To etiquette experts, chewing away on a piece of gum is a nasty no-no. But doctors share insights on why some of them even recommend it. Read on so you know how to respond to naysayers when you’re enjoying your chewing gum! For starters, chewing gum is a stressbuster.
In fact, Dr Suneetha Narreddy, Infectious Disease Specialist at Apollo Hospitals, points out that chewing gum has been known to provide health benefits since antiquity. “The ancient Greeks chewed the lemon-white resin gum from the mastic tree to reduce fatigue and relieve stomach complaints,” she lists out.
“Central American Mayans chewed chicle resin from the sapota (cheekoo) tree, while the native U.S. Indians introduced the resin gum from spruce trees to early colonial settlers to promote relaxation. The U.S. Army has long recognised, especially since World War 1, that gum chewing reduces stress and their combat rations now include chewing gums.”
More recent studies have also shown that chewing gum reduces muscular tension and anxiety, especially in people trying to stop smoking or lose weight. Interestingly, a recent survey sponsored by the Wrigley Science Institute also revealed that chewing gum helped men and women aged 18–49 feel more relaxed when dealing with daily stress.
“There is little doubt that chewing gum can be a powerful stress buster. Look at a tightly contested baseball game on TV and you’d see how many players, coaches and managers are vigorously chewing bubble gum or something else to relieve their pent up tension,” adds Dr Suneetha.
The perfect jaw action for improved memory
While chewing gum is associated with beating stress and anxiety, it also helps increase blood flow to the brain and has several positive effects including improving memory. “Chewing gum may increase blood supply for the brain and improve one’s short-term memory,” shares Dr Subba Reddy, Sr. Consultant Intensivist and Critical Care Co-ordinator, Apollo Health City.
“In fact, chewing gum for more than 30 minutes even helps in improving dental health by removing food debris and prevents cavities formation. It also helps in fighting drowsiness and reduces heartburn by decreasing acid production. Chewing gum also helps in fighting depression.”
While the Wrigley Science Institute is currently investigating the neuroendocrine and other mechanisms of the action responsible for these stress reduction effects, the benefits of long-term chewing on stress reduction suggest that it may be a simple, cost-effective method of reducing stress and improving quality of life and well-being.
According to Dr Suneetha Nanreddy, a majority of the research on mental health and chewing gum has been carried out with non-clinical samples. “However, if chewing gum can reduce feelings of stress, it may reduce feelings of depression.”
Strikingly, in a clinical sample of mild-moderately depressed patients, depression was reduced to a greater extent when the antidepressant medication was administered with gum than alone, without it,” the doctor says though she adds, “Like many areas this one still has many questions needing fundamental research.”
If you struggle to stay alert at work, chewing gum could be the simple solution you’re looking for. One study revealed chewing gum can fight sleepiness. Anything mint flavored is the most effective gum to battle midday yawns. The neural mechanisms underlying the stress-reducing effects of chewing gum involve the prefrontal cortex, which then changes the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and autonomic nervous system activity.
Founder of Qua Nutrition, Ryan Fernando, speaks of the evidence that increased glucose metabolism in the rostral medial prefrontal cortex has been associated with lower salivary cortisol, which suggests that providing glucose to relevant brain areas may reduce stress.
“It is possible that chewing gum may affect stress through neurotransmission effects,” adds Ryan. The nutritionist also states that a recent functional magnetic resonance imaging study revealed that chewing gum when exposed to a loud noise inhibits the dispersal of stress-related information in the brain....