Chewing gum can be fun, and good for you. Here are the most interesting health-benefits:
Combat stress and anxiety.
Chewing gum can relieve nervous energy and reduce tension. This is a nice by-product of the act of chewing itself. According to an Australian study, the rhythmic motion of gum chewing can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making you feel calmer and more relaxed.
Chewing gum increases blood flow to the brain. This, in turn, increases oxygen to the brain, which can help enhance your memory and cognitive performance. Some studies have reported that chewing gum increases blood flow to the brain by 25-40%. Continuous chewing also activates your hippocampus, the part of your brain that’s crucial to your memory and learning.
Besides boosting your memory, chewing gum can also increase your focus and alertness. The chewing movement is thought to stimulate nerves and areas in the brain associated with arousal, in addition to increasing blood flow. This may help you feel more awake. Mint-flavoured gum is especially useful here, finds a study in Physiology & Behaviour.
Trying to drop a few kilos? Chew on this: a study published in the journal Appetite found that chewing gum for at least 45 minutes or 15 minutes per hour for three hours, reduced appetite and cravings for snacks, and increased the feeling of fullness. This concludes that chewing gum regularly may help you eat less and prevent overeating, which may help you lose weight.
Improve oral health.
Chewing gum increases saliva flow, which helps wash away harmful sugars, food debris and decay-causing acids from your mouth. It can fight bad breath, prevent stains, reduce plaque and protect against cavities and tooth decay. Just make sure your gum is sugar-free. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your mouth, which can damage your teeth. Look for a gum sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol prevents the growth of the bacteria that cause tooth decay and bad breath.
Too much of a good thing
Before you stock up on every sugar-free gum you can find, it’s worth noting the effects of too much chewing. Excessive gum chewing can lead to:
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). The temporomandibular joint is where the jaw attaches to the skull. If the muscles that hold this joint are overused and become fatigued, the joint can move out of place, causing TMJ. This can result in jaw pain, earache, toothache, and reduced movement or locking of the joint.
- Habitual chewing can cause fatigue in the facial muscles responsible for moving the jaw during chewing. Most people also chew on the one side of their mouth, exhausting the muscles unequally. This can result in headaches and migraines, especially if you chew hard and vigorously.
- Tooth erosion. Even if you chew sugar-free gum, your teeth are still at risk. Sugar-free gum often contains acidic flavourings and preservatives that may wear the enamel off your teeth. As the enamel erodes, your teeth may become more sensitive to hot, cold and acidic foods.
- Digestive problems. The artificial sweeteners in sugar-free gum have a laxative effect. Chewing lots of sugar-free gum can cause digestive distress and diarrhoea. Chewing gum also causes you to swallow air, which can lead to abdominal pain and bloating. What’s more, when you chew gum you send your body signals that food is about to enter your body. The enzymes and acids that are activated when you chew gum are released, but without the food they’re intended to digest. This can cause an overproduction of stomach acid, and affect your ability to produce digestive secretions when you do eat.