At 59%, the United States is ranked as having the 3rd highest percentage of people who chew gum. That equals out to a total of almost 200 million people who chew gum on a regular basis. People chew gum for many different reasons, including using it as a source of stress relief, to freshen their breath, to help overcome food cravings, or simply because they like the flavor. No big deal, right? Wrong. Although chewing gum may seem like such a minor thing that couldn’t possibly have any major or long-term effects on your health, it does.
While chewing gum causes a wide variety of health issues, I would say the most dangerous of them all is caused by the artificial sweeteners that are used to make it. When purchasing gum, most people don’t pay much attention to the nutrition label, especially since gum isn’t actually swallowed. Well, even though it is not meant to be swallowed, all of the ingredients still enter your system through the walls of your mouth. This can actually have a harsher effect on the body considering it bypasses the digestive system, which is used to filter out toxins. The main, and most dangerous, artificial sweetener that is used in gum is aspartame. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is 150-200 times sweeter than regular sugar. So, while the companies can write on gum packages that it is “sugar-free” you are actually consuming something much worse. In addition, aspartame is metabolized inside your body into both wood alcohol and formaldehyde. Wood alcohol, also known as Methanol, received its name because it was originally produced as a byproduct of the destructive distillation of wood. It is a colorless, volatile, and flammable liquid that is highly toxic and unfit for consumption. Formaldehyde is much more commonly known, due to the fact that it is used for the embalming of human remains. Aspartame has been linked to birth defects, cancers, brain tumors, diabetes, and depression. Do you really want all of that flowing through your system? Or even worse, if you are a parent, through your child’s system?
Chewing gum also has a direct correlation to weight gain. For starters, the artificial sweeteners play a major role due to the fact that they are proven to increase cravings (especially cravings for sweets), stimulate your appetite, and promote fat storage. When you are chewing something that is sweet, but has very few calories, your body is not receiving any energy to feel satisfied, therefore making you crave more calories. In addition, the constant chewing sends signals to your brain, creating the belief that you are chewing actual food. When you are eating, your body creates digestive enzymes that will allow it to properly break down that food. Therefore, the act of chewing gum will still release those enzymes even though there is no food to digest, which can cause bloating and an overproduction of stomach acid, which can lead to long-term effects such as compromising your ability to produce these needed enzymes when you do eat an actual meal.
It is not just the artificial sugars that are hurting your body though. The act of chewing gum alone can have negative effects. People can, and tend to, chew the same piece of gum for periods of time, without even thinking about it. That constant chewing can create an imbalance in your jaw, especially if you tend to chew on one side more than the other. Overtime, it can also become a main cause for headaches, earaches, and toothaches. In addition, if you have any cavities in your teeth that are filled with mercury fillings, chewing gum can cause this neurotoxin to release from the fillings and be put into your body. Mercury is known to target your blood, urinary tract, nerves, and brain.
It is understandable that some people may find it hard to break the habit, especially those who use it to help stress or for people who are very self-conscious about bad breath. So, here are some healthier alternatives for you. Although it is highly suggested you do not chew gum at all, if for some reason you must, choose Spry. Spry is a “safer” brand due to the fact it is Non-GMO, has no artificial colors, artificial preservatives, carcinogenic sugars, or artificial flavors, and is made with Xylitol, which is a safer sugar alcohol. Here is a list of some of your best and healthiest alternatives-
- Parsley- Chew a fresh sprig of parsley. It is nature’s cure for halitosis, more simply known as bad breathe, and the chlorophyll inside will help to neutralize any odor in your mouth.
- Ginger- Ginger also helps with halitosis. Since simply chewing on a fresh piece of ginger can be a little tough, a good alternative is to toss a piece into a glass of water or tea.
- Fennel Seeds- These tiny seeds would probably be your best option, especially considering they actually have additional health benefits. Fennel seeds can help to digest your food, prevent gas, heartburn, bloating, and upset stomach, while also freshening your breath.
- Caraway Seeds- Similar to fennel seeds, chewing these, or even using them in a cup of tea, can help with digestion and freshening your breath. Caraway seeds are even used in certain mouthwashes.
- Stress Balls- If your main concern is relieving stress, try using a stress ball. They are small balls filled with either malleable gel or clay that you repeatedly squeeze. They help to release tension and relieve stress, and they are so small you can use it anywhere!
So, ask yourself, is it really worth it to put your body through all of the negative health risks just to chew a silly piece of gum? There are much better options out there, so take advantage of them and make your body happy!
Are you feeling the effects of gum chewing? Learn more about our functional medicine nutrition program that focuses on removing sugar and artificial sweeteners and can help relieve their damaging effects on your body.