Chewing gum is probably something that you don’t think much of. Maybe you keep a pack in your pocket for whenever you need to freshen your breath, but those high school days of chewing gum throughout the day are long gone. But what if by not chewing gum like we used to, we’re actually missing out?
As it turns out, chewing gum every day actually has a whole host of health benefits. We’ll be covering everything you need to know in this video.
Chewing gum: the lowdown
Chewing gum is far from a new thing. In fact, records show that people have been chewing gum in various forms for thousands of years.
Most people think chewing gum comes from tree bark, like it used to, but nowadays, it’s mainly made up of synthetic rubber. The exact recipe behind a stick of chewing gum is a secret, but manufacturers usually combine gum, resin, softeners, flavourings, and even antioxidants.
Of course, like most things in life, too much gum chewing can cause problems. Excessive gum chewing has been found to cause migraines, especially in young adults. However, numerous studies have linked moderate gum chewing to a fair few benefits.
Here are 12 surprising benefits of chewing a stick of gum every day.
1. Improves Concentration and Memory
Struggle to stay focused throughout the day? Your answer might be as simple as chewing a piece of gum.
Multiple studies have shown that chewing gum is linked to an increase in mental performance. Cognitive functions, like concentration, memory, and reaction times, were seen to improve when research participants chewed gum.
It is thought that this boost comes from increased blood flow to the brain through chewing. Some studies show that chewing gum can increase blood flow by as much as a 25 to 40 percent.Why is this so helpful? Well, it’s exactly what our brains need to thrive. Increased blood flow in turn increases oxygen to the brain, which helps to enhance memory and other cognitive functions.
2. Improves Wakefulness
Another common issue for adults across the world is staying awake. Who would have thought it would be so hard to make it through the day without a power nap? But with many of us failing to get enough sleep, or a high enough quality of sleep, it’s no wonder staying awake proves such a challenge.
Once again, chewing gum comes to the rescue. In addition to memory, many studies have also shown that chewing gum can increase alertness.
The chewing movement of your jaw is said to stimulate nerves and parts of the brain associated with arousal, as well as increasing blood flow. According to experts, this may help people feel more awake or stay awake longer. Mint-flavoured gum is thought to be especially useful for this purpose.
3. Combats Stress and Anxiety
We’re all faced with stressful situations from time to time, but when anxiety and stress become a daily thing, it’s time to take action against it. There are, of course, may ways to combat stress, but if you’re looking for a simple method you can implement today, all you’ll need is a pack of gum.
Apparently chewing on some gum can be a great substitute for nervous habits, like nail biting and leg shaking, when you’re feeling stressed. This is backed up by one study, which showed that gum chewing helped reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, in many test subjects. So not only does chewing gum help reduce your anxious behaviour, it can also decrease your anxiety from the inside.
4. Protects Teeth
It’s rare that dentists will recommend foods that aren’t considered super healthy, but The American Dental Association actually advises chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals, as it's been proven to reduce plaque, promote tooth enamel, reduce cavities, and reduce gingivitis.
The reason behind this is that chewing gum increases the production of saliva, which helps to reduce the plaque on your teeth that causes decay. Just make sure your gum is sugarless, as sugar-containing gums can, of course, add to plaque build-up.
Look for gums that contain an ingredient called xylitol too, which can reduce certain decay-causing bacteria. An extra bonus of chewing gum after meals is that it’ll give you a quick burst of sweetness that will help reduce your cravings for dessert.
5. Reduces Acid Reflux and Heartburn
If you battle acid reflux and heartburn, you’ll know all about how difficult the symptoms are to manage. Acid reflux and other indigestion issues can be caused by seemingly anything, and at their worst, they can lead to symptoms like severe stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, and a burning feeling in the throat.
One of the most popular recommendations for acid reflux sufferers is to chew gum after meals. This is thought to help reduce acid in the oesophagus, thanks to increased saliva production in the mouth.
When you produce more saliva, you’ll swallow more to get rid of it, which clears the acid more quickly. It's best to avoid peppermint and spearmint flavours, though, which can increase acid levels and make heartburn worse.
6. Improves Breath
What’s your go-to trick for freshening your breath while you’re out and about? For most people, it’s grabbing a mint or chewing on a mint-flavoured stick of gum. It's a no-brainer to get the gum out when you want to fight bad breath, but keep in mind that some types are better than others.
Research has found that a specific type of Wrigley's gum had the power to reduce bacteria in the mouth that cause bad breath. Of course, not all gums contain the same ingredients, so choose wisely.
It seems the key to picking the best breath-freshening gums is to find those with flavours that come from plant oils, which fight bacteria and don't just mask the smell.
7. Improves Eating Habits
Many of us have had some wise friend or family member tell us that chewing gum can help you lose weight. This is correct – or, at least, in some sense. While chewing sugar-free gum certainly won't automatically melt away those extra pounds, chewing on some low-calorie gum can have a beneficial effect towards eating better.
Studies have found that chewing gum between meals can help ward off some food cravings and make you consume fewer calories. The biggest benefit comes from chewing a stick of gum instead of reaching for a high-calorie sweet snack between meals.
Additionally, as we briefly mentioned earlier, chewing on some gum right at the end of a meal, while watching TV, or when other mindless nibbling occurs, can stop you from grabbing a sweet snack to follow up on the savoury.
8. Helps Cigarette Smokers Quit
When it comes to quitting smoking, most people will try everything they can to reach success. While chewing gum is clearly not the single magic bullet smokers need to quit, chewing gum is thought to provide a handy distraction whenever you get a craving. Experts think the explanation to this is pretty simple: you’re distracting your mouth with another task.
There are also special chewing gums for smokers, like Nicorette gum, which aims to help people quit faster. The gum delivers a controlled amount of nicotine to your system, which is thought to help reduce your cravings. Unsurprisingly, Nicorette gum is about three times the price of a standard gum, but if it works for you, it’s worth it.
9. Relieves Dry Mouth
Yet another oral health benefit of chewing sugar-free gum is combating dry mouth. You’ll usually experience a dry mouth as a symptom of another health issue, like diabetes, a yeast infection, or stroke. You might even get it from lifestyle habits, like smoking, snoring, or breathing with your mouth open.
Experts have found that chewing sugarless gum stimulates saliva up to 10 times the resting rate. This is a huge help in reversing dryness in the mouth and throat, and the discomfort and problems associated with dry mouth.
10. Relieves Ear Pain During Flights
Having ear pain due to air pressure changes during take-off and landing on a flight is no fun. In fact, the pressure can build and build until it causes the eardrum to burst, which is the last thing you want to deal with when you arrive at your destination.
It's long been known that there are a number of ways to stop your ears from popping, with various methods like yawning, pinching your nose, sucking on a sweet, drinking water and gulping all working to some success. But if you’re looking for the easiest way, you’re best keeping it simple and chewing on some gum.
This helps produce saliva so you swallow more, which should equalize the pressure in your ears.
11. Fights cold and flu symptoms
Unfortunately, colds and flu are unavoidable. You can pick them up at any time, and it may take several days before your immune system successfully fights off the illness.
In the meantime, you’ll be left to deal with a whole host of annoying and unpleasant symptoms, most of which relate to a build-up of phlegm and mucus, which are hardly very desirable.
Thankfully, chewing mint gum can help break up some of this nastiness and decrease the severity of nasal symptoms like a blocked or runny nose. The mint flavour naturally unclogs your sinuses and acts as a DIY bronchodilator, increasing the air that can get into the lungs.
Keep in mind, though, that you may eventually need to get a heavy-duty over-the-counter pill to completely move that phlegm and mucus.
12. Helps fight dependence on addictive stimulants
We touched on this slightly earlier, when we talked about chewing gum for helping quit smoking. The simple act of gum chewing not only reduces cravings for snacks but also provides a helpful diversion from cravings for stimulants like nicotine and caffeine.
So, if you are trying to quit smoking, cut down on the coffee, or break similar addictive habits, chewing gum is a handy strategy to add to your arsenal.
So there you have it: chewing gum in moderation really is good for you. While you may think of gum as a type of sweet, that's not the whole story. If you opt for sugar-free varieties of gum, you can enjoy a whole host of health benefits – and the best part? You can buy a long-lasting pack of gum for the same price that you spend on a loaf of bread. Now that’s something we can get behind.