Photo Courtesy: Amy Humphries
When it comes to chewing gum, I have done my research. I know which one blows the biggest bubble and which one’s flavor lasts the longest. I’ve tried international gums, organic gums and the ones from the big dispenser. And, yes, I can chew gum and walk at the same time. Although I’ve known the harmful effects of Nutra Sweet (also known as aspartame, Stevia and Equal) for some time, I didn’t know that chewing gum could cause me to age faster.
The Debate ‘For and Against’ Chewing Gum
With all of the published studies out there, it can be confusing as to how I came to this conclusion. After all, the Wrigley Science Institute claims that chewing gum can relieve stress, while a UT Southwestern oral surgeon claims that constant chewing can lead to TMJ and muscle spasms and pain.
Dr. Douglas Sinn, a UT Southwestern oral surgeon, says constant gum chewing can tire your jaws. It can lead to muscle fatigue, muscle spasms and pain. It may even lead to a syndrome called T-M-J that causes pain in the head or neck and may make it difficult to open and close the jaw properly.
Singapore, which lifted a twelve year ban on chewing gum, still requires a prescription for gum, but psychologists in the United Kingdom claim that chewing gum improves memory. We won’t even get into the artificial flavors and ingredients debate.
Constant Chewing of Gum Alters the Body’s Biochemistry
When a person chews gum, it stimulates the production of saliva and the brain secretes enzymes in the mouth to start the process of digestion. This significant neurological connection transmits messages to the stomach and pancreas, where more digestive enzymes are secreted in preparation for the descending “meal.” Since chewing gum is sweet, it specifically overproduces amylase, the enzyme which digests carbohydrates.
The constant chewing of gum alters the body’s biochemistry and can cause hormone imbalances, since our digestive system is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. A study by the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia even proposes that chewing gum may consume the body’s reserve of digestive enzymes, making them unavailable when needed.
Since chewing gum can alter one’s biochemistry, it isn’t a stretch that essential metabolic activities are altered and can age one faster. Hormonal imbalances can cause changes in skin, hair and libido. Inability to process sugar efficiently can lead to cavities and pancreatic insufficiency. Digestive difficulty can lead to weight gain and chronic health problems. And, last but not least, aspartame sweetened gums has been linked to cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders.
I do believe in everything in moderation, so I may not be convinced to stop chewing my organic gum just yet . . . but, wait, where did that gray hair come from?
Corinne Kohrherr is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Board Certified Chinese Herbalist, Registered Nurse, Licensed Massage Therapist and DONA Certified Childbirth Doula. She is a holistic healthcare practitioner and lives in New York City with her dogs Martini and Olive.