11 Surprising Benefits Of: Chewing Gum
As a connoisseur of chewing gum, I can attest to the many benefits that my favorite go-to gum gives me (Trident Sugarless Watermelon Twist, for the record). While gum is by no means without its flaws, you may be surprised by some of the advantages that go hand-in-hand with chomping on a stick. Just be sure to chew and dispose of your gum responsibly. (See also: Surprising Benefits of Caffeine)
1. Improves Concentration and Memory
Multiple studies have shown that chewing gum boosts mental performance. Cognitive functions, like concentration, memory, and reaction times, were seen to improve when test subjects chewed gum. It is thought that this boost comes from increased blood flow to the brain through chewing, with some studies showing as much as a 25%-40% increase. This in turn increases oxygen to the brain, which helps to enhance memory and other cognitive functions.
2. Improves Wakefulness
In addition to memory, many studies have also shown that chewing gum can increase alertness. The chewing movement of the jaw is thought to stimulate nerves and parts of the brain associated with arousal, in addition to increasing blood flow. This may help people feel more awake or stay awake longer. Mint-flavored gum is thought to be especially useful for this purpose.
3. Combats Stress and Anxiety
Anecdotally, I find chewing gum can help relieve nervous energy and make me feel calmer. Apparently chomping on some gum can be a great substitute for nervous habits, like nail biting and leg shaking, when feeling stressed. This is backed up by studies, which show that gum chewing helped reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, in many test subjects.
4. Protects Teeth
The American Dental Association recommends chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals, since it's been proven to reduce plaque, promote tooth enamel, reduce cavities, and reduce gingivitis. The reason has to do with increasing saliva flow, which reduces acid on your teeth that causes decay. Just make sure your gum is sugarless, as sugar-containing gums can actually add to acid build-up. Look for gums with xylitol too, which can reduce decay-causing bacteria. Finally, be mindful of sorbitol, which can cause GI discomfort if ingested in extremely large doses. (See also: 11 Foods That'll Whiten Teeth)
5. Reduces Acid Reflux and Heartburn
For some people battling acid reflux and heartburn, chewing gum after meals may help reduce acid in the esophagus. Increased saliva production is again to thank for this, as is increased swallowing, which clears the acid more quickly. It's wise to avoid peppermint and spearmint flavors, however, which can up acid levels and make heartburn worse.
6. Improves Breath
It's a no-brainer to pop in some gum when you want to fight bad breath, but some are better than others. In fact, researchers found that Wrigley's Big Red, a well-known cinnamon-flavored gum with a plant essential oil for flavoring, reduced bacteria in the mouth that cause bad breath. It seems the key to picking the best breath-freshening gums is to find those with flavors, most of which come from plant oils, that fight bacteria and don't just mask odor.
7. Improves Eating Habits
While chewing sugar-free gum won't automatically melt pounds, popping some low-calorie sticks can have a beneficial effect towards eating better. Studies show that chewing gum can help ward off some food cravings and make you consume less. The biggest benefit comes from those who reach for a stick of gum instead of reaching for a caloric sweet snack between meals. Also, popping some gum right at the end of a meal, while watching TV, or when other mindless nibbling occurs, can save calories.
8. Helps Cigarette Smokers Quit
Even as a non-smoker, I know that gum is no magic bullet to quitting smoking, but products, such as Nicorette gum, aim to help. The gum, which delivers a controlled amount of nicotine to your system, attempts to reduce your cravings. In addition, chewing gum can help moderate the oral cravings of cigarettes, too. (See also: How to Break Bad Habits)
9. Relieves Dry Mouth
Yet another oral health benefit of chewing sugar-free gum includes combating dry mouth. It's been noted that chewing sugarless gum stimulates saliva up to 10 times the resting rate. This is a huge help in reversing oral dryness and the discomfort and problems associated with dry mouth.
10. Relieves Ear Pain During Flights
Having ear pain due to air pressure changes during takeoff and landing on a flight is no fun. It's long been known that there are a number of ways to stop your ears from popping, including yawning, pinching your nose, or even giving little ones a bottle. But, the easiest way may just be to chew on some gum. This helps produce saliva so you swallow more, which can help equalize the pressure in your ears.
11. Fights Nausea
For natural relief against nausea from morning sickness or motion sickness, try safe herbal gums, like Sea-Band Ginger Gum. The ginger and saliva production helps to sooth acid and stomach irritability. Currently pregnant again, I can also attest to chewing sugarless gum in general, which helped me feel slightly less awful when out and about with morning sickness.
What are some other benefits of chewing gum that you can share?