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.
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 tostimulate 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.
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.