Commercial chewing gum appeared in the mid-19th century, and the first popular brand, Wrigley’s Doublemint, recently turned 100 years old. The mint flavor remains the most common – it so happened that it is he who is associated with oral hygiene products. Originally, menthol was used to mask the bitter taste of other ingredients or the taste of soda. There is another version, according to which the addition of menthol is just a marketing ploy: tingling and chill in the mouth made people think that the paste really works, although the taste of mint has no direct connection with the cleansing effects.
Opinions about chewing gum differ: for some, it is a necessary element of hygiene after a meal, while others see chewing as a bad habit. On the Internet, you can find a variety of properties attributed to chewing gum: it supposedly helps not to overeat, improves memory, and treats depression; however, you may also hear that chewing gum is harmful to your teeth or causes headaches. Let’s see what dentists and other experts say on the topic, whether chewing gum overdose is possible and what impact it has on the environment.
Chewing gum and stomach
There is an opinion that as soon as the gum enters the mouth, the production of gastric juice begins – and if the food does not enter the stomach, it will begin to “digest itself”. But in reality, the opposite is true: chewing gum increases the production of saliva, and swallowing it leads to the fact that the acid in the esophagus is neutralized or washed out faster. Chewing gum can relieve symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (a condition in which stomach contents enter the esophagus) its typical symptoms are heartburn or a lump in the throat.
At the same time, there is some evidence that chewing gum really reflexively triggers the functions of the gastrointestinal tract and can, for example, accelerate the recovery of intestinal function after operations, including a cesarean section.
Nicotine replacement therapy is used for people who want to quit smoking; usually, nicotine is contained in a patch or chewing gum, from where it is slowly released. Other forms are available: lozenges, sprays, and inhalers. According to a systematic review, all licensed forms of such therapy, including chewing gum, increase the chances of successful smoking cessation. Among people using substitution therapy, the frequency of quitting smoking is 50-60% higher than among the rest. In rare cases, local irritation is possible (this applies primarily to patches), as well as chest pain and palpitations.
Is it possible to swallow gum
Although it is not designed for this, it is not dangerous to swallow gum (and this has happened to most people at least a couple of times in their lives). Chewing gum is inert and indigestible, but due to peristalsis it moves along the gastrointestinal tract and leaves it naturally in a couple of days. In very rare cases, due to the swallowing of very large amounts of gum in combination with constipation, children develop intestinal obstruction – so it is better not to make it a habit to swallow, but experts do not advise believing rumors that the gum will lie in the stomach for seven years.
Too much – how much is this
To protect and further cleanse your teeth, chewing gum can be used after every meal throughout the day – especially if you can’t brush it with a toothpaste brush. The duration of chewing is within twenty minutes; after that, the gum will lose its taste, and there will be no additional benefit, but the load on the chewing muscles may be too high.
Constant chewing can lead to fatigue of the chewing muscles and pain in the temporomandibular joint (especially if there are problems with the bite). Constant muscle tension is a common cause of headaches; one of its common types is called “tension headache”. Perhaps chewing gum can serve as a trigger for migraine attacks.
Excessive gum consumption can be a sign of an eating disorder: it tastes good and temporarily dampens or distracts hunger, and people with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa sometimes consume a whole pack per day or more. On average, people with eating disorders use four times more sugar-free gum than others. In addition to being a food substitute or a good food source, people with bulimia can use chewing gum to compensate for dental problems caused by frequent vomiting or to mask a bad smell.
A case of dangerous hyponatremia (too low sodium level in the blood) as a result of the laxative and diuretic effect of gum is described: a patient with anorexia nervosa consumed about 150 pads a day. British tabloids a couple of years ago talked about the story of a girl with the same diagnosis – her habit of constantly chewing gum also led to hypertrophy of the chewing muscles.