Episode 47: Food Forces
Description: How ‘Mechanically Nutritious’ is Your Diet?
K: It’s the Katy Says podcast, where movement geek, Dani Hemmat joints biomechanist, Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA for discussions on body mechanics, movement nutrition, natural movement, and how movement can be the solution to modern ailments we all experience.
D: Woo hoo!
K: Let’s hear it for the intro!
D: Oo-ooh! That’s good. Did you change it up?
D: That’s okay, it’s still good.
K: Verbatim. Word for word.
D: I think we have it down pat now.
K: Now we need to change it.
D: Maybe. Let’s do that. Let’s just say, Dani Hemmat, author of Move Your DNA. Let’s just mix it up, just a little bit.
K: Yeah, key pieces.
D: See if anybody’s paying attention.
K: Right, right.
D: Well, today is the Food Forces episode. Luke! And I’m so excited, because we all eat, and when we eat for better health, usually most of the time we’re thinking, oh, I need more vitamin D, and fiber, and the good fats. I need the good fats! And stuff like that – but there’s more to food forces than that, right? It’s not just about eating the vitamins. There’s more stuff.
K: Yeah, I guess I like to say that there’s more nutrition – like, if we talk about nutritious movement, like, we have this idea of mechanical nutrients, so there are nutrients – beneficial inputs – that can be organically innate – or are organically innate to eating specifically a natural diet. So that the food that you find in nature – which we’ll talk about, but yeah. There are lots of movements – or if you just want to talk about movements, we can talk about forces because it makes a nice alliteration with food forces, but it’s really food takes a lot more movement – it can – we’ve outsourced quite a bit of the mechanical nutrition found in food.
D: Mechanical nutrition. I love that.
K: Yeah, yeah.
D: Mechanical nutrition.
K: Yeah, so food has become not as mechanically nutritious as it once was.
K: I know.
D: Chew on that, everybody. (ding!)
K: Let the puns begin. So I was thinking of all the things to cover in this one –
D: I know!
K: There’s a lot. So you know, there’s breast – I don’t know how much we can talk about breastfeeding today, but breastfeeding being this big phase of mechanical nutrition. It’s mechanical nutrition. It’s not just the breast milk; it’s how – what the baby is doing movement-wise to get the breast milk. How bottle-feeding is different than breastfeeding, mechanically. And we go on to later years – chewing the food, right? We hardly – I mean, baby food is what? It’s just like soft mush in a bottle, and then we all kind of steam or cook or blend or are using some sort of electricity or device or buying food already basically mechanically digested. Not digested. It’s mechanically processed so that you don’t have to do the physical labor with your body – either your arms or your legs, that’s important to that part of food processing. But also with your jaw more specifically. I think that we’re going to have to focus the show on something. Let me just put this idea out there –
K: Most of the food that you eat has been gotten and prepared for you by the physical labor of someone else: stooping, bending, picking, and throwing. We got that. But then mashing, cooking – back before –
K: Yes. Skinning, rubbing vigorously, soaking – you know, all of these things – if you’ve ever even, if you’re doing a little bit of homesteading, you’re getting used to maybe grinding your own coffee in a mill or whatever. So much of the food, if you just over the next day or so pay attention to what you’re eating, you’re going to see that it’s coming – it’s been mechanically processed, either by another person to some extent, or by a machine operated by another person. And so all of those are outsourcings of movement that you’ve done that has been done for you so that you can get the chemical compounds – but this show, my larger message is that movement is so tied up with food that we’ve completely separated those things. Now you can just buy minerals in a bottle. You can drive to the store to get a plastic bottle of just supplements, you know, like there’s nothing about that that’s – there’s no more natural-ness. There’s no more natural relationship, like the ecology of movement and food has been significantly broken.
D: Yeah, wow.
K: Anyway. So setting aside all the arms and muscles and legs and bending and other stuff, you know – I’ve written posts on that before, you can check those out. Let’s just talk about, I guess, the food getting in your mouth and exiting your body. We’ll talk about that – we’ll narrow it down to that. So chewing.
K: You know, chewing is – let’s talk about chewing.
D: Well, let’s talk about it. I mean, I have a personal anecdote about chewing.
K: Tell me.
D: So as you know, we talked about earlier – or late last year, I wanted to go see an Ayurvedic practitioner. So I did, in January, and she told me all sorts of very interesting things, but the most important thing that she impressed was the most important was: chew your food. And I’m like, yeah, I do. And she’s like, “No. You have to chew your food, until it’s liquid paste.” Well, okay, that takes forever.
K: You’re like, all this movement!
D: All this movement, and I came from a family where everyone really wolfed their food down, you know. We ate so quickly. I really had to concentrate, and then it took a couple weeks to get into the grind of it. (ding!) It’s crazy – since I started chewing my food, like, it takes me forever to finish a meal. I’m the old person at the table; I’m just chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing. I have lost 16 pounds since mid-January. Just freaking chewing my food. I mean, it all starts in the mouth.
K: Yeah, I mean, it could definitely start there. I guess if you want to make that your starting point, but yes. I think that that could work for a lot of reasons: 1) I mean, gosh, this is going off the forces thing, but just the idea that you know, the time for eating, consuming food – for satiation to kick in, that type thing, if you just slow down – my dad used to, he chews everything. He’s just a naturally kind of lean, non-overeater. He has no food anything. He chews it all. He’s just always like, oh, you chew every bite 20 times. This is what he does. He’s literally the 89-year-old man at the table. He’s at the table, but he was like that when he was 50 and 60. He just chews. I read this really great paper on leaves. The breakdown of leaves, and so a leaf – a leaf, there’s no v in leaf – a leaf is made of plant cells, so you’ve got this cellulose wall around the nutrients that are inside. Just an insoluble fiber, and I apologize to any chemist out there for trying to explain chemistry. But from the mechanical perspective, they were saying that a giraffe grabbing a handful – I’m sorry – a mouthful of leaves off of a tree, right? So it’s just like slowly breaking them down – the amount by which you can break down a leaf is going to be dependent on your jaw size. So a giraffe is only going to extract the nutrients from the leaf, really where they’re able to saw through the walls with their teeth. They were looking at a bug – I’m just making up a bug because I can’t remember – say a caterpillar – the caterpillar’s jaws are so small it’s working through every single cell. It’s just – it’s like, it was the difference between eating a box filled with corn flakes and just eating the box or eating a box and every single cornflake. And that’s what a bug is doing: mechanically, the bug is going to get – it’ll get less total volume of the leaf, but it can get more nutrition from that leaf because it’s just slowly mowing through every single cell because of its jaws. I was just like –
K: Yeah, it was. And I was also reading some other place – not an academic journal – about this idea that humans, you know, are different than cattle. We’re not grazing through tons of grains, and just breaking them all down and masticating and masticating. And so we use a blender to be able to get more nutrients, because the blender is breaking down all of that cell wall. But then I was thinking, I wonder – we did used to masticate a lot more than we do now, you know what I mean?
K: That chewing your food –
D: Well, because it just used to be less processing, less cooking –
K: Well, and the diet was different, the diet was different, you know, over a human timeline and then I guess outside of what are now modern humans. Their diet must have been radically different and you were just physically chewing more and more often. You didn’t have an abundance of food, so maybe chewing your food well had to do with extracting more from it. So, anyway. That’s it. That question is for a biochemist, I guess.
D: Yeah. There’s a new series on Netflix by Michael Pollan, the guy with the Omnivore’s Dilemma, and it’s called Cooked. He explores our relationship with procuring food and things like that. He was interviewing a primatologist who spent a day trying to eat what a gorilla eats, and he was just like, you’re chewing all day long because the stuff that they’re eating. And he couldn’t even keep up with it. He couldn’t get enough for his own nutrition, and his face got tired, too.
K: Well, also we – again, it’s like walking barefoot for the first time.
K: It’s like the equivalent to wearing shoes your entire life on your feet, we’ve got these weak, atrophied feet. Your face is just weak atrophy. Your face shape is not the shape it would have been had you breastfed a particular way – not just breastfed or drank breast milk, but there’s a very specific frequency to breastfeeding that’s different than how, again, we do it in more western cultures where you’re just doing it every – like, you’re breastfeeding extremely frequently but for shorter durations. So the distribution of loads is different. So all breastfeeding – breastfeeding is a category with a wide variance of mechanical inputs. And then also for a much longer period of time, you know, not 6 months but multiple years and sometimes upwards of, I don’t know, 5 years in some places. And then, also, again, chewing the food – chewing food for longer because it’s not all broken down for you.
K: So lots of weaknesses in the jaw and the face, in the tongue – because it’s not used for anything.
K: And then also – let’s move on to tongue. Let’s talk about the tongue. Because we could just keep talking about chewing. We should just – we should have chewed gum through this entire podcast.
D: Oh, that would sound awesome. Everybody would just love that.
K: We’d get a one star rating, like, this is the worst thing I’ve ever had to listen to. Okay. So tongue –
D: All right, tongue. Let’s talk tongue, then. So it’s made for more than just French kissing and sticking out at cranky people?
D: Well, what? The tongue, what does the tongue do?
K: What else is there to do with your tongue?
D: I know!
K: So the tongue is really a group of muscles – 8, I think it’s 8 muscles – and there’s extrinsic and intrinsic muscles, but the muscles are attaching – they’re attaching to lots of other structures: bony structures in the skull, your palate, your throat. Like, all of that’s connected, and so the tongue is – I mean, it’s part of the eating process. It’s also – gosh, it’s part of keeping you safe. It’s really like a safety mechanism. So I feel like –
D: Is that so?
K: Well, I feel like, again, with everything to do with motor and eating, we go back to the earliest phase. So breastfeeding – so here’s the difference, for those of you who are interested, between breastfeeding at the breast and feeding at a bottle: you’re not actually sucking. I think a lot of people think you’re just sucking milk, but if you’ve ever – have you milked a cow before? Have you milked anything?
K: Have you milked a cat?
D: Yeah. Where you kind of just work it. You work it.
K: You’re working it, right? You’re drawing the milk down and it’s like this rolling mechanism. So when infants are nursing, they’re working their tongues quite hard to massage or bring the milk down. And it’s – it’s swallowing, but the tongue is actually working hard to get the milk to come from the breast through the nipple. When you’re bottle feeding, the milk’s just pouring out, so the tongue doesn’t have to work, and so that’s why when you are – when an infant is bottle feeding, why it’s difficult to go back to breastfeeding is because they’ve experienced getting milk essentially for free. So they’re like, why buy the cow? Why do I have to – why do I have to do all this work when all I had to do was use my tongue to stop the flow of milk? Like, they’ll hold their tongue and just move their tongue to let the milk come into their mouths. So it’s a significant difference of work, even though they’re both breast milk, one is easy and one is hard. So human nature – I don’t know, I want to go for the easy one, because it’s difficult to get kids to work for it once they’ve experienced not working for it. Like all of us, in everything.
K: So it’s a quite natural reflex. So also, another thing is that kids will put everything into their mouths, all the time. I’m talking about babies. One way of exploring is by putting everything in their mouth, but they’re not just putting it in their mouth, they are strengthening their tongue around various textures to have the strength for that particular texture. So it’s very similar to – gosh, it’s like Whole Body Barefoot when I talk about texture walking and how the mobility of your feet is – the only way that the mobility of the feet is challenged well is by walking over lots of textures. Every texture is a different shape for the foot to assume, right? Same with the tongue: everything that you put in the mouth with a different texture is a different shape for the tongue to assume. So as babies, they’re not just putting things in their mouth; they’re cross-training their tongue. They’re cross-training their entire mouth to be sensitive for all different textures.
D: That’s pretty cool.
K: Because their ability to get something out of their mouth, and cough and get it out of their mouth – their ability to safely negotiate and have autonomous ability to not choke depends on them putting lots of things in their mouth. That’s the weird paradox is you have to let kids put things in their mouths in order to get them to a state in which they are able to get things out of their mouths forcefully and well. So there is a, you know, the whole, “don’t let your kids put anything in their mouths” and so kids have very low oral motor abilities to – and then eventually they can come in to – my best friend is a speech pathologist and she deals with all these things. So I’ve taken some of her clinics and followed her around with lots of these, like, different feeding workshops where you have to let other people feed you just to realize how horrible it is to have other people stick things in your face. Like, get that out of my face – I have no control over that situation. It’s just fascinating.
D: Wow, I never thought about that.
K: I could write a whole book. I mean, when you sit at a table and have someone else feed you things that they’re choosing at a rate that they’re choosing, it’s very uncomfortable. It’s – it was eye opening. That’s why I never fed my kids that way.
D: Eye opening and mouth closing.
K: Exactly. Jaw clenching. Anyway: food forces. So there are a lot of kids who, because they didn’t have this phase of putting things in their mouth, they don’t have the strength – they can’t – when something gets in their mouth accidentally, they don’t have the shape and strength of the tongue ready to go to flick that thing out or to cough it or expel it out, because it’s just a deconditioned tongue. So that’s why a lot of baby toys will come with 5 or 6 different textures, because every shape that you put in your mouth results in a different shape of this – you know, your tongue is like 8 muscles – its configuring. And if you eat and watch what your tongue is doing while you’re eating – if you pay attention to it, you’ll see that your tongue is just subtly feeling where the food needs to go to bring it up to teeth. You know, if you have a sore tooth or a sore tongue, it’s very adept at avoiding that and it’s still processing food without touching your canker sore or whatever. So it’s just like – I always think of the tongue and the foot as very similar. They’re similar in function – I mean, they’re overall function, one’s walking and one’s eating, but in terms of like, if you can understand how dynamic and fluid the foot is, and how by responding by texture beneath it it’s able to reposition your entire body for safe and effective walking, the tongue is similar to that.
K: Yeah, it’s a hydrostat. The tongue is a hydrostat, which means – it’s like a –
D: What’s that?
K: A hydrostat is a particular physics principle; it’s just a solid structure that can become an entirely different shape without really losing or changing its mass. So an elephant’s trunk, or the way that an octopus’ not legs – what is it – tentacles are similar to a hydrostat – can assume many different shapes is related to what it comes into contact with, so lots of bland food, lots of smooth things leave the tongue fairly deconditioned to deal with anything else. And then a lot of people will have texture aversions. Kids will have texture aversions because they didn’t go through this phase of putting, you know, 400 different textures in their mouths, so they’re conditioned for like, only smooth or whatever, and they’re not able to deal with any other type ones. So then you get feeding therapy, which is another type of – like the speech pathologist will do feeding strength. That’s part of what they’re doing is to condition the strength of the tongue to deal with other things.
D: Wow. I need to give my tongue way more credit than I have been. Complex creature. Wow.
K: It is.
D: Well, this might be a good place, then, for a movement break – but do you have anything we can do for our face or our jaws or our tongues or our necks?
K: You know, tongue – one of my favorite tongue exercises –
D: Because right now I’m sticking my tongue out at you, you see?
K: Yes, exactly. All the tongue – because the tongue is connected to so many other parts of your body, one of the things that I do – like, headaches are my thing. If I get any sort of issue, it’ll always be a headache. But it often comes, ironically, after doing lots of talking or recording where I’m, like, thinking and tensing and I use my voice, and I get very tense around the throat. So I will actually stretch my throat out by doing different tongue exercises. So I’ll take my tongue and I’ll stick it as far forward as I can, really trying to pull all the way down in my throat, and then I will fold my tongue back so that it’s trying to point back towards my throat, and I’ll kind of do it at different angles, to the right and to the left, just to stretch out underneath the right side of my tongue or the right side of my throat, and then I’ll do that for the left side. So it’s kind of a weird – and talk at the same time – stick your tongue all the way down and out towards the floor, kind of like, like a Maori. So I do that – and we’re doing that, it’s weird, it’s kind of a moist sounding radio.
D: You could say that.
K: Sorry. Okay.
D: Not a good word. Well, thank you! Next time I see you I’m going to teach you a little neck massage trick, too, but I have to show you.
D: Okay, we’ve got – teeth to chew, tongue. Probably facial muscles next, or where do we go from there?
K: Chewing, right? So chewing isn’t only using your tongue, it’s using your jaw.
D: Did you ever watch the documentary where the guy drank everything?
D: Okay. This guy, I don’t know, he went on a totally veg and fruit liquid diet, and – Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. That’s what it was. Something like that. Anyway, for like 6 months, or whatever, 9 months they followed him around and all he’s doing is drinking his meals. At the very end, he tries to eat an apple and the look on his face and what his face is doing is hilarious, and I noticed right away, it’s like, he forgot – this is – he atrophied! That 9 months or whatever of just sucking on a straw and drinking his smoothie, chewing was a tremendous effort for this little apple. I guess we have to kind of condition like you were talking about.
K: It’s a muscle. It’s a skeletal muscle – like everything else: use it or lose it. And also you have to keep in mind that the bones that those muscles are attached to depend on that muscle use in the early years for shape. In the early years, part of how you are getting your shape is how you are using your body. So – I mean, there’s basic things like, we have an issue right now where people’s teeth don’t fit in their jaw. Why are our jaws too small for our teeth? Is this a modern phenomenon?
D: Is it?
K: That’s what orthodontia is.
D: Well, I know, but I just never thought about that. Oh, my gosh.
D: You’re blowing my mind.
K: I mean, that’s in Move Your DNA. Your teeth are expressing, in terms of their shape, phylogenetically, like, it’s a genetic thing. But your jaw – and your jaw is similar, but it is bone and it is more adaptable to your behavior than your teeth are. And so if you pair up your teeth that are coming through at their size and a jaw that has muscles that have done no chewing their entire life, then you get a jaw that is too small for your teeth.
K: Boom! And whatever the bill is for all the orthodontia.
K: Luckily we have – I mean we have doctors who can deal with it, but basically we have a medical intervention that most people get simply because of – I mean, it’s kind of like the nearsightedness. Eventually – I mean –
K: Because nearsightedness – myopia – you can listen to the myopia show, which is the last show – or a couple shows ago. Because it didn’t happen in our lifetime, it’s like, look at this new, crazy thing. Well, we just happened to grow up where everyone we knew got braces, and it’s a normal thing. But it is – it is a huge, biological intervention because of something that we’re not getting and so it’s just – it’s just, it’s a lack of use. And then a lot of people have things like jaw pain and teeth grinding. These are other things, and I have a hypothesis, which is one of the reasons people are clenching their jaw so much, it’s stress and, you know, it’s a response to stress. But part of the stress that you’re experiencing is huge, underused muscles in your face that are really equipped and have a history – not yours, but jaw muscles in general – have a history of being used aggressively through the day to being not used at all. So it’s kind of the way your legs feel after sitting in a car ride for 1 or 3 days, imagine how your legs would feel after being able to but not being moved for their entire lives or very minimally. So for me, when I notice that I clench or grind my teeth a lot, I’ve actually gone to tea tree oil sticks, and I chew or work them a lot. Because I don’t have to chew my food – I mean, I eat a lot of raw.
K: I’m just saying. It’s not like I don’t have to chew my food. I am like you listening, like, I eat a lot of manually processed food. I’ve switched over to eating lots of things that require lots of mastication, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near the norm for your biology. And so all I have to do is get these – they’re like tea tree oil sticks that are made specifically for tooth health, for gum health, for jaw health. So I chew on them – so yes, I get the mastication – it’s wood. A lot of cultures around the world chew on sticks all day long to keep their teeth healthy from particular trees. I just chew on them, and what it does is it relaxes the muscles of my jaw because they’ve been exercised, and then they relax all night long and I don’t grind my teeth at night. I do that with my kids, too – “here’s your toothpicks.”
D: Yeah, that’s what I was going to ask. What’s the size of the – because I’ve seen the tea tree oil toothpick.
K: It’s a toothpick. It’s a tea tree oil toothpick.
D: Oh, okay.
K: You could probably do it with anything that’s out there, it’s just that I don’t know all of the trees and the sticks to know what’s toxic to chew on or not. So I just go to the store and get tea tree oil sticks, because I know that they have been – that they’re safety has been evaluated for me. So we do that a lot, and it just helps you relax your jaw.
D: Yeah, probably when you were a kid, you did like a lot of us did and you were walking home through a field or whatever and you just grab a bunch of grass.
K: Sour grass. And then everyone’s like –
D: Yeah, it’s really hard and you just chomp and chomp and chomp, and it’s like –
K: That’s a natural kid thing, right? That seems to be a natural kid thing of just picking and chewing, kind of like a cow. You’re just constantly putting things in your mouth and then everyone’s like, dogs pee on that, and I’m like, I don’t care! And like, sour grass, man.
D: The goal isn’t to eat it or ingest it, you’re just chewing.
K: Well, I don’t even know what the goal is. I mean, I would say that my goal was because I preferred the taste, but what I think it is and what it actually is – there was a – all the kids in our neighborhood, you know, 40 kids were all attracted to that same thing of putting it in their mouth. I was hiking – gosh, last year when I was in California, and I was like, sour grass! And all of us were eating it and chewing it as we were hiking – which all of a sudden makes the hike better, if there’s snacks. Dog urine covered snacks everywhere you go. And then this other family of a woman my age, she was like, sour grass, oh my gosh, we used to chew on this all the time. So that’s 2 different states, 2 different populations around the same generation but people were just, kids were just chewing and sticking things in their mouth and wanted to be milling. It’s like milling – I have a book – I actually wrote this in, there’s a few podcasts – blog posts that I’ve written about this. But I read a good anatomy book where they broke down the anatomy of the jaw, and I was like, you know, before there were mills that were grinding everything, your mill was your jaws. And so you have the heritage of millage capability that you have in your jaw is just mismatched with what you actually ask it to do, which is almost nothing. So would you expect to see the density and the shape, which is robusticity of the bone that’s inadequate and muscles that are underused and red flags in that area to something not being right.
D: I guess just a person could start paying attention, you know, what is the texture, what is the consistency of everything that I’m putting in my mouth, and start to mix it up just like you would transitioning to a minimal shoe or barefoot.
K: Exactly. Exactly. Well said. And then, just, you know, you don’t always have to chop and cook your carrots. Like, I just started putting whole vegetables in my kids’ lunch. Like, here you go. So it saves time – it saves time, but like, why am I cutting it? I’m cutting it because that’s what carrot sticks look like.
K: It’s like, a whole carrot. Hold it, chew it, break it. See what a carrot looks like – and again, this is a stacking your life type thing. It’s a way of going, a lot of what we do is not really for biological reasons, it’s just because it’s how it’s always been done.
K: I’ve freed up a lot of my - Here’s a bowl of oats! Chew it! I’m not even going to cook it for you. Just kidding. I don’t do that, but my dad will say that he prefers raw oats, because he grew up, as a kid – this was, you know, 90 years ago –
K: He grew up working on a farm and he chewed oats all day, because there was breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was no snacks in between, so he would just pop a couple oats in his mouth. He was like, you would just chew on that for 20 minutes, and so he, too – maybe that’s the sour grass of the 1930s was oats. So it’s just, again, you know, it’s just a slow – now we have gum, right? So people chew gum all day long, so maybe chewing is more innate if there’s a whole industry around putting something in your mouth that’s – that you’re just constantly using your jaw. But I don’t know if I would use gum so much as I would just use a plant that’s out there so you could do it.
D: Well, just mix it up, you know. Mix it up. Get a toothpick, get a plant. Get some oats, have a party. So.
K: The worst party ever.
D: All right.
K: So what else?
D: I’m moving up – what about head position when you’re eating, where your head is on your neck? Do you want to go there?
K: Yeah, well, let’s go there quickly. So it’s just – I was thinking of doing this experiment. I think it’s challenging to get people to buy in – not any of you listening, but to a lot of other people – that forces matter when it comes to our physiology. Like, it’s just such – I think for some it’s a radical idea of going, you know, why does pelvic tilt matter? Why does a Squatty Potty matter? Why are there positions that allow you to work more easily with the gravitational force where you’re not having to strain or put in additional forces? So I was just thinking of going, well, why doesn’t everyone fill their mouth up with a drink and then go hang – like, let their head hang off their bed so you can feel what swallowing uphill feels like. That’s a real – it’s an extreme, but I think education sometimes has to be put at the extremes to cut through the “it doesn’t matter what position I’m in” argument.
K: I’m like, okay, well, let’s go upside down. Does it matter? Okay, well, if it matters when you’re upside down, let’s start considering that it matters in other degrees between being upside down and right side up. All of it matters. So with the head and neck, what did – did you call it text neck?
K: Forward head.
D: Forward head, yeah.
K: I learned this in my undergrad, I took a class in gerontology. That one of the – I don’t know if it’s a Top 10 – mortality maker in older adults is choking. That they’re choking. So bathroom incidents, like having a cardiac episode while on the toilet was one, but choking was another one. So a lot of people lose the ability to swallow, and you know, the idea is, well, their throat muscles are weak. Yes, that can be the case.
D: I suppose.
K But also, if you have kinks in your neck, curves in your neck that – hyperkyphosis is when your, when you have that dowager’s hump. It’s actually 2 curves: your thoracic spine is going forward, but your cervical spine – the neck – is going backward. It’s almost like a C or an S that you have in your throat. So now the food, you’ve given extra work to your throat muscles, so 1) they could be too weak, but 2) you could also be asking them to do a job that they’re not really suited to do. I tried to avoid using the word ‘designed,’ but I think if I use the word ‘design,’ people can kind of resonate around that, which is just, you know, why do you have an S in your throat all the time? If you’re chewing and trying to get this food to move down, and it’s an S and you’ve got, you know, muscles of a particular strength that have a range to which they can adapt, you’re going to be more likely to choke because you’re asking more of your throat and that musculature than what you should. So I think that –
D: That makes a lot of sense.
K: I think that it’s just – you know, if I were writing the ultimate – I’ve been actually working – I just want to disclaim this and say it’s actually a book that’s been worked on for the past couple of years, which is Nutritious Movement but as it’s applied to older adults. Because barefoot walking and things that are super extreme is just not feasible or the place to start, like, if you’re like, I want to give my dad or my grandpa some exercises, it’s not going to be cobblestone barefoot walking. It’s going to be, hey, did you know you could slide your head back to change the angle of your throat, and when you’re eating and you notice a difficult time coughing or swallowing, check your head position. Stuff like that. That’s a big one. That was one of my first blog posts that I ever wrote years and years ago –
K: Yes, it’s in Alignment Matters. I took a picture of a straw, and I have a picture of a straw that’s straight up and down – it’s a bendy straw – and I bent it. And I’m going, these are two different physical scenarios. Your musculature works differently – I mean, it’s maybe one of the first 10 blog posts I ever wrote, and I remember this man who was coming to the studio, he was like, I never thought about that. And he was someone who had had cardiac episodes already. He was older – he was maybe 70 and retired, and he was like this is super motivating – because he was an engineer – he was like, yes, of course, I never thought that I should be worried about my head position because of basic functions like swallowing. I get it now. And then he was just more motivated because he understood it. Head position. Ramp it up, ramp it up!
D: It matters. Cool.
K: It matters.
D: All right. We’ve chewed, swallowed, it’s all smooth sailing from here, right? Got the food in the belly.
K: Yeah, it’s just coming out the other end – kapow!
D: Just no problems.
K: Yeah, if we’re going to take the food all the way through, the next set is, food is in your tubes, but those tubes are in your body. So different things like – you know, pressure is invisible. You can’t see it, but you can see the effects of it. So there are hypertonicity, like too much tension. You can have too much tension in your musculature which creates kind of chronic, high-pressure situations, so what happens when you have a tube sitting in a container with too much pressure? That pressure is parlayed onto the tubes that are within it. So it’s just that your digestion is happening within your body, so the state of your body is going to affect it. So things like psoas tension or holding your stomach in all the time, or anything in Diastasis Recti. Diastasis Recti would probably be the best book to follow this up with if you’re interested in going, oh, gosh – if you have hernias and digestion problems and diastasis recti and pelvic things, they’re not as separate as they seem. There’s lots of –
D: Better throw constipation in there.
K: And constipation, too, right? Like, you can hold – you can physically create pressures that can – and if you’ve ever needed to go to the bathroom and held it, you have a data point there where you can stop the downward movement of something with your tension. So when you have lots of tensions that maybe you didn’t use to stop your digestive process, but you’re using for something else like holding your stomach flattened all the time, or pulling your bellybutton in toward your spine all of the time, these are affecting your digestion. They’re affecting the forces that would naturally move your food down. You’re messing around with that environment a bit. The body ecology, if you will, is being affected by what you’re putting in, by what you’re adding – or sometimes taking away.
K: Right? If twisting and all sorts of other motions of the trunk are natural, and you’re just sitting at your desk and you’re like, my abdomen’s relaxed, it’s like, okay, well, a relaxed abdomen is one state, but so is dynamic twisting and moving lots of miles and kind of jostling. So whole body movement, when I say it’s affecting your biology, I mean that the process is the biological processes of eating are being affected by how you are moving and how you are not. That movement is part of the system that gets the food to the end spot where you are hopefully now squatting to get it all the way out.
K: Because if not, what’s the other force? If you’re not squatting, and maybe you’re also tensing through your gut all the time, and you’re holding in your stomach and it’s time to go – and you all know what I mean by go – now you’re having to valsalva to help get it out. So you’re like, okay, it’s not coming out, I’m straining. So now you’re adding a force. So you have a force maybe other places that shouldn’t be there, that’s chronic – you don’t even know you’re creating it but it’s happening all the time – and then there is this intermittent thing that you’re choosing to do which is create a force on top of that, and then pushing this force is just trying to get the foodstuffs out of your gut. There’s a lot of mechanics going on with eating – from gathering your food to pooping it out at the end that are part of your whole body state, and vice versa. Your whole body state is also part of how this process works.
D: Yeah, it’s pretty cool if you think about it from beginning to end. I think that somebody on Facebook posted they were making popcorn, and they were actually getting the kernels off the cob with their own hands, and it was tough, right? It was hard because they weren’t used to that – but the way that we acquire our food, like you said, is so – we’ve outsourced all the movement to get it there.
K: Well, and that’s like, so I wrote this blog post a long time ago – Not Really the Paleo Diet – and it was just kind of a tongue in cheek, going, the diet is not only the foods, it’s all of the nutrients. Like, if you just put mechanical nutrients in the same category as dietary, it gets pretty clear about how you could make your life more nutritious, by interacting more with your food. And I think that’s a solution that’s kind of missing. It’s, how do I do all of these – how do I get my movement in, and my food, and also education, about where food comes from? Because I think a lot of people listening are interested in that. It’s like, get your food a few steps away from how you normally get it. Go back a few steps. Buy a corn on the cob that’s already dried and shuck – get the corn off yourself. Now your kids are one step closer to knowing – and you! – I focus on kids because that’s just where I am right now, but how many people have never actually seen where popcorn comes from?
D: Oh, I’m sure most of us.
D: That’s – yeah, there’s a lot of learning opportunities for that, just like you said, by backing up a few steps.
K: One step. Just one step.
D: Yeah, yeah. And that may be fun, and you may do more. Who knows? Like, have you throttled an animal yet?
K: Just my kids.
D: Well, what’s that – okay, today’s March 1st, so you’ve got, I don’t know. Nine more months to take one down. Pull a Last of the Mohicans and run through with a knife.
K: I don’t know what that means – what’s the time reference?
D: You! You want to hunt! You wanted to hunt and take down an animal.
K: Yes. Well, I ate a –
D: You’re like Hawkeye in your buckskin with a knife in your hand.
K: It’s close. We tracked a lot of animals while we were in Montana. We got a step closer. We’ve been slipping outside, and lots of tracking, but I haven’t done that. I did eat an egg the other day that had been partially incubated, I think. So that was one step closer.
D: Well, there you go.
D: All right. Well that’s -
K: Sorry. All the vegan listeners, I apologize to you right now. We should put a disclaimer.
D: That’s all right.
K: Anyway. You know what? I’m sitting by the fire. I just want to say that I was listening to us, there’s like a super mellow tone to this podcast and I am sitting next to the fire, and I wonder if it’s the difference between me sitting next to the fire, cozy on a rainy day vs. me standing at my workstation, you know, like, getting out the – there’s a tangible feel. Does it feel super mellow yellow to you?
D: Possibly. You do feel kind of mellow, yeah. But I figured just because you got off a little retreat, too, that could be part of it.
K: I just – I’m sitting. I’m sitting in kind of a bolstered squat.
K: And um, also I’m just feeling super mellow, so I just wanted to let everyone know if we put you to sleep, I feel a little bit like that Saturday Night Live – good times, good times. It’s really great.
D: Well, so today, before we wrap it up – this is March 1st. This is going to come out, if you’re listening to this it came out on March 15th, I guess is when it’ll come out. But I just want to say, since I won’t get to talk to you in a few days, you are having a birthday.
K: I am.
D: And you have such a cool birth date, considering you’re the person that got us all off our keisters and out the door walking, your birthday is March 4th. (ding!)
K: March 4th.
D: Which I’m sure is not lost on you at all.
D: And I just want to say, happy birthday, my friend, you big ol’ goofball, I love ya!
K: Thank you, I love you, too. And you know what?
K: Forty. Forty.
D: I know. Are you ever going to catch up to me?
K: Never! Only if I go for a walk, I will catch up to you if I go for a walk.
D: Do you have anything cool planned?
K: I’m walking 30 miles as an ode to my 30s the day before I turn 40.
K: Yeah, we’ll see how it goes. I’ve never walked that before in my life. And then of course it would be –
D: Is this in one fell swoop?
K: One fell swoop, in one day, 30 miles. And I’m not doing a loop – everyone’s like, do a loop, and I was like, the symbology of going out and coming back to the same spot is not lost on me. So I am walking – kind of what I walk, it’s like a timeline of my life, you know, I’m going to be like, okay, I’m thinking about each year as I accomplish each mile.
D: That’s so cool.
K: Yeah, I’ll probably document it, so if you’re Instagram, you already missed it. But you can follow me there and see the pictures of it.
D: Are you going solo?
K: No, there’s different people joining me at different places, kind of also like life.
D: Oh, fun.
K: Yeah, I want my kids to be with me for a portion of it, and my husband to be with me on a portion of it, and my sister and friends to just all kind of gather at different points. So, yeah. Maybe that’s also why I am mellow. It’s been an intense week, I’m like, this is it. I’m going to be 40 this week.
D: It’s a good age, yep. I dig my 40s a lot. Nothing to fear, folks, it’s really fun. Well, that’s it. I hope it’s a great – have a nice walk, honey. Have a nice 30 mile walk.
K: I will. And actually I’m hungry now.
D: That’s okay. Go out and pull something off a tree and chomp on it, sounds good.
K: I’m going to go chew something.
D: Well, thanks for listening.
K All right.
D: For more information, books, online classes, etc., you can find Katy Bowman at Nutritious – that’s her! – at Nutritious Movement.com.
K: That’s me!
D: And you can learn more about me, Dani Hemmat, masticating movement warrior at MoveYourBodyBetter.com. Thanks for listening. Bye!
We hope you find the general information on biomechanics, movement, and alignment informative and helpful, but it is not intended to replace medical advice, and shouldn’t be used as such.
Not Really the Paleo Diet
You Move How You Eat
A List of Body Casts