A small study found that chewing sugarless gum after a meal increases saliva production, which neutralizes throat acid to provide temporary relief from symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In addition, because repetitive muscle movements can stimulate the production of serotonin – your brain’s natural antidepressant – chewing gum reduces stress. Therefore, the next time you’re stuck in traffic, and your heartburn is acting up, try a piece of gum. Just make sure it doesn’t contain oil of peppermint, because peppermint is a known reflux trigger.

Also be careful how much sugarless gum you chew, or you could end up with excessive intestinal gas, or even diarrhea. Colonic bacteria thrive on sorbitol – a sweetener used in many brands of sugar-free gum – and break it down into gas, which fills the colon and causes pain and cramping. However, a piece or two of sugarless gum should abate GERD symptoms for a few hours without consequence.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 154 – March/April 2006