Do you chew gum? This popular candy is one of the oldest treats out there. With 374 billion pieces sold worldwide each year, research estimates that 187 billion hours are spent chewing gum. You can find it in countless flavors, from peppermint to cinnamon. And while it’s also known for making a sticky mess, the habit of chewing gum might actually have some benefits.
However, if you’re prone to gas, you might want to go easy on the gum. The habit makes you swallow more air, leading to a gas build-up in the digestive tract. It will turn into bloating, flatulence, and discomfort, so don’t eat too much too fast. Start with one or two sticks of gum each week and see how you feel from there.
1. Reduces Stress
Instead of letting the stresses of life boil inside, chew on a piece of gum. In a 2009 study in Physiology & Behavior, researchers assigned stress-inducing tasks to participants. One group chewed gum, while the other did not. The results showed that chewing gum not only decreased anxiety but cortisol as well.
Cortisol is the stress hormone behind all those crazy feelings. The group that was chewing gum in the research study even saw an increase in alertness. Researchers think that gum actually improves blood flow to the brain, leading to anti-stress effects. Reach for gum before an interview or meeting. While it won’t be appropriate to chew gum at the same time, it may calm your nerves beforehand.3
2. Increases Cognitive Function
Is gum a functional food? According to a 2004 study in the Journal of Appetite, it may very well be. When you chew gum, glucose delivery increases and enhances memory. The brain’s neuronal networks are also activated during chewing. Alertness and attention both skyrocket, leading to improved cognitive performance. Combined with the benefits of stress, chewing gum is ideal for demanding moments. Grab a stick of gum while studying or working on a project.4 5
3. Prevents Acid-Induced Dental Erosion
If you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gum might be your new best friend. The regurgitated acid in GERD can cause dental erosion, but chewing gum promotes swallowing. This helps acid clear out of the esophagus. To reap the benefits, chew sugar-free gum for 30 minutes after eating. A 2005 study in the Journal of Dental Research has found that the habit can help reduce postprandial acid reflux.6
4. Wards Off Cavities
It seems counterintuitive, but with sugar-free gum, preventing cavities is possible. Chewing increases saliva production, which washes away cavity-causing bacteria. This saliva also has a high pH, so it neutralizes the plaque’s pH after eating sugar. The Journal of the Irish Dental Association even suggests that it may reduce stains as well. Just be sure to choose sugar-free! Sugary gums will negate all of these benefits.7
5. Suppresses Appetite
If you are trying to lose weight, chewing gum may be a weight loss tool you never knew existed. The chewing motion brings on orosensory stimulation, a feeling that helps develop satiety. In turn, cravings for high-energy snacks or meals will be easier to control.
A 2011 experiment in the Journal of Appetite put this to the test. After chewing gum for at least 45 minutes, participants experienced a decrease in hunger and appetite. Their cravings for snacks also dropped, leading to a reduction of snack weight by 10%, while overall fullness improved. Chewing gum might be the secret behind self-control at parties, events, and restaurants. When you’re yearning for a snack, pop a piece of gum.8
When possible, chew high-quality gum from the health store. These versions often contain beneficial ingredients like fluoride, xylitol, and antimicrobials. No matter what happens, never fall asleep with a gum in your mouth!9
|↑1||Imfeld, T. “Chewing gum—facts and fiction: a review of gum-chewing and oral health.” Critical reviews in oral biology & medicine 10, no. 3 (1999): 405-419.|
|↑2||Symptoms & Causes of Gas in the Digestive Tract. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑3||Scholey, Andrew, Crystal Haskell, Bernadette Robertson, David Kennedy, Anthea Milne, and Mark Wetherell. “Chewing gum alleviates negative mood and reduces cortisol during acute laboratory psychological stress.” Physiology & behavior 97, no. 3 (2009): 304-312.|
|↑4||Scholey, Andrew. “Chewing gum and cognitive performance: a case of a functional food with function but no food?.” Appetite 43, no. 2 (2004): 215-216.|
|↑5||Hirano, Yoshiyuki, Takayuki Obata, Hidehiko Takahashi, Atsumichi Tachibana, Daigo Kuroiwa, Toru Takahashi, Hiroo Ikehira, and Minoru Onozuka. “Effects of chewing on cognitive processing speed.” Brain and cognition 81, no. 3 (2013): 376-381.|
|↑6||Moazzez, R., D. Bartlett, and A. Anggiansah. “The effect of chewing sugar-free gum on gastro-esophageal reflux.” Journal of dental research 84, no. 11 (2005): 1062-1065.|
|↑7, ↑9||Déadach na hÉireann, Iris Cumainn. “The oral health benefits of chewing gum.” Journal of the Irish Dental Association 58, no. 5 (2012): 253-261.|
|↑8||Hetherington, Marion M., and Martin F. Regan. “Effects of chewing gum on short-term appetite regulation in moderately restrained eaters.” Appetite 57, no. 2 (2011): 475-482.|