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What your saliva says about you

According to years of research done by various institutions studying nutrition, the chemical makeup of your saliva says a lot about your digestion, your health, and the enzymes in it dictate not just your digestion, but most aspects of your nutrition. Your saliva does not just lubricate, coat and protect your teeth and gums, but also serves as the first stage of digestion. If your oral environment is healthy, your saliva is full of enzymes that will help you digest food, but if unhealthy, these enzymes might be lacking.

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One enzyme in particular, amylase, has been getting a lot of attention. It is the enzyme that helps us break down starch into more easily digestible carbohydrates, and is also responsible for helping the body absorb these carbs, producing energy. In European cooking, we get 60% of our total calories from some form of complex carbohydrates; therefor this enzyme is of heightened importance.

The Monell Study

In a ground breaking study from 2012, a research institute called Monell issued a study in which they checked 48 volunteer’s saliva, and classified them according to how much amylase it contained. After this, the volunteers were given liquid starch, and after drinking it, their digestion was monitored, as well as the chemical makeup of their saliva, and their insulin levels. Those with lower levels of amylase had a harder time digesting the carbs and making insulin, while those with stronger amount of amylase found it easier, and had lower blood sugar levels.


The implications of the Monell study are far reaching. It supports the more modern view of the body as a holistic, interconnected entity, and not a series of connected but separate parts. This means that all aspects of the body are related to all other aspects, and what happens in the mouth is extremely important to the rest of the body. If you have an unhealthy oral biome, the bacteria form that biome will get into the rest of the body, clogging up arteries (bacteria that form plaque on the teeth is also responsible for atherosclerosis), causing diabetes (by destroying enzymes like amylase), and contributing to obesity as well. What the exact effects are of the chemical makeup of saliva is still being studied, and how it will help us understand and deal with systemic diseases like diabetes is still to be seen, it is obvious that how well you can absorb carbs is very important in unlocking the causes and solutions to diabetes.

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