by Associate Clinician Megan Kitchie
Are you a gum chewer? I used to be, too. Before I came to the Well of Life, I chewed gum throughout the day to freshen my breath, settle my stomach, calm my nerves, and after just about everything I ate. In fact, no meal seemed complete without it.
If you can relate to this, there are a few things you should know about gum chewing. Believe it or not, it’s not a healthy habit! Gum chewing is problematic for two reasons in particular: the gum itself as well as the act of chewing. Let’s talk about each one of these in detail.
First, the gum itself. Have you ever looked at the ingredients on your chewing gum label? The list includes all kinds of chemical substances that you most likely can’t pronounce. You certainly wouldn’t find any of them in your kitchen! Many gums also contain sugar, which contributes to tooth decay. Even worse, they may contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Do you know that when the liver breaks down aspartame in the body, one of the byproducts is formaldehyde? That’s right – the compound used to preserve dead people! Neither sugar nor aspartame promotes good health for the body.
Chemicals aside, some will argue that there are more “natural” gums out there that use better ingredients. While this may be true, that brings us to our next point: the chewing motion
Chewing is an integral part of our digestive process. Digestion actually begins in the brain, which signals the release of saliva when we see, smell, or think about food. When we chew, the brain sends a signal to the stomach letting it know that food is on the way. The stomach in turn begins releasing digestive juices. The problem with gum chewing is that while the chewing motion triggers the brain to tell the stomach that food is on the way, the food never comes. The stomach is all ready to digest a meal, but there isn’t anything to break down.
As you can imagine, this is very confusing to the body. It wastes those precious digestive juices on mere saliva. Not only that, it also sets up a mistrust relationship with the body. in other words, when you actually ARE eating, the stomach won’t always respond to the brain’s signal to release digestive juices. This can lead to long-term digestive issues and a host of other problems.
So what are some alternatives to chewing gum? An organic breath mint, like the St. Claire’s ones that we sell at the Well of Life, would be one good option. Some clients like to chew herbs, like mint leaves. And did you know that a piece of fresh fruit is a natural way to freshen your breath? It’s true!
If you’re addicted to gum like I was, be encouraged! I promise you can leave the gum chewing behind you. Your body will thank you!