The candles are lit, glasses are poured, and the meal is ready. But something’s missing—ah yes, music. Nothing abrasive or loud. Something chill, soft, relaxing. Something to drown out the sound of your upstairs neighbors. Something to set the ambience. Something to help you digest?
It may not be the reason you usually play music during a meal, but the link between sound and digestion, though still being studied, may be a significant one.
What it really comes down to is stress. When the body is stressed, many of its functions, including digestion, do not perform as well. And since loud, unpleasant noise can be a stressor, someone eating and digesting a meal in this sonic environment will likely suffer in terms of body functioning as a result.
By contrast, mitigating background noise with music ameliorates that stressor, leading to healthier digestion and other bodily functions.
Music may also aid in a more indirect way. It has been a long and enduring human tradition to use music as a means for processing difficult emotions, traumatic events, and many other stress-causing events. When we ease these sufferings through the therapy of music, we offer our bodies a chance to heal mentally, thereby reducing stress and improving body performance.
But do we spin soul music or classical? Rock or funk? The subject needs to be studied more before we can say with confidence, but chances are, the music that relaxes you and yours the most is a healthy pick for the dinner playlist.