6 Gross Side Effects of Chewing Gum
- Chewing gum may increase your junk-food intake. Many people chew on a stick of gum to reduce food cravings and, theoretically, help them avoid eating unhealthy foods. However, while research shows that chewing gum reduces your motivation to eat, your hunger and how much you end up eating, gum chewers’ meals end up being less nutritious than those eaten by non-gum-chewers.3 For instance, people who chewed gum were less likely to eat fruit and instead were more motivated to eat junk food like potato chips and candy. This is likely because the minty flavor in the gum makes fruits and vegetables taste bitter.
- It may trigger TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) in your jaw. Chewing gum can cause jaw muscle imbalance (if you chew on one side more than the other) and even TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder in your jaw, which can be a painful chronic condition. Anytime you overuse a certain set of muscles, it can lead to contracted muscles and related pain, including headaches, earaches, and toothaches over time.
- It may create gastrointestinal problems. Chewing gum causes you to swallow excess air, which can contribute to abdominal pain and bloating seen with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Further, when you chew gum you send your body physical signals that food is about to enter your body. The enzymes and acids that are activated when you chew gum are therefore released, but without the food they’re intended to digest. This can cause bloating, an overproduction of stomach acid, and can compromise your ability to produce sufficient digestive secretions when you actually do eat food. Some people may also have adverse gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, from the artificial sweeteners that are commonly found in chewing gum.
- It creates tooth damage – even from sugar-free gum. If your chewing gum contains sugar, you’re essentially “bathing” your teeth in sugar while you chew away. This can contribute to tooth decay. Even if you chew sugar-free gum, there are still risks to your teeth because sugar-free gum often contains acidic flavorings and preservatives that may in fact lead to dental erosion,4 even if it contains cavity-fighting xylitol. Unlike cavities, dental erosion is a process of incremental decalcification, which, over time, literally dissolves your teeth.
- It contains sheep byproducts. Ewwww! Chewing gum often contains lanolin, a waxy substance that’s derived from sheep wool, to help it stay soft. While not necessarily dangerous to your health, chewing on lanolin is not exactly appetizing.
- It releases mercury from your fillings. If you have mercury fillings, you should know that chewing gum may cause this known neurotoxin to release from the fillings into your body. According to one study:5 “…chewing gum has been shown to increase the release rate of mercury vapor from dental amalgam fillings… The impact of excessive chewing on mercury levels was considerable.” Every time you chew, mercury vapor is released and quickly finds its way into your bloodstream, where it causes oxidative processes in your tissues. If you chew gum, you’re going to be chewing often, which is why it’s particularly problematic for those with mercury fillings.
Most Chewing Gum Contains Artificial SweetenersYou might not pay much attention to the ingredients in chewing gum because, after all, it’s not actually swallowed. But the ingredients, many of which are potentially dangerous, do enter your body, directly through the walls of your mouth.As with the toxic ingredients in personal care products like lotion, which are absorbed directly through your skin and into your bloodstream, the ingredients in gum also get absorbed by your body quickly and directly, bypassing the digestive system that would ordinarily help to filter some of the toxins away.One such type of harmful chemicals is artificial sweeteners, which are ubiquitous in chewing gum. Many people choose sugar-free gum on purpose, believing it to be healthier than other varieties. But even non-sugar-free brands may contain some sort of artificial sweetener. It is very unusual for them not to.One of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners in chewing gum is aspartame. Aspartame is metabolized inside your body into both wood alcohol (a poison) and formaldehyde (which is a carcinogen used as embalming fluid and is not eliminated from your body through the normal waste filtering done by your liver and kidneys). It’s been linked to birth defects, cancers, brain tumors, and weight gain.Sucralose (Splenda), another common artificial sweetener used in chewing gum, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on only two human studies, the longest of which lasted only four days – even though animal studies found the sweetener was associated with decreased red blood cells (a sign of anemia), male infertility, enlarged kidneys, spontaneous abortions, and an increased death rate.7 You might also be surprised to learn that consuming artificial sweeteners can cause distortions in your biochemistry that may actually make you gain weight.Studies looking at this issue show very clearly that artificial sweeteners may actually cause greater weight gain than sugar by stimulating your appetite, increasing carbohydrate cravings, and stimulating fat storage. A good resource to understand this concept is the book by Dr. Mercola called “Sweet Deception”.
How To Freshen Breath Naturally
- Minty goodness. Grab yourself some mint leaves and chew. This natural remedy has been used for thousands of years is especially useful for garlic or onion breath (parsley leaves work well, too!). And unlike that nasty fake-food gum, swallowing the leaves after chewing will continue to provide freshness by promoting better digestion. Real food wins, again!
- Baking soda to the rescue. Need a quick, cheap, and easy natural breath freshener? Mix in a tsp. of baking soda into a cup of water. Swish some of this in your mouth and “ta-da!” instant mouth wash. You can even add a drop or two of peppermint essential oil (like this) for an extra kick.
- Probiotics for the win. Since most bad breath is a result of poor digestion, helping your gut out is a long-term solution to bad breath. Fermented foods are full of real-food-goodness probiotics.
- Spice is nice. Chewing on the seeds of aromatic spices can give your mouth a boost of freshness. Seeds like clove, cardamom, and fennel have antimicrobial properties that can help freshen your breath.