Gum chewing goes way back. Ancient Greeks chewed on the resin of mastic trees to treat stomach problems, Mayans used the sap of sapodilla trees to clean their teeth and North America Indians preferred spruce sap to freshen their breath.
Today, gum remains as popular as ever, and new health benefits of chewing gum keep popping up. Chewing gum has been shown to improve performance on memory tests and even help with weight loss—burning about 12 calories per hour. (Besides, if you have gum in your mouth, you won’t be eating.)
Health Benefits of Chewing Gum
The benefits of chewing gum after meals includes relief from heartburn by increasing swallowing, which neutralizes acid and helps clear it from the esophagus.
And according to a study involving 34 patients recovering from bowel surgery, chewing gum also speeds healing. Half the patients chewed a stick of sugar-free gum three times a day for an hour at a time, beginning the morning after their surgery. They had a much faster return of normal bowel function, and they left the hospital more than two days earlier than patients who didn’t chew gum.
What may be the most surprising benefit of chewing gum?
Chewing the right type of gum may actually help prevent cavities! In a double-blind clinical trial, 1,277 Belizean schoolchildren were given gum sweetened with sucrose, sorbitol or xylitol to chew several times during the day. After 40 months, the kids chewing xylitol gum had 73 percent fewer cavities while those given sorbitol gum had a 26 percent reduction. And the children who’d chewed sucrose-sweetened gum? They had 120 percent more cavities.
Look in your health-food store for brands such as Unique Sweet and Spry that are sweetened with xylitol. They are low in calories, contain no dangerous chemicals and are actually good for your teeth.