A lot of people chew gum every day. After all, bubble gum is something practically everyone grew up chewing on. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American chews 1.8 pounds of gum each and every year, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Yes, gum is usually the first thing people reach for when they want to curb some stinky breath, but this treat that’s usually found in the candy aisle is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of something on the healthier side to snack on. Turns out, there are actually some surprising benefits to chomping on the stuff, such as decreasing a person’s stress levels and even their waist size.
However, as with most things in life, some good always comes with some bad, and gum has cons that can come for your smile as well. Therefore, it’s important to research which kind of gum you chews (get it?). Here’s what happens to your body when you chew gum every day.
If you chew gum every day, you could improve your memory
Though many schools ban the chewing of gum during class, it turns out they may actually be doing their students a huge disservice. A study done at St. Lawrence University found that chewing gum before taking a test can actually help students recall information and increase their scores. Though the researchers aren’t sure exactly why this is, they believe it has to do with getting the blood pumping. Chewing gum beforehand increased its participants’ blood flow to their brains, making them quicker at recalling the important stuff.
However, the only downfall is that the same results didn’t occur if they chewed gum while taking the test. The gum only gave them the burst of brain power needed when chewed beforehand. "The results provide strong evidence that chewing gum is associated with an overall increase in cognitive functioning, particularly working memory, episodic memory, and perceptual speed of processing," the study concluded, "but only when chewing takes place prior to cognitive testing."
So, if you need to get your brain going each morning, the next time you blow a bubble, you can blow your mind with that extra bit of information you remember. So maybe chew gum every day that you have a test — before the exam, that is.
You could experience headaches if you chew gum every day
Though gum can be good for a person’s brain, it turns out that, if you chew gum every day, it might not be so good for their head.
A doctor at Meir Medical Center noticed that many patients who came in complaining of headaches chewed gum for at least one hour every day. Instead of prescribing them medication, he recommended they break their daily gum-chewing habit. Most patients reported that their headaches had gone away entirely. "Twenty of the improved patients later agreed to go back to chewing gum, and all of them reported an immediate relapse of symptoms," Dr. Nathan Watemberg told Science Daily.
So how can chewing gum possibly hurt a person’s head? Watemberg believes the headaches stem from the pressure that chewing gum puts on the joints between the jaw and the skull on each side of a person’s head, known as the temporomandibular joints — or TMJ, for short. "Every doctor knows that overuse of the TMJ will cause headaches," Watemberg said. "I believe this is what’s happening when children and teenagers chew gum excessively."
If you chew gum every day, jaw problems could get worse
Because of the pressure that chewing gum puts on the temporomandibular joints, or TMJ, it only makes sense that it can potentially cause long-term jaw problems for its daily users. It may start as a popping or clicking noise every time they chew, but, for some people, this can get so severe that they can have difficulties even moving their jaw, which can be downright painful (via HuffPost). In these cases, when not fulfilling a hungry appetite, it’s better to give the jaw a rest from chomping, and the American Dental Association recommends quitting chewing gum altogether in order to do so.
However, don’t toss away the Dubble Bubble gum just yet. A person has to chew food to live, so how can chewing gum for a small amount of time each day possibly be so bad? A study done at Shiraz University compared people who chewed gum for 30, 60, and 120 minutes per day. They found that those who chewed for longer durations seemed to have an increased risk for jaw problems.
Because of this, it’s probably best to limit the amount of time you chew gum every day.
You might be able to break bad habits if you chew gum every day
Everybody knows how hard it is to break a bad habit, but there is an easy solution to help you stop smoking or chewing your fingernails — chew some gum instead!
In an interview with Reader’s Digest, certified dermatologist Dr. David Bank said that this is one of the best ways to intervene when it comes to nail biting in particular. Popping in a chewy treat like gum can help to keep the mouth busy and prevent the unconscious decision to chew on nails.
Additionally, a study done by Oklahoma State University found that gum is a helpful aid with which to replace nicotine. When smokers were unable to have access to a cigarette during the day, researchers found that chewing gum helped to reduce their cravings. They also didn’t smoke as often during the day, and, when they did, they took less puffs from their cigarettes. It makes sense why baseball players are known to turn to gum to cease their nasty chewing tobacco habits, doesn’t it?
Overall, making the decision to chew gum every day can be an easy and helpful way to slowly ditch many bad habits.
If you chew gum every day, you may put a halt to heartburn
The researchers found that chewing gum for 30 minutes after enjoying a favorite meal — with some not-so-favorite consequences — reduces the level of stomach acids that rise up into a person’s esophagus. The gum forces these fluids to return back to the stomach. Chewing a piece (or two) also creates a mixture in a person’s saliva which neutralizes the acid that causes the uncomfortable burning sensation sometimes felt after a meal, as noted by The New York Times.
Though chewing any kind of gum helps to aid in digestion, sugarless bicarbonate gum is reportedly the kind to buy to help give heartburn sufferers the best relief. It can be found in the toothpaste aisle of local pharmacies, according to Livestrong. So, if you want to chew gum every day to relieve heartburn after eating foods from the likes of Pizza Hut, make sure to pick up the right kind.
You can reduce your stress levels if you chew gum every day
If an overwhelming work day has a person stressed out when they come home each evening, choosing to chew gum every day may not be such a bad idea.
A study done by Eastern Illinois University had high school students chew gum while preparing for their ACTs. Their research showed that the sweet treat helped lower stress levels substantially when preparing for the daunting test — but why?
One explanation is that the part of the brain that tells a person they’re hungry is also connected to the regions that deal with stress and anxiety. Chewing a piece of gum can make the brain think it’s being fed and, therefore, decrease a person’s level of stress (via Time). And it makes sense. "The brain needs fuel to regulate emotions," Ohio State University psychology professor Dr. Brad Bushman told Time in 2015. Essentially, it’s similar to lashing out when a person is "hangry" — and a person can get hangry for many reasons.
Dr. Paul Currie, a psychology and neuroscience professor from Reed College, added, "If you’re an animal and you’re hungry, you need food to survive," noting, "So it’s natural that you would feel anxious and irritable and preoccupied until you’ve met that need."
If you chew gum every day, you could lose weight
Research from the University of Rhode Island found that people who chewed sugar-free gum each morning decreased their calorie intake during lunch by an average of 68 calories. Gum chewers also never ate more at dinnertime to compensate. Instead, they reported feeling less hungry throughout their days than when they hadn’t chewed gum.
However, though calories will get shaved off each day, don’t expect a substantial amount of weight loss if you chew gum every day — and that alone. WebMD recommends that every time a person feels like reaching for a bag of chips, they should reach for a stick of gum instead. By doing this only once a week, it could lead to a two-pound weight loss within the year. Chewing gum, along with something simple like switching to 1 percent or 2 percent milk, could also add up to a 10-pound weight loss in a year.
So, chewing gum, combined with a changing your diet and exercise, could be a good way to burn off excess pounds over time.
You could gain weight if you chew gum with this flavor
Weirdly enough, when reaching for gum to cut down on calories, it’s best to make sure it’s not mint-flavored.
According to a study from the University at Buffalo, people who chewed gum with a mint flavor before a meal were less likely to reach for healthier food options, like fruits or veggies. They still opted to munch on junk food for their daily snacks instead. The study’s author, Dr. Jennifer Temple, compared this phenomenon to brushing one’s teeth before eating a piece of fruit. "For some people, mint makes fruit taste awful," she told Time.
However, she agreed that chewing gum each morning can shave down on a person’s caloric intake. "In terms of replacing snacks with gum, that could be beneficial," Temple said. This is especially true when it comes to sugar-free gum. Overall, Temple said, "I would say avoid mint gum just before meal times, because we found it encourages lower consumption of fruits and vegetables." So, if you want to chew gum every day, maybe skip the mint flavors.
If you chew gum every day, you might want to avoid swallowing it
There’s a myth that’s been floating around for years: Don’t swallow chewing gum because it will stay in your stomach for seven years. Fortunately, this is false and is one of the many lies every parent tells their kids. Still, it’s not great for your stomach if you chew gum every day and always swallow it.
Though swallowed gum will exit a person’s stomach in only a day or two, there are still parts of its makeup that are never able to be digested, such as the synthetic portion that makes up this sweet, sticky substance.
And, sorry to burst your bubble, but creating a habit of swallowing a lot of gum in a short amount of time could potentially create digestion problems. According to Ohio State University, as the swallowed gum builds up in the gut, it can potentially build up so much that it creates a large mass. This can become trapped in various digestive valves and can obstruct a person’s intestines. Though it’s a rare occurrence, it could potentially happen, and it is considered a medical emergency because that gum has got to come out. Yikes.
You could fight drowsiness if you chew gum every day
Chewing on a piece of gum has been shown to help increase levels of energy and alertness throughout the day.
One study showed that people who chewed gum throughout the night to stay awake reported feeling less tired than those who did not chew gum. Another study found that those who chewed gum throughout the day felt less tired as well. Though researchers aren’t exactly sure why, they believe it may have to do with the fact that chewing gum keeps your brain busy.
Chewing gum also keeps the brain more focused. A study done at Cardiff University found that people who chewed gum had overall quicker reaction times than those who didn’t before performing a task, as reported by Science Daily. "Interestingly participants who didn’t chew gum performed slightly better at the beginning of the task but were overtaken by the end," researcher Kate Morgan explained. "This suggests that chewing gum helps us focus on tasks that require continuous monitoring over a longer amount of time."
So, if you find yourself frequently fighting a mid-day slump each afternoon, consider making the decision to chew gum every day.
If you chew gum every day, you might be able to put an end to ear infections
"Middle ear infections in children are very common and they are a cause of worry for many parents," Amir Azarpazhooh from the University of Toronto told Cochrane. "A cheap and safe way to prevent these episodes is very welcome." Turns out, the solution could simply be a 99 cent pack of gum.
Chewing gum has been recommended by flight attendants to help make a person’s ears more comfortable while flying, but gum also reduces the amount of nasty ear infections that are, unfortunately, so common for kids. By the time many reach their fifth birthday, they’ve dealt with at least one. About 16 million kids in the U.S. alone visit doctors each year for a solution, according to WebMD. Who knew the solution was gum?
Ear infections manifest when bacteria collects in the tubes that connect the nose and ears, and gum containing the natural sweetener xylitol works by preventing bacteria from backing up there. Research has shown that regular gum chewing reduces a child’s risk of developing a middle ear infection by 25 percent. Gum containing xylitol was shown to work even better than doctor-prescribed syrups with the same stuff. Luckily, the decision to chew gum every day is cheaper too!
When you chew gum every day, you could help alleviate dry mouth
Whether it be a side effect of a necessary medication or just an unfortunate body betrayal, dry mouth is no fun. It can make it difficult and downright uncomfortable to do simple daily tasks like speaking or eating. Luckily, chewing gum each day is an easy solution for this common problem.
The muscles in a person’s mouth that are at work during each chew compress salivary glands that help to release extra saliva. Chewing this sweet stuff can increase the amount of saliva flowing in the mouth by 10 to 12 times, so doctors agree that prescribing sugar-free gum is an easy solution to curb the issue of dry mouth, according to the American Dental Association.
Unfortunately, though the American Dental Association says that chewing gum has no long-term effects on altering dry mouth, making the decision to chew gum every day when needed before giving a presentation or enjoying a delicious meal will help a dry mouth feel much, much better in the moment.
You could prevent tooth decay if you chew gum every day
It may seem counterintuitive to think that chewing on something found in the candy aisle could do a person’s teeth any good. However, because chewing gum helps increase saliva, if a person goes for sugar-free gum after each meal, the saliva it creates can help to wash away acids found in food that can break down tooth enamel and cause cavities, according to the American Dental Association.
One study found that chewing gum containing xylitol, in particular, helps prevent bacteria from growing in the mouth. A later study discovered that chewing gum with xylitol after a meal reduced bacteria by up to 75 percent. Some gum brands have even started to add an ingredient that claims to harden tooth enamel, adding further protection against tooth decay (via Colgate).
However amazing this sounds, the American Dental Association says that, although chewing gum is a great way to curb cavities, it shouldn’t be in replacement of daily toothbrushing. So don’t think you can throw out your toothbrush if you chew gum every day. And, in case you were wondering, this is what really happens when you don’t brush your teeth.
You could harm your teeth if you chew gum every day with this ingredient
Although the American Dental Association advocates for chewing gum after a meal in order to protect teeth, it recommends that people always avoid picking up a pack that contains sugar. This is because sugar actually increases the amount of bad bacteria in the mouth that eats away at tooth enamel instead of fighting against it, according to Healthline.
Sugar-free gum — or sugar-free anything for that matter — may not sound as great, but reaching for gum without sugar can be just as satisfying. The American Dental Association says that gums which are sweetened with non-cavity-causing sweeteners can be a great choice for your chompers. Ingredients to look for when purchasing gum are aspartame, sorbitol, or mannitol, or people can look for packaging that has the ADA seal of approval on the front.
As long as it’s sugar-free and you do so in moderation, why not chew gum every day?