Chewing Part 2: Is Chewing Gum Impacting Your Digestion?

If you missed Part 1 on Why You May Be Addicted to Chewing Gum, I broke down why chewing is actually a survival behavior we inherently have as human beings and encouraged you to reflect on what your body may be trying to tell you.

 Even Nala has her suspiciouns...

Even Nala has her suspiciouns...

In this blog, I’ll go into more detail as to why gum chewing may be leading to more digestive discomfort.

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When I competed in 2010, I was finishing packs of gum a day. It was the only sweet “treat” I had and I soon enough became addicted to it. But the more gum I chewed, the more I noticed I was actually more bloated, I was consistently complaining of stomach cramping and was typically uncomfortable digestively. Below, I’ll share why excessive gum chewing may be bothering your digestion:

Let’s first take a look at digestion and the process involved:

When we begin to chew, our brain starts to send signals to our intestinal tract to begin the digestion process, with the expectation that soon enough something will be traveling down our esophagus and into the stomach. Stomach acids and digestive enzymes are produced to help promote the breakdown of food into energy or energy storages. But, what happens when we actually don’t have anything that travels down to the stomach? Well, our brain gets confused.

With nothing entering the stomach, our brain doesn’t stop immediately stop producing stomach acids. In most scenarios, our brain may be thinking “Hmm, let’s continue to release the digestive enzymes because something will eventually need to be broken down”.

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When nothing reaches the stomach, we’re often left with an overproduction of stomach acids which can impact our general gut health: increase inflammation, disturb the homeostatic levels of acid to basic, cause air bubbles to be produced and get stuck in the stomach and leave us uncomfortable, gassy and bloated.

Let’s now move onto ingredients. Take a look at the graph below. These are the ingredients of what is in peppermint gum.

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That’s a lot of “stuff”. A general rule of thumb to practice is that if you struggle to pronounce it, it may be worth forgoing. In the long run your gut will thank you and so will your overall health.  Many gums are currently using artificial sugars like aspartame: found in 85% of all chewing gum. Additional sweeteners also include: maltitol, mannitol, and sorbitol. The research continues on atificial sweeteners, but some studies have shown a correlation to headaches, depression, ADHD, IBS, and weight gain.

In general, the more artificial sweeteners you consume, the harder your gut will have to work during the breakdown process. The goal isn’t to make digestion more challenging, rather allowing our body to do its job.

So in conclusion, I would suggest trying this hypothesis out and Experiment!

  1. Assess: First and foremost take an assessment of how you’re feeling: Tired, headaches, excited, fatigue etc.
  2. Notes: Then jot down those notes and reflect on when you commonly reach for gum
  3. Start small: If you’re chewing 10+ sticks of gum a day, I wouldn’t suggest cutting cold turkey (unless you’re replacing it with some of the drills/behaviors in the previous blog). Start by just removing one a day.
  4. Reflect: Bring awareness to why you may be reaching for gum and reflect on what your body is actually craving. Is it movement, are you tired, hungry, bored?
  5. Reassess: Reassess you're notes from above of how you're feeling.  I would also suggest seeing if your palate changes. Meaning, does your food taste different?

Let me know if you start to notice any changes!

Thank you!

References:

https://www.healthline.com/health/aspartame-side-effects