#835 Saliva

Does a body good

You know what’s cheap? Entertaining kids, man.

Honestly, forget the high-def TVs, lower bowl tickets to the big game, or exotic dream vacations to the other side of the rock. Ditch those in favor of an afternoon playing Tag in the backyard, pillow fighting at slumber parties, or skirting death on the playground, and now we’re talking.

Plus, it seems like a lot of kids figure out how to entertain themselves on the cheap, too. I’m not talking Solitaire on the computer, either. I mean those tiny, weird little head games or counting games or pattern games that you see little kids play. You know what I mean? These days it’s referred to as Acute Juvenile-Onset OC-ADHD, but it used to be that kids were just, you know, kind of strange.

When I was younger, I had a few of my own little games — or tics, if you prefer. I put my fingertips together every time I saw a red car, liked to spin around in circles and walk around dizzily, and was always trying to whistle with blades of grass in my mouth, just for fun.

trying-to-whistle-grassThere’s a lot more, but my favorite was this: when I was about six or seven, I used to look down at my shoes and slowly let a thin strand of spit slip slowly from my mouth, as low as it would go, as slow as it would go. And when that bottom-heavy glob of slippery spit looked like it was nearing the breaking point, I sucked real fast, yanking the Air-Chilled Mouth Dangle up in one soaring, majestic move.

It was an art, really.

Of course, back then I had no idea what I was messing with. To me, I was just playing some safe and harmless Spit Games — sometimes even a little Mouth Triathlon happened when I started blowing spit bubbles and gleeking. But the point is I didn’t yet appreciate the powers of the spit I was so mindlessly tossing around. See, it turns out that spit — or saliva, for those in the biz — deserves some serious props. Props I never considered. Check out what it’s got going on:

1. Wets your appetite. Saliva pours out of a few tiny little glands in your mouth at a rate of about 1-2 liters a day. When you’re eating, the saliva tides rise and lather your food to help work it down the dark cavern of your throat. Think of it as food lube.

turn-the-lights-on2. Get your taste on. Now, for all the powers your mighty tongue has, get this: that poor, pink sucker can’t taste a thing when it’s dry. Now, I know this feels like finding out Superman can’t fly when it’s cold out or Darth Vader is afraid of the dark, but it’s true. Dry tongue = tasteless food. So give it up to saliva for keeping everything moist and delicious in there. Way to go, Tastebud Grease.

3. Break it down. Even though over 99.5% of your saliva is just water, there’s some funny business swimming around in the other 0.5%. Yeah, I’m talking about electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, and enzymes. What’s all that junk for? Dude, enzymes totally swim up into your food and start wrestling it to bits. They tear starch and fat molecules to smithereens, and give them the what’s what. Sure, the job finishes way down south, but it’s gotta start somewhere.

4. Mouth guards. Even though you only eat every so often, saliva flushes your mouth all day. Well, that’s because our slick friend is busy cleaning house. Yup, the antibacterial compounds chip away at the food stuck in your teeth and the slippery stuff coats and protects your teeth from decay. Not a bad deal.

Now, saliva tends to stay out of your way. You can barely taste it, you forget it’s there, and you don’t have to think about it to get it to work. Brother, it just happens.

It just happens.

It’s just saliva.


spitting-babyPhotos from: here, here, here, and here