August 22, 2016

Should you ever chew on this?

During last week’s Q&A for my Chewing Challenge participants, a great question came up about gum. Suzy asked:

“What are your thoughts about gum chewing and your gut? Also how does it relate to all of this chewing focus if at all??”

This was such a great question, and one that I really wanted to know more about myself. I mean I know it’s not great, artificial sweeteners, confusing your body with chewing but not really eating anything and more, but when it comes to the health of your gut, is gum okay??


First, what exactly is it?

Right? What is gum?! So there’s always a synthetic gum base that provides that long chewing quality – food is meant to dissolve, gum is engineered not to. This gum base could be a variety of synthetic ingredients, and the FDA does not require manufacturers to reveal to consumers what’s actually IN this gum base. Eek! The sweetening of gum can run the gamut — I’ve seen powdered sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and all the artificial sweeteners you can imagine in the sugar free options. After the gum base and sweeteners, you’re going to run into glycerin, vegetable oil, mannitol, or sorbitol, which are agents that retain the proper amount of moisture, so your gum stays chewy and soft. The final ingredients tend to be artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, and preservatives.

Basically it’s a fun mouthful of super weird stuff. And as you can see, most of the ingredients in chewing gum are pretty far from “whole” foods. Gum is super processed and contains many unnatural ingredients, especially some heavy hitters like moisture agents, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives. These ingredients are definitely not friendly for your gut.

What happens in your body when you chew gum?

The mind-body connection of gum chewing is the main issue I’m focusing on for my community. When you chew on gum, your brain signals the body that it needs to get ready for food. When your body goes on feed-me mode, but then you don’t give it any food, you may be sending confusing signals to your entire system. Chewing gum can also give you false cravings, and fog up that mind-body-gut connection we are working to create. It can also cause you to overeat later to make up for the food your body didn’t get. Again, definitely not friendly for your gut.

So is it okay to have sometimes?

I’m not asking you to be dogmatic about this. Sure, have gum once in awhile, enjoy it! What I am encouraging you to do is to re-evaluate gum chewing as a daily habit or as a weight loss “trick.” Remember, chewing is about your digestion and connecting with how you eat your food. Mindless chewing is mindless chewing, whether you’re chewing food to swallow or chewing on some gum. You’ve been working so hard at changing the habit of chewing for yourself, I would hate to see you reverse some of that progress by disconnecting when chewing gum. Food for thought! {pun-intended} 🙂

Here are some fun, gut friendly alternatives:

  • Try chewing on fennel seeds – Chewing fennel seeds after a meal is a common practice in India. Fennel not only helps to freshen the breath but it also aids in digestion. Just pop about ½ tsp in your mouth and chew away! Unlike gum, you can swallow these seeds once you are done chewing on them.

  • …or mint leaves – Peppermint is of course known to freshen breath, but you can chew on pretty much any fresh herb (basil, parsley, cilantro, etc) after you eat – just break off a leaf or two and chew away!

  • Use a tongue scraper – The Ayurvedic practice of scraping the tongue daily removes any build-up on the tongue, which can lead to bad breath. You can purchase a tongue scraper on Amazon or pick one up at your local health foods store.

  • Drink a cup of herbal tea – Sipping on herbal tea is an easy way to clear your palate improve your digestion. Peppermint, ginger, and fennel are great after meals {see the trend here?} but any flavor works!


Are you a gum chewer, or do you use some of these alternate breath fresheners? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject – let me know in the comments below!

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