May I Chew Gum?

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Occasionally I get this question from Clients. I suspect that I would get it from just about all of them, except that some are probably just chewing away without asking. But, all kidding aside, I love it when Clients ask questions, and this is a great one! In order to answer it, itʼs important that we understand some basic information about our digestive system:

Chewing (anything) activates saliva in your mouth. Those juices tell your stomach to get ready to go to work. It starts your digestive engine running, so to speak. The problem with gum is that it starts the engine, but the green flag never gets thrown, because food doesnʼt actually show up in the stomach. The digestive enzymes arrive, but there’s no work to do. After a while, it’s like the little boy who cried wolf, and the enzymes stop showing up…even when there is food. That’s when indigestion sets in…and we all know what that feels like. NOT good.

So, then we go to our doctor and he prescribes an anti-acid drug (like Nexium or Prilosec). Those drugs make us feel better, but because they are only MASKING the symptoms, it actually makes the problem worse (see my Acid Reflux 101 post for a more in-depth explanation for why). The stomach MUST be acid in order to tear apart and dissolve the food we eat so that the nutrients can be absorbed by the body. So, the body is looking for nutrition, but it doesn’t get all it needs, because the foods aren’t converted to the proper isotonic state to be able to fit into those little nutrition gateways. Most of it ends up getting flushed away (literally). So, the body keeps asking for nutrition (which we interpret as it wanting more FOOD) hoping to get it. In response, we eat more and more and of course, we all know that the result is weight gain. But, it doesn’t stop there.

Without the proper acidic environment in our stomach, we don’t break down proteins properly, and they end up seeping through the permeable wall of our intestines. The body sees them as a foreign substances and starts making antibodies to kill them off…just like it would with a virus. But, the DNA of proteins is so long (big) that the body only takes a snapshot of part of it for identification purposes. The problem is that the “snapshot” often looks like a snapshot of other body systems that AREN’T foreign at all. So, instead of targeting that undigested/improperly digested protein, the body starts targeting the joints or muscles, etc. by mistake simply because they have a similar make-up (remember that protein is the building block of just about ALL of our body systems).

That’s how autoimmune disorders develop–the body actually attacks itself. Think about it…how many people do you know who are on acid- stopping drugs? How many people did you know on those drugs when you were a kid? How many people do you know who have RA or Fibromyalgia, or Lupus? How many people did you know as a kid with those same conditions? I’d be willing to bet that you know a lot now, and knew hardly anyone when you were growing up. Acid-stopping drugs are among the most prescribed medications, with drugs to treat symptoms of RA coming in a very close second. In my opinion, there’s definitely a connection.

So, that’s why I don’t recommend chewing gum of any kind. Instead, swish a bit of mouthwash, or bring an extra toothbrush to work with you for after lunch. You can also look at the ingredients on breath mints and look for one that has as few unpronounce-ables as possible for an occasional “emergency” scenario when you can’t swish or brush. But, it’s pretty hard to find something that’s really totally acceptable. A better option is peppermint essential oil…just a dab on your tongue and then swish a bit of water around in your mouth (and it also helps with nausea).

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Tom Gibson