Saliva is often thought of as gross and an inconsequential part of the human body, but there are countless benefits to the body’s automatic production of it, including the ability to diagnose various forms of disease.

Functionally speaking, saliva helps break down food molecules in order for our taste buds to recognize the flavors. It also contains enzymes that begin the digestion process before food gets into the stomach for further digestion.

It also balances the acidity within the mouth, while protecting teeth and gums from decay that results from plaque-generated acids that can speed up decay. Calcium and phosphate minerals found in saliva are also a key component in slowing demineralization and weakening of tooth enamel.

But, what is spit actually made of? Scientists say saliva is comprised of 99 percent water, while the remaining 1 percent is mucus proteins, cholesterol, digestive enzymes and uric acid. In fact, healthy individuals generate between two and six ups every day. At that rate, you could fill two bathtubs with your saliva in a one-year span.

Chewing gum is one natural way to increase the amount of saliva produced, though the body’s autonomic nervous system kicks up production in the afternoon hours, scientists have found.

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that saliva is also full of white blood cells that powerfully battle infections — this explains why wounds in the mouth typically heal faster than elsewhere in the body, and also gives credence to the origin of the phrase “lick your wounds.”

However, scientists have also found that the body’s natural fight-or-flight response naturally slows down saliva production, as in times of stress, the body knows its not the time to sit down and have a meal.

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