Chewing, chomping, munching, and crunching, all have one thing in common- they are forms of masticating, and they are often a go-to for stress relief. In fact, numerous studies have found that chewing gum can decrease stress and anxiety, as well as help with focus, and fatigue, and can even improve short-term memory.
One way that chewing gum, or anything for that matter, can help with focus, concentration, and decrease stress, is that it gives the mouth something to do. This something-to-do can result in a soothing response, which is backed by a 2008 study at the University of Melbourne, which found that chewing gum lowered the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
But how exactly does it work? What is it about chewing gum that leads to a lower level of cortisol?
Well, a research study published by the National Library of Medicine, shared the results of an extensive study on chewing gum and its impact on our brain. The study found that gum chewing during stress may affect the levels of various stress markers in the saliva and plasma and increase attention, self-rated alertness, and vigilance. Furthermore, they found that chewing as a stress-coping behavior suppresses the stress-induced activation of the HPA axis, which is the main physiological system that mediates the body’s stress response. This reduction in the stress response of the HPA axis caused by chewing, resulted in fewer stress-induced diseases, such as gastric ulcers and cognitive and psychological impairments.
So what does this mean? Should we all run out and stock up on packs of gum and start chewing right away?
Though chewing gum has been linked to reducing stress and stress-related ailments, as well as anxiety, concentration, and fatigue- it also comes with a downside. Some studies have shown that chewing gum with artificial sweeteners can confuse the body, and trigger cravings for sugar-rich foods. Chewing can also put stress on the jaw, and can lead to jaw pain, especially in those that already have issues in that regard.
Another issue with chewing gum is that it can be annoying to those around us. Let’s face it, no one likes it when someone is chomping loudly on a piece of gum, and seeing someone continuously chewing can be annoying to look at. And, on top of that, sugar-free gum, such as Orbit and Trident, contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which when consumed by pets, can be deadly.
Though there are many studies backing the many benefits of chewing gum, overall, it is not the best choice for coping with stress and anxiety. Popping a piece when studying for an exam is one thing, but chewing excessively can be harmful and expensive. It’s also not recommended if you are prone to obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
The bottom line is- Chewing gum has shown to have positive results when it comes to short-term stress reduction, improved concentration, and anxiety. That being said, gum doesn’t come without its downsides, one being that it’s expensive, the results are short-term, it can be annoying, and many varieties are toxic to pets.
Therefore, when it comes to reducing stress and increasing overall health, a better choice may be to put the gum aside, and develop a meditation practice, attend a yoga class, or even just take a long walk. These choices will not only give you the same results, but they’ll also give you even more, as they benefit your entire body and your mind.