Gum. Whether it’s serving a purpose as a hunger suppresser, an outlet for nervous energy, breath freshener, or a sweet treat after a savory meal, there’s one underlying question we are often asked – is gum beneficial or detrimental to gut health?
There are two sides to every story. On one hand, some sources point out the following benefits of chewing gum on the digestive system:
- Gum can stimulate bowel movements, as it increases the production of gastric juices. This can be beneficial in those who’ve had surgery, or who have just given birth, and don’t want to or aren’t able to eat right away.
- Post-meal gum chewing can stimulate the release of bile, digestive enzymes, and acids, all components needed to properly digest foods, and may help avoid indigestion after a large meal.
- Chewing gum can aid in soothing acid reflux. When you chew gum, your saliva becomes more alkaline, and because of the additional saliva production that happens while you chew, it causes you to swallow more often, encouraging a reduction in acid.
- Chewing herbal gum, specifically the type that contains ginger, can aid in treating nausea caused by surgery and motion or morning sickness.
- Gum chewing can be a weight loss tool when used as a replacement for mindless snacking.
While there may be some benefits to gum chewing, there are also some major drawbacks:
- Chewing too much gum can cause digestive distress and diarrhea due to the sugar alcohols present in most sugar-free gums.
- Sugar-free gums contain FODMAPs that can be problematic for those with IBS and other digestive conditions.
- The chewing motion signals your body that you’re about to digest food; digestive enzymes and acids are activated and released. In the absence of food, this can cause bloat, an over-production of stomach acid, and an impaired digestive process when you actually do eat. The over-production of saliva can also be problematic and cause digestive upset.
While chewing gum can aid in some situations, it can also introduce a cascade of digestive issues – many related to the artificial sweeteners present – that can wreak havoc in the gut. At Gutbliss, we also believe it’s important that your digestive system rests in between meals so that it can properly digest your food. Chewing gum may cause digestive distress like bloating, gas, and diarrhea, but it also confuses your digestive system, making it a less efficient and faulty “machine”. As a rule of thumb, we recommend avoiding gum.