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How Chewing Gum Can Relieve Heartburn

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 14 Apr 2015 | comments*Discuss
Heartburn Chewing Gum Acid Reflux Gerd

If you thought that chewing gum was simply a nasty habit popular amongst school-children and loud Americans, think again.

Several years ago research showed that chewing certain types of sugarless gum can cut down on tooth decay, now research has shown that chewing gum can actually relieve heartburn.

This is good news for people who suffer from heartburn and have found no relief, or limited relief, from various other remedies. Now they can not only feel better after eating, but have fresher breath as well!

What is Heartburn?

The term “heartburn” is a bit misleading, because it actually has nothing to do with the heart, nor is it dangerous. It is simply a type of digestive problem, and while it can be painful and distressing, it is not really a cause for concern.

Heartburn is caused not by a problem with the old ticker, but by stomach acid coming into contact with the lining of the oesophagus. This often happens after the sufferer has eaten a fatty meal, or when he or she has eaten certain foods.

Heartburn can be a one-off, or it can be chronic. It is usually caused by:

  • A weakened lower oesophageal sphincter, which is the valve that keeps the stomach acid where it belongs – in the stomach. People who suffer from this have what is known as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  • A hiatal hernia, which allows acid reflux to occur more freely.
  • Irritation caused by eating certain foods, such as chocolate or fatty foods, or taking specific medications.
  • Pressure on the area, either because the sufferer is wearing tight clothes, is obese, or is doing activities that cause pressure.
  • Smoking, because people who smoke produce 50 per cent less saliva, on average, than people who do not smoke, which means it takes longer for the oesophagus to clear away the acid. Also, smoking relaxes the ring around the oesophagus, which allows more stomach acid to come up.
  • Stress, which increases the production of stomach acid.

How Chewing Gum Stops Heartburn

The explanation is so simple it's hard to believe. Chewing gum stimulates saliva production, which can help flush out the stomach acid and neutralise it. If it sounds too good – and too simple – to be true, consider the evidence.

In a pioneering 2003 study conducted in Kings College, London, 21 people with GERD ate a high-fat meal on two days and were asked to chew gum for thirty minutes on the first or second day. Those who chewed the gum had lower levels of acid in their stomachs.

In another study published in 2005 in The Journal of Dental Research, 31 patients ate fatty meals and then were asked to chew sugarless gum for half an hour. The results showed that the patients who chewed gum had much lower levels of acid in their stomach than those who did not.

And a similar study in 2001 showed that people who chewed gum after eating a fatty breakfast had more heartburn relief than those who did not, for up to three hours.

Other Ways to Relieve Heartburn

If chewing gum does not help, there are other ways to relieve heartburn. Many sufferers cut down on fatty foods and other foods that affect their digestive system, take antacids, eat smaller meals and eat slowly, lose weight, wear clothes that are not too tight, and sleep with their bed propped up at the head end.

If you have tried all these home remedies to relieve your heartburn and nothing works for you, see your GP. This is important not only to finally free yourself from the discomfort this condition can bring, but to rule out anything more serious. Good luck!

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