Chewing gum is a highly unsociable act and makes a smacking noise that is highly frustrating and off-putting for anyone within earshot. As a result, it gets a lot of bad press and we are generally told to 'stop chewing that annoying gum' or to 'take that gum out of [our] mouth'. While this advice may have merit in polite society however, we run the risk of overlooking some of the positive aspects of chewing gum and some of the ways in which it can help our health and particularly our oral hygiene. Here we will look at the pros – and then the cons – of chewing gum and find out whether it should perhaps be held in higher regard.
Benefits of Chewing Gum
It burns calories: Anything you do can burn calories whether it's walking or thinking. Many people who take weight loss very seriously will therefore try bobbing their leg up and down or swaying etc to try and burn off calories while they're not doing anything as even this small movement over a long enough duration can be enough to burn energy. Chewing gum meanwhile can have the precise same effect and cause you to burn calories due to the consistent chewing motion.
It can suppress appetite: For those aiming to lose weight gum has another benefit in that it means you are 'chewing'. Losing weight is often highly psychological and even those who are not hungry can sometimes feel an urge to eat just so that they are physically chewing and putting things to their mouth. Chewing gum then can be the next best thing, and similarly it is also often used by those who are trying to quit smoking who miss the act of putting the cigarette to their mouth.
It improves our breath: Chewing gum is good for your breath in a number of ways. Of course they are generally flavoured with strong mint which can easily override any bad odour, but at the same time it also encourages the flow of saliva which can wash out the mouth and kill off the bacteria that actually causes bad breath in the first place.
It's good for our teeth: Saliva is also very good for your teeth and is the body's natural method of washing. Furthermore, the sticky gum can collect microscopic plaque and food this way mean that it's not all stuck against your teeth.
Some gum tries to capitalise on this further and will include other elements that are good for your teeth – some go as far as to include a small brush inside to actually scrape the plaque away from the teeth while others include some ingredients used as toothpaste in their composition.
It's refreshing: As well as improving your breath, mint also has another very useful role in that it can refresh you and make you feel more awake. In this way it can give you a burst of wakefulness and energy and help you to feel more alert and 'with it' after a long night or first thing in the morning.
Downsides of Chewing Gum
It can be bad for the stomach: It is a well known fact that chewing gum can be damaging to the stomach lining. The reason for this is that the chewing motion indicates to the body that food is on the way and it then prepares for this by releasing the stomach acids that can aid indigestion. If food were to come, these acids would be highly useful in breaking them down so that they could be used by the body. However as gum never gets into the stomach, the acids then are absorbed again by the stomach lining which can damage it and cause a range of problems including acid reflux and lower alcohol tolerance.
It includes sugar or sweetener: While many people laud the potential benefits of gum on the teeth, the fact that it contains sugar means that overall it is still likely to cause plaque and other damage. At the same time sugar is a simple carb meaning it can be bad for those with diabetes and can result in fluctuations in energy.
Of course some sweeteners attempt to get around this problem by including no sugar. However invariably these will instead use sweetener, and though this is essentially perfectly healthy that can have some negative effects if it causes the release of insulin (the body releases insulin after tasting the 'sweet' thinking that it's getting sugar) which then uses up all the body sugar and leaves you craving more. It's not a big problem for most people who can control their hunger and don't have hypoglycaemia or diabetes, but it is worth considering.
It can be bad for your digestion: Of course the intention is that you do not ever swallow gum, and most people are careful not to. However on occasion it will of course happen and this can then cause problems as gum takes so long to digest and can 'clog up' the digestive tract. The oft-quoted fact that it stays in the stomach for seven years has little to no basis, but it will certainly stay in your system for a long time.