The Saliva is a body fluid colorless located in the oral cavity and ensures proper lubrication. 99% of its composition is water , and the remaining 1% is made up of electrolytes, glycoproteins, enzymes , immunoproteins, epithelial cells, lipids and carbohydrates.
The functions of saliva are very broad, many of which are essential for the proper functioning of the body: protect the mouth from bacteria and microorganisms, facilitate swallowing of food, promote speech …
What is saliva?
Saliva is known as the liquid secretion that comes from the salivary glands; the major salivary glands produce 93% of saliva and the minor salivary glands the remaining 7%. A liquid substance that is made up of both organic and inorganic substances .
Regarding the organic components, they are proteins, glycoproteins, enzymes and immunoglobulins . As for the inorganic components, they are bicarbonate and phosphate , which neutralize the acids present in food, thus avoiding dental diseases such as cavities.
Saliva is made up of 99% water and its functions are very broad, playing an essential role in the beginning of the digestive process. Allows food to dissolve easily for subsequent swallowing and absorption of nutrients by the body.
The salivary glands secrete between one and a half and two liters of saliva during the day , the vast majority of which reverts to the interior of the digestive system . This means that a person can secrete more than 45 thousand liters of saliva throughout his life.
It is worth noting that it is the first defense barrier of the human body against infections thanks to its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Thus, it is responsible for neutralizing and fighting a large part of the microorganisms that enter the mouth through oral sex, as well as through the consumption of certain foods.
5 curiosities of saliva
In the following points we point out some of the main curiosities of saliva.
- Production: adults produce between one and a half and two liters of saliva daily. It is approximately the amount that the body loses through urine.
- Composition: saliva is made up of 99% water. However, it also has other substances such as hormones, minerals and antibacterial components, among others.
- Types: There are three different types of saliva, each of which is produced in different salivary glands. On the one hand, the parotids, responsible for moistening the food during chewing. On the other hand, the subamandibular ones, whose main function is to protect the mouth from microorganisms. And finally, the sublinguals.
- Genetics: it is very common to take saliva samples to analyze a person’s DNA. This is because it contains human cells that shed from the lining of the mouth.
- Diseases: and, finally, it is interesting to note that there are various medical conditions whose cause is found in the malfunction of the salivary glands.
What is saliva for?
Below we explain what are the main functions of saliva in the body.
Lubricates the oral cavity
One of the main functions of saliva is to keep the mouth moist, as well as the mucous membranes and teeth. Thus, it greatly facilitates swallowing of ingested food . During chewing, saliva plays an essential role as it provides the necessary enzymes to begin the digestion process, helping to form the bolus.
In addition, saliva is rich in mucus, which protects the oral mucosa and covers food when it passes through the mouth, pharynx and esophagus. Therefore, saliva is one of the most important elements in the digestive process.
Saliva is responsible for hydration of the mucosa of both the pharynx and the oral cavity, thus facilitating speech.
Heals oral tissues
Another of the great functions that saliva fulfills is the healing of oral tissues since it has a growth factor.
Saliva has both antibacterial and antifungal properties . That is why one of its main functions is to fight bacteria that want to enter the mouth.
Activates the taste buds
Saliva is made up of a wide range of substances, some of which are responsible for activating the taste buds. Therefore, it has an essential role in the sense of taste.
Neutralizes acids in food
It is interesting to note that saliva is responsible for neutralizing the acids produced by food , thus taking care of the health of the teeth: it protects them from cavities and prevents the accumulation of bacterial plaque in them.
Controls the body’s water balance
Saliva is made up of 99% water, so it is an essential element for proper hydration of the body. When the proportion of water in saliva decreases, certain sensors in the mouth send the thirst signal to the brain , thus indicating the need to hydrate.
Starch digestion begins
One of the components of saliva is ptyalin, which is responsible for the beginning of the digestion of starches during the ingestion of food.
Facilitates the digestion of fats
Saliva secretes lipase, a substance that greatly facilitates the digestion of fats , as well as their absorption by the body.
Select attraction between two subjects
When two people tongue kiss , they both exchange saliva, which leads to hormonal communication between them. Thus, the hormones of one of the parties can act as an aphrodisiac towards the other, and vice versa. Of course, they can also cause rejection due to different reasons, such as closeness at the genetic level.
There are certain disorders related to saliva that are interesting to know.
Hyposalivation is a condition characterized by decreased secretion of saliva by the salivary glands . It is not a disease in itself, but a clinical sign that can lead to problems in speech, as well as in chewing and swallowing.
The causes of hyposalivation can be very varied: reduced fluid intake, high levels of stress and anxiety that affect the central nervous system , consumption of certain drugs, unbalanced diet with reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables, and consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
The prevalence of hyposalivation is almost 50% in people over 60 years of age, making this the population group most at risk. The reason is that this condition in the vast majority of cases is due to the taking of certain drugs, such as benzodiazepines , antihypertensives and antihistamines.
Hypersalivation is how the excessive secretion of saliva is known. It is a rare disorder that is due in a high percentage of cases to incorrect pronunciation, which results in saliva escaping from the mouth when speaking.
Drooling can be mild, moderate, severe, and profuse. In the first degree of intensity, only the lips are wet, while in the last, even the clothes and the floor are wet.
In addition to continued drooling, hypersalivation leads to other symptoms such as increased swallowing from excessive salivation, as well as vomiting and nausea.
Inflammation of the salivary gland
Inflammation of the salivary gland in the vast majority of cases responds to an infection of bacterial origin . A disorder that results in severe pain in the area and, sometimes, an increase in body temperature. Depending on the infection, pus may also appear.
Foods that promote saliva production
There are numerous conditions that lead to a lack of saliva production, such as taking certain medications or an infection in the salivary glands, among others. A disorder that, despite not being serious, causes great discomfort since it is more difficult to swallow food and speak and, in addition, it causes bad breath.
That is why it is interesting to know those foods that promote saliva production and help minimize symptoms.
- Hard cheeses: according to recent research, the consumption of hard cheeses has a great selection of benefits since they increase the production of saliva and, in addition, they counteract the acidity.
- Citrus fruits: the consumption of certain citrus fruits such as lemon just before each meal is a great option given the low production of saliva. These types of foods constrict the mouth, leading to the release of saliva.
- Cayenne pepper: this is one of the best spices most recommended to promote the secretion of saliva. It can be added in the preparation of various foods, such as stews and broths.
In short, saliva plays a fundamental role in a wide range of body functions, most of them related to the digestive system.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.