Chewing gum is something many people do often. For some, it’s a habit or a quick breath freshening strategy. We chew on these flavored sticks or cubes virtually without thinking, because it’s not like we swallow them… how harmful could they be?
As harmless a habit as it seems, chewing gum may have some less-than-desirable health effects. The following are just a few things that can happen when you chew gum.
You may be messing with your small intestine
A new study performed at Binghamton University found that titanium dioxide nanoparticles, found in many chewing gums, may negatively affect the way that the small intestine absorbs nutrients and keeps pathogens at bay. Chronic exposure to these nanoparticles (which are also found in many processed foods) was linked to a slower metabolism, decreased absorption of key nutrients and increased inflammation in the small intestine.
If you chew gum on a regular basis, that certainly qualifies as chronic exposure.
You may be inclined to eat a less healthy diet
A 2013 study published in the journal Eating Behaviors linked chewing gum before meals to a lower quality of diet. The study also linked chewing gum (mint flavored, in this case) to eating less fruits… not a healthy choice.
You may be increasing your risk of chronic headaches
A 2014 study published in the journal Pediatric Neurology linked habitually chewing gum to chronic headaches in teenagers. On the results of their study, the authors wrote:
“Excessive daily gum-chewing may be associated with chronic headache and should get more attention in the medical literature. Physician and patient awareness of this association could have a meaningful impact on the quality of life of children and adolescents with chronic headache who chew gum excessively.”
You’re likely ingesting genetically modified bacteria
If you chew sugar-free gum, you’re very likely ingesting a nice dose of artificial sweeteners. Aspartame, the most common of these, is actually made from genetically modified bacteria. Sounds appetizing, right?
On top of the yuck factor, artificial sweeteners (including but not limited to aspartame) have been linked to some seriously scary potential health detriments.
You may be rotting your teeth
If you opt for sugary gum instead of sugar-free, you’re essentially chewing on pure sugar. This can, as you probably already know, lead to tooth decay, along with a slew of other health consequences. Those bite-sized fruit flavored cubes may taste good, but you’re setting yourself up for a slew of dental bills down the road.
You may be exasperating digestive disorders such as IBS
If you have digestive issues, chewing gum may make them worse. Because you tend to swallow air by chewing, IBS flare-ups can occur if you chew habitually. Swallowing excess air may also lead to bloating, cramps and intestinal pressure. On top of that, if you have a digestive condition, you really don’t want to be chewing on all of those artificial ingredients.
You may be hurting your jaw
I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve chewed gum in the past, I’ve always had noticeable jaw pain afterward. This is because chewing gum can put pressure on your jaw. It is possible that chewing gum often may even be a catalyst for TMJ, a painful jaw condition which you definitely want to avoid.
For all of these reasons, chewing gum is just not the best idea. If you simply want to chew something (especially if you just quit smoking), put a piece of tamarind in your mouth. It’s delicious and won’t deposit additives into your body. For freshening your breath, you could chew on a sprig of mint, cilantro or parsley. Also, check out these suggestions for keeping your breath smelling fresh.
— Tanya Mead