Why do our mouths water when we think about food?


Is the thought of food alone enough to trick our brains into thinking we are eating?

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They don’t. It’s an expression because they do when you eat to help the food go down. So people say it like they’re getting prepared.

It’s pavlovian, we’ve learned to associate food and thought of food with eating causing our mouth to water.

Saliva is one of the first steps of digestion. Besides containing some enzymes that start breaking down food, it also lubricates our mouth and mixes with the food as we chew to help soften it into a paste that’s easier to swallow.

So if you’re thinking about food, especially if you’re hungry, your subconscious thinks maybe there’s a decent chance you’re going to be eating food soon, so it ramps up saliva production to prepare.

It’s classical conditioning. Your body knows that it is about to eat food so it preemptively prepares more saliva for you to eat it with. Look up “Pavlov’s dogs” for more info. Fun (or maybe not so fun) fact – classical conditioning is in part why so many overdoses happen outside of the home. When you do something like heroin in the same spot over and over (most commonly at home) your body then prepares itself to receive the drug when you return to that location. So you may walk into your home feeling much worse than you did a second ago because your body is expecting to receive the drug. Because your body prepared this way you then need more of the drug to get that same “high” feeling. But then let’s say you stay in a hotel one night, well you already know how much heroin you needed to get high at home but your body didn’t “expect” the drug like it does at home. So you shoot up as much as you did at home but it ends up being a lethal amount. That’s why so many celebrities OD in hotels as opposed to at home.

Thinking about it causes our body to get ready to do it. So we increase saliva production in the mouth. Saliva is the first step in digestion. It lubricates the food as it passes through our esophagus, it contains an enzyme to start breaking down carbohydrates, and it helps make a softer paste that easier to swallow than some dry mush.

I want to say that thinking about eating also causes the stomach to release more stored acid.