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7 facts and fables about chewing gum

  1. What do you know about this fresh candy that is not meant to be eaten? Seven Facts and Myths About Chewing Gum Explained.

1. Eating lots of gum will make you constipated.

  1. That's a myth, it's the other way around: chewing a lot of gum can cause watery stools. Sugar-free chewing gum often contains polyols, such as sorbitol or xylitol. These sweeteners have a laxative effect. If you take a chewing gum every now and then, you probably won't notice it. If you have sensitive intestines or if you use whole packs of chewing gum, diarrhea may occur. In the British Medical Journal, doctors describe two extreme cases of patients who ended up in hospital with intestinal complaints and severe diarrhea. One of them, a 21-year-old woman, had been struggling with stomach pains for months and sat in the toilet 4 to 12 times a day with watery stools. After investigation, the cause turned out not to be a bowel disease. The culprit was the large amount of sugar-free gum with sorbitol that the patient used every day. Her symptoms disappeared after a sorbitol-free diet.

2. Chewing is good for your concentration.

  1. This seems to be a fact. In World War II, Canadian and American soldiers were already given chewing gum, because it would keep you relaxed but still alert. Several studies later showed that chewing gum has a positive effect on your concentration and alertness. Chewing for a while before starting a task was found to help working memory in one study. It is still unclear what exactly chewing gum does for the brain. Your grinding jaw is likely to promote concentration, not the gum itself. Chewing ensures that more blood flows to certain parts of the brain. It is also associated with a higher heart rate and blood pressure.

3. You can be hypersensitive to gum.

  1. That's true. Chewing gum can contain lactose, one of the 24 most common allergens. Lactose is a milk sugar that is broken down in the intestine by the enzyme lactase. If your intestinal wall produces no or too little lactase, the lactose is not broken down and you get symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain, flatulence and diarrhea. We call that lactose intolerance.

4. Chewing gum is bad for your teeth.

  1. This is not true. At least as long as you opt for sugar-free chewing gum, but most chewing gum varieties nowadays no longer contain sugar. Chewing gum can even be good for your teeth. For example if you use it as a substitute for sugary sweets. In addition, chewing causes you to produce extra saliva. Saliva neutralizes acid attack, rinses your mouth and contributes to cavity-free teeth.

5. Chewing gum will make you wind more.

  1. This is correct. If you chew a lot of gum, you swallow a lot of extra air unnoticed. By the way, you also do that when you drink through a straw, when you are under tension or stress and when you eat or talk too quickly. The excess air must of course also be removed from your body. You guessed it, that comes with flatulence. Sorbitol, the sugar substitute that was discussed earlier, is not completely absorbed and digested. Your intestinal flora in the large intestine therefore still needs to ferment a part. That also produces gas formation.

6. Chewing gum protects your ears.

  1. That's a fact, at least according to a study by the University of Toronto. Scientists analyzed three Finnish studies of middle ear infections in children. Healthy children who ingested xylitol, for example through chewing gum, were found to have a 25 percent lower risk of such inflammation. Sugar substitute xylitol is also found in other foods and is against bacteria. It may also clear the accumulating bacteria in the Eustachian tube that cause a middle ear infection. It is too early to chew preventative gum to prevent an ear infection, more research is needed on xylitol for that. If you suffer from an earache on an airplane, chewing gum can help anyway. The changing air pressure during the ascent and descent increases the relative pressure in the middle ear, which can be very painful. Chewing and swallowing slightly open the Eustachian tube so that air can escape and the pressure in the ear is released. So a chewing gum in your hand luggage always comes in handy.

7. If you swallow gum, it will form a lump in your stomach.

  1. That's a fable. Your stomach and intestines are already breaking down some of the ingredients. Subsequently, the movements of these organs ensure that the non-digestible components go towards the exit. You simply defecate swallowed gum. Small children can get clogged with chewing gum, especially if they consume a large amount in a row.

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