Pizza is legit one of my favorite foods. But have you ever wondered how long it takes for you to digest it?
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We’ll take a look at how pizza gets digested and how you can use mindfulness to better digest it. Pizza is actually a perfect food to incorporate a principle of The Mindful Gut®…eating with intention.
Pizza starts digesting as soon as you start chewing
Carbohydrate digestion begins in the mouth so the second that beautiful slice of pizza hits your tongue you will begin to digest your pizza.
There are two types of digestion in the mouth: mechanical and chemical digestion.
All digestion technically starts in the mouth because chewing is a form of mechanical digestion but chemical digestion is where the magic happens and pizza starts chemical digestion in the mouth.
In your saliva, there is an enzyme called amylase and it starts the process to chemically break down the carbohydrates that you find in pizza.
It’s not just the pizza crust that gets digested with your first bite.
Anything that has carbs will start digestion with amylase so that includes the carbs you find in cheese or toppings like mushrooms or pineapple.
The majority of your pizza gets digested in the small intestine. That is where the action is. In fact, the majority of your food gets chemically digested here.
How to use mindfulness to help you digest pizza
To help your gut better digest pizza you want to take a step back and look at the whole eating experience. For example, the type of pizza you have and even the foods you eat with it can influence the time it spends in your stomach.
Here are a few things to consider.
What pizza crust are you having?
Is your pizza Detroit-style? Chicago? Neapolitan?
Pizza crust can also influence digestion. A thicker style dough like Chicago might feel a bit heavier than if you ate Neapolitan.
So even if carbohydrate digestion starts in the mouth it isn’t finished there. Carb digestion continues in the small intestine and food can take time to get there, hours. A heavier meal, like pizza with a thicker dough, can make you feel fuller quicker and like your digestion is taking longer.
If you go for a thicker dough pizza and you feel it takes a while to digest, try going for a walk after dinner and choose a non-carbonated drink with your pizza.
Are you having some protein with your pizza?
If you’re noticing that you feel hungry not long after eating pizza you’re not alone.
Protein is the nutrient that makes you feel the fullest and can help you feel satisfied for hours after eating. Cheese does have protein but most pizzas are going to be lacking this nutrient so you might feel hungry not long after eating.
The crust on your pizza can also play a role here because it can change the ratio of carbs to protein. You’ll find more carbs in a thicker dough pizza so it won’t be odd if you feel kind of hungry sooner than you would think while at the same time feeling kind of full.
Add some protein to your pizza by pairing it with a side of wings (just maybe not spicy wings if you get acid reflux or sensitive to fried foods) or get an appetizer with some protein.
Pizza and beer?
Combining pizza with carbonated drinks could leave your stomach feeling a little heavy.
Carbonated drinks are more likely to make you burp, feel some indigestion, or a little bloating. Whether that be soda or an ice-cold beer the carbonation can mean gas collects in your gut.
Even if you’re not drinking something bubbly you also want to watch out for straws. Drinking out of a straw can bring air into your digestive system making you feel like you have to burp.
Am I saying don’t ever have a soda or beer with your pizza? Not at all. If you choose to have either drink you can help your digestion by skipping the straw, making sure you chew your food well, and limiting carbonated drinks.
How are you eating your pizza?
Pizza is one of the best party foods so chances are when you have pizza you’re enjoying it with friends or family.
When we eat with others it’s easier for us to eat a bite or two too much. Talking a lot when you’re eating can mean you take in air between bites. Talking a lot can also have similar effects to drinking out of a straw; you may feel like you have to burp a lot after eating.
Enjoy our pizza and your time with loved ones. Take a couple of deep breaths before your first bite to help you relax. Take one slice of pizza at a time to help you eat more intentionally and slower.
Enjoy your pizza
The Mindful Gut® is all about finding your version of gut-friendly foods and when it comes to pizza this food is no exception.
You will start digesting pizza the minute you take your first bite. To help your gut better digest your pizza make sure to consider all these factors: crust, protein, your drink, and how you’re eating it.
Next time you go out for a slice of pizza keep in mind the tips in this blog post. Mix and match the tips to make your pizza party the best for you.
Amanda is a pizza loving registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in mindfulness and gut health. She quickly realized that gut health goes beyond the gut; it is also about honoring our gut feelings. She is the creator of The Mindful Gut™ which uses science and strategy to help people improve their gut health.