If you had met me in my twenties, you would have known how much I loved chewing gum. I bought many different flavours and brands and always had a big assortment in my handbag. If you wanted gum, you knew who to ask! 😛
I can’t remember how I became addicted to gum, but I assume it was during my engineering degree. It was a stressful time and chewing gum seemed to take the edge off of doing late night assignments. The habit of chewing gum multiple times a day stayed with me well into my late twenties until I realized how bad it was for my health. A few pieces of gum here and there aren’t the problem, but when you’re going through a half a pack or more a day, it can definitely affect your health.
Let’s take a look at what goes into a standard mint-flavored gum.
Sorbitol, Gum Base, Mannitol, Natural and Artificial Flavours; Less than 2% of Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Aspartame, Acesulfame K, Soy Lecithin, BHT, Colour Blue 1 Lake.
It doesn’t sound so good, does it? Most chewing gums rely on sugar alcohols (like sorbitol) and artificial sweeteners for sweetness instead of sugar. While in theory that sounds like a good choice, more and more research about the possible negative health effects of these alternative sweeteners is coming out.
So what exactly does chewing gum do to your health? And why should you consider ditching (or at least reducing) it?
Reason No 1: You won’t feel as bloated anymore.
Many sugar-free gums contain a compound known as sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol. It provides sweetness, but without the calories. Sounds good, but is it? It depends. Some people may have limited reactions to sorbitol, but for others, sorbitol can cause digestive issues and bloating [1, 2].
Even if your gum doesn’t have sorbitol, the mere act of chewing gum causes you to swallow air  , which can also lead to bloating.
So if you’re feeling bloated for no apparent reason, try cutting out the gum to see if it makes a difference. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it certainly did for me.
Reason No 2: Your gut bacteria (and your waistline!) will thank you.
Did you know that chewing gum made with artificial sweeteners can change the bacteria that live in your gut and potentially cause obesity?
The “good” bacteria that live in your gut have a big impact on your overall health. Gut bacteria can impact your mental health , your immune system , your risk of obesity , your risk of type 2 diabetes  and much more. So, eating any food that can negatively impact your gut bacteria isn’t the best idea.
So what impacts your gut bacteria? You guessed it – it’s artificial sweeteners.
Some recent research has shown that artificial sweeteners might mess with your metabolism and eventually cause diabetes and obesity [8, 9, 10]! The research is still evolving and far from definitive. So it is hard to make a strong conclusion, but I would prefer to err on the side of caution and limit artificial sweeteners.
Reason No 3: You’ll have fewer sugar cravings.
Many people will recommend chewing gum as a way to reduce cravings, but in reality, you might actually end up craving more food! And not healthy food – chewing gum can increase your cravings for sugary snacks. How does it do that?
A study from Yale  showed that artificial sweeteners change they way our brains work.
Artificial sweeteners, precisely because they are sweet, encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence. Repeated exposure trains flavor preference.
The more sweetness you’re exposed to from your chewing gum, the more likely you are to have sugar cravings! If you feel that you have a sweet tooth and have tried everything to get your cravings under control, perhaps it is time to ditch artificially sweetened chewing gum. It might just work!
What should you do instead?
If you like to idea of staying minty fresh, you can try a few options that aren’t going to affect your health like the standard chewing gums in the market.
- Try chewing on fennel seeds after a meal. Fennel seeds have been used for centuries in India as a digestive aid and breath freshener. It does take a while to get used to the flavor, but it’s worth a shot. Try a teaspoon of fennel seeds and slowly chew on them. Really take your time to release the flavour!
- If fennel seeds aren’t your cup of tea, try natural gums flavoured with xylitol (provided you aren’t sensitive to xylitol – I am!). Glee Gum does a decent gum with xylitol and uses natural chicle instead of synthetic gum as a gum base.
Giving up gum was hard for me, but I think it was worth it :). Let me know how it goes!
If you have any questions or comments, would love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below (scroll past the section called “other posts you might like”).