Researchers at Imperial College London found that chewing gum improves bowel function for patients who underwent colon surgery. Many of these patients have difficulties passing food through the intestines, but chewing gum contributes to better digestion.
Gum is known to stimulate the production of saliva and now is found to activate gut hormones and pancreatic secretions.
The study involved 158 patients, recovering from colon surgery. One group of participants was asked to chew sugarless gum three times a day for five to 45 minutes, and the other group did not chew gum.
The results of the study showed that patients who chewed gum restored their bowel function faster, being able to pass gas and have their first bowel movement earlier than non-chewers. The researchers said that chewers were also able to leave the hospital more quicklybut the difference was not statistically significant. But taking into account more than 320,000 colon surgeries performed in the US with ,100 spent per day, the faster recovery of the patient may considerably reduce hospital costs,.
Chewing gum is also believed to aid recovery from other abdominal surgeries, said the study co-author Sanjay Purkayastha. The gum contains sorbitol, which is known to stimulate bowel movements.
Dr. Theodore Saclarides, head of colon and rectal surgery at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center, said that further study is needed to determine whether gum chewing can help to recover faster from abdominal surgery or whether it merely represents a placebo effect. He added that keeping to a proper diet and limiting the use of some painkillers used after surgery may solve the problem of constipation better.