5 nasty reasons you should stop chewing gum (even if you love it)
Posted March 20
Chewing gum has been around for ages and comes in any flavor you could want: mint, fruit, apple pie (seriously)— you name it. It’s the perfect thing to chew on before a job interview, when you’re tempted to eat a second brownie or when your mouth feels dry, right? Maybe not. While there are positive benefits of chewing gum, there are also downsides you shouldn’t ignore:
1. The dangers of sugar-free
Your teeth may not be as susceptible to rot if you chew sugar-free, but these types of gums are often sweetened with aspartame, which studies show has been linked to lymphomas, tumors and certain types of cancers. While the small amount of aspartame in gum isn’t drastically harmful, this artificial sweetener is most likely found in other foods and drinks you are already consuming.
2. Gum can cause headaches
Especially if you suffer from jaw problems (like these temporomandibular disorders) the extra chewing caused by gum is putting unnecessary strain and pressure on your jaw. A little stick of gum creates more pain when you chew, causing your jaw to “pop” or “click” when it’s opened and severe tension headaches. The American Dental Association suggests people who are prone to jaw problems shouldn’t chew gum at all; and warn that excessive chewing can even create these problems, even if you don’t have symptoms now.
3. Chewing can create a junk food craving
There are studies that show how gum can help curb your appetite and help you avoid dessert — which is great. There is also research that suggests how chewing minty gum makes you less likely to snack on a piece of fruit, and instead reach for something salty (like the half empty bag of chips). Researchers believe the minty flavor helps to make fruit bitter, meaning you’re less likely to make that healthy choice when you reach for a snack.
4. Gum causes bloating
Chewing gum lets excess air pockets into your system, causing that bloat belly we all love so much (along with excess gas). WebMD suggests cutting out the gum chomping if you’re looking to reduce bloat. These air pockets can be especially painful if you already have irritable bowl syndrome (IBS). Even if you don’t have IBS, chewing gum can cause similar symptoms. “Someone who is chewing a lot of gum and having IBS symptoms may find it goes away if they stop chewing”, notes Jonathan P. Kushner, MD.
5. Look out for icky ingredients
They may not be cancer causing or death inducing, but some of the ingredients in chewing gum are just gross. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that chewing gum is made of a combination of waxes and resins (then the sweeteners, coloring agents and flavorings, of course). One of those commonly used waxes is lanolin — a yellow waxy substance made from skin glands of wooly animals, like sheep. It’s not proven to be dangerous, but the ethical and general “icky” factor of chewing lanolin is something to think about.
There’s no need to stop chewing gum forever, but especially if you are an avid chewer, think about cutting back (to cut down on bloat and jaw troubles) and switching your brands. Look for gums not sweetened with aspartame and are vegan — meaning there's no lanolin inside. To be even healthier, swap out gum for mint and fruit infused water to help curb your appetite for sweets.
Emily is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is a staunch believer in pie as breakfast food. Read more about her travels and tastings at ercummings.blogspot.com.