).
• Cells: Possibly as much as 8 million human and 500 million bacterial cells per mL. The presence of bacterial products (small organic acids, amines, and thiols) causes saliva to sometimes exhibit foul odor.
• Opiorphin, a newly researched pain-killing substance found in human saliva.


• Chewing until the food turns to liquid in the mouth prevents overeating
• Signal letting you body begin to digest.
• Protecting the esophagus
• Well-chewed bits of food are more easily coated with digestive juices once in the stomach.
• The body uses less of its energy to digest well-chewed food than hastily chewed and swallowed food.
• Chewing well also allows the molecules of nutrients from the chewed food to be more quickly released
and assimilated.
• Keeping a food in the mouth longer and chewing it well allows the food’s flavors to be recognized by the tongue. When the tongue recognizes the flavor it sends a message to the brain, which in turn sends messages to the digestive system resulting in the release of the correct digestive juices needed for that food
• Saliva moistens the molecules of dry foods so that we can taste the foods when we eat them.
We are not able to distinguish many flavors in dry food.
• It binds masticated food bits into a bolus, which we can swallow easily.
• It lubricates the esophagus. In fact, the bolus of masticated food never touches or potentially damages the walls of the esophagus
• It is important to oral hygiene. The mouth is almost constantly flushed with saliva, which flushes away food debris and protects your teeth from decay. Saliva can actually kill some bacteria
• Saliva acts as a first defense against bacterial infection. By chewing food well and creating more surface area on which the saliva can act, more potential food-borne bacteria can be killed.

Therefore Start today chewing well with good saliva and even chew the water.
And most of all, give a good smile to your meal.

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