Chewing away Heartburn

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Why scientists say chewing gum is okay for heartburn, but not if you are looking to fix the problem

Chewing away HeartburnAcid reflux is one of the most common ailments experienced by adults in the United States. While some are lucky to only feel the pain of heartburn every once in a while, millions of US adults have symptoms of the condition more than once a week.

When it comes to dealing with issues like acid reflux, it isn’t uncommon to start looking just about anywhere for a way to solve the problem. Over the counter medications often work at first, but they just aren’t a long term solution. This is why so many people turn to holistic medicine and alternative therapies. After all, if it worked for our ancestors, why wouldn’t it work now, right? This is where the old adage of chewing gum to relieve heartburn fits in.

People have been chewing on gum, or variants of what would later become gum, since antiquity. Women in ancient Greece would chew on gum to freshen their breath, and it wasn’t long after that point in history that people would take to chewing gum as a way to alleviate the pain that came after a meal that was too large or too spicy. Fast forward a couple of thousand years to where scientists at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London decided to take a closer look at the effectiveness of using gum to alleviate heartburn and reflux.

In a study published in 2001, researchers found that chewing gum is somewhat effective in helping to ease the pain of acid reflux. Specifically, they found that chewing a piece or two of gum will help force fluids back into the stomach, and by encouraging the production of saliva can actually reduce some of the burning going on in the esophagus.

So can chewing gum be considered a heartburn cure? Absolutely not. The scientists in the study were impressed by the ability of gum to help ease heartburn, but even they said in their conclusions that chewing gum could be used as an adjacent alternative therapy for heartburn, something that is to be used as needed and in accompaniment to regular treatment.

For millions of Americans who struggle with heartburn, especially regular heartburn that happens at least once a week, the reflux isn’t just a result of a spicy meal—it is a result of a damaged lower esophageal sphincter that is unable to do its job of keeping stomach acid from entering the esophagus. While gum might help ease the burning sensation here and there, only acid reflux surgery can repair the sphincter.

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