Chewing gum can provide a variety of health benefits. The American Dental Association now recommends chewing sugarless gum after eating because the increased saliva washes away plaque and bacteria that cause periodontal disease. As previously indicated in the last Stress Scoop, chewing gum after a meal can prevent heartburn symptoms in GERD patients by neutralizing acid fluids and helping to force them back into the stomach. Chewing gum speeds up peristalsis further down in the small intestine and has been used to treat postoperative ileus following colon surgery for diverticulitis or cancer. In one report, patients who chewed gum after colon surgery resumed normal GI function and left the hospital more than two days sooner than controls.
Other studies suggest that chewing gum can cause weight loss and improve concentration and memory. In one article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Mayo Clinic researchers calculated that chewing sugar-free gum could help someone lose up to 11 pounds a year. Unfortunately, this would require chewing at a fairly rapid rate most of the time you are awake, which could cause dental and gastrointestinal problems. The act of chewing increases blood flow to the brain, which is used to support claims that it improves brain function. College students have long recognized that chewing gum improves memory and concentration during important exams. Schools usually do not approve of chewing gum in classrooms but many teachers now encourage it during exams and some even pass gum out. We also now have Think Gum, developed by Matt Davidson, which includes six herbal additives that have been shown to improve cognitive function and memory. While a student at U.C. Berkeley, Matt reviewed a study measuring productivity in factory workers while they were exposed to scents from different herbal extracts. Since the results showed that significantly fewer mistakes were associated with peppermint and rosemary aromas, Matt began chewing his own concoction of peppermint gum and freshly picked rosemary during exams and class and believes this enabled him to graduate Phi Beta Kappa and with high honors. He subsequently devoted all his efforts to developing Think Gum, which increases alertness, improves information recall, and boosts both short and long-term memory. As explained on www.thinkgum.com/howandwhy.html these benefits are believed to come from the synergistic effects of vinpocetine, bacopa, Ginkgo biloba, guarana, rosemary and peppermint.
Chewing gum has been known to provide health benefits since antiquity. The ancient Greeks chewed the lemon-white resin gum from the mastic tree to reduce fatigue and relieve stomach complaints. Central American Mayans chewed chicle resin from the sapota tree and native U.S. Indians introduced a resin gum from spruce trees to early colonial settlers to promote relaxation. The U.S. Army has long recognized that gum chewing reduces stress and chewing gum has been included in combat rations since World War I. More recent studies have shown that chewing gum reduces muscular tension and anxiety, especially in people who are trying to stop smoking or lose weight. There is little doubt that chewing gum can be a powerful stress buster. One has only to look at a tightly contested baseball game on TV to see how many players, coaches and managers are vigorously chewing bubble gum or something else to relieve their pent up tension. A recent survey sponsored by the Wrigley Science Institute also revealed that chewing gum helped men and women aged 18-49 feel more relaxed when dealing with daily stresses. The Wrigley Science Institute is now investigating the neuroendocrine and other mechanisms of action responsible for these stress reduction effects.
Schuster R, Gerwal N, Greaney GC, Waksman K. Gum chewing reduces ileus after elective open sigmoid colectomy. Arch Surg 2006;141:174-176
Levine J, Baukol P, Pavlidis I. The energy expended in chewing gum. N Engl J Med 1999;341:2100-2100.
FRC Research Corporation. “The Impact of Chewing Gum on Consumers’ Stress Levels.” Survey conducted in June, 2006 in 280 male and female respondents aged 18-49 for the Wrigley Science Institute