When we were kids, chewing gum has always been synonymous with trouble. It has landed us in trouble at school, church or at home more than we can count. Do you know that some believe chewing gum can help reduce anxiety and stress? Surprising, right? But it can be true. Try telling that to our parents then, I am sure they most likely wouldn’t take you seriously, as there is obvious suspicion about do chewing gum for anxiety and stress work.
And, do you know that there is a difference between bubblegum and chewing gum, and, their possible effects on anxiety and stress? Chewing gum comes in varied shapes, flavors and brands (which most of us might know of).
As such, the purpose of this review is to explore many questions, such as the above. We will also look at some recommended chewing gum products which can help you reduce stress and anxiety along with some added benefits. All these and more are what you will read in this post.
OK, let’s dive in!
What is Chewing Gum?
Chewing gum is a soft, flavoured and sometimes sugar-coated cohesive substance that is made to be chewed. It is not meant to be swallowed.
Chewing gum has been around for ages, though not exactly in the same form as we have it now. History has shown that chewing gum varies differently across cultures. That may be because its base ingredients solely depend on the type of natural resources available and peculiar to the locals.
History of Chewing Gum
Based on the natural resources available to the region, the Mayans and Aztec chewed gum made from the ‘Chicle’ tree. For the ancient Greeks, they chewed mastic gums which is made from the resins of the mastic tree. By resins, we mean the substance produced by the tree that sticks to the finger.
Furthermore, the American Indian’s chewing gum was made from the sap of another type of tree called “spruce trees”.
Different cultures also chewed gum for different reasons. Some cultures for antiseptic or oral hygiene purposes while some other ones for the basic need to masticate.
Chewing gum was first sold widely or commercialized in America. Where within a span of time it underwent various modifications to what we have now.
To avoid delving into the boring details, here are some quick facts you need to know about the evolution of chewing gum.
➢ As of the 1860s in America, the base ingredients for chewing gum were still being made from the sap of spruce trees, until a former president of Mexico, Antonio López de Santa Anna, brought “Chicle” on his visit to New York city. He gifted it to Thomas Adams (American scientists also know as a well-known chewing gum maker) for use as an alternative to rubber. Chicle didn’t serve the purpose it was intended for but was later used as a base ingredient for making chewing gum.
➢ Also in that period, the first flavored chewing gum was made by a pharmacist called John Colgan.
➢ The first person to file a patent request for chewing gum in America was Dr. William Semple on December 8, 1869.
Want to learn more about chewing gum history? Then watch this video.
Now, let’s explore the differences between two main types of gums; the bubblegum and the chewing-gum.
Bubble Gum vs Chewing Gum – What’s the Difference?
Most of us often confuse chewing gum for bubblegum. Well, the two are different. Their difference lies in the ability to stretch and make bubbles.
Since you have already understood what chewing gum is, here are some quick facts about bubblegum that you should know:
➢ Bubblegum is a sub-category of chewing gum that can be inflated to make bubbles.
➢ It was first created in 1928 by a man named Walter Diemer, while trying out new gum recipes. He was an accountant who worked at a chewing gum making factory in Philadelphia called the Fleer Chewing Gum Company.
How Bubblegum Different from Chewing Gum?
The difference between chewing gum and bubblegum lies in the following characteristics.
➢ Base ingredients
Earlier, the base ingredient for making chewing gum was chicle of which recently, manufacturers started using synthetic polymers. For chewing gum, its polymers are of lower molecular weight compared to that of the polymer used to make bubblegum.
The synthetic polymer used in making bubblegum is of heavy molecular weight. This makes the bubblegum more stretchable and as a result, able to form bubbles compared to chewing gum.
By molecular weight, we mean the average weight of the polymer.
The way chewing gum and bubble gum are shaped almost the same.
For example, they can both come in the form of gum sticks, rectangular or square shape. However, bubblegums come in more forms and that maybe because it is more stretchable.
Bubblegum comes in more flavours than chewing gum. Also, some say that chewing gum releases its flavor slowly hence making the sugar content and flavor last more compared to bubble gum.
Want to learn more about the difference between chewing and bubble gums? Then watch this video.
Tip: Here are the best protein drinks for people with diabetes.
Benefits of Chewing Gum
Chewing gum is not solely for enjoyment’ sake or to keep awake during a boring class. It has some benefits, some of which are here.
➢ Combats nausea
At some instance in your life, you may have popped in a piece of chewing gum in your mouth to prevent nausea. Which may be due to early morning sickness, alcohol, motion sickness, surgery…etc.
Yes, for some chewing gum is just as effective as taking an anti-nausea drug.
➢ Helps in weight reduction
Whether you are aiming to reduce weight for health reasons or you are hoping to discipline yourself more on your food intake etc. chewing gum, especially the sugar-free ones, can help you to do just that.
The physical action of chewing gum helps you burn calories. A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that about eleven pounds could be lost a year with the help of chewing gum. That’s if you chew gum every waking moment of that year!
➢ Prevents tooth decay and freshens breath
Chewing gum, particularly the sugar-free ones, stimulates the increased flow of saliva in the mouth.
Our saliva helps wash away bacteria that causes cavities. It also helps reduce the acidic contents of the remnant of food particles and drinks in the mouth. Hence, it can help prevent tooth decay.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), having a chewing gum for 20 minutes after food can help prevent tooth decay.
Tip: Did you know that Dry Mouth can be an early sign of diabetes too?
➢ Reduces stress and anxiety
Instead of aggressively biting your fingers, fingernails or tapping your feet when you feel stressed out, nervous or fatigued, chewing gum is a better alternative.
➢ For alertness
Find yourself sleeping through a lecture or sermon? Pop in a piece of chewing gum as this will make you more alert.
The research confirms the effect maybe because of the constant movement of the jaw.
➢ Increased memory
I thought there is not enough evidence to back this up, but studies report that those who chewed gum performed better by 24% in a short-term memory test. They also performed better by 36% in the long-term memory test. (I, personally still doubt about this)
Risks of Chewing Gum
Like with anything, chewing gums comes with some red flags too.
➢ Contribute to tooth deterioration
This is true if the chewing gum contains sugar. Sugar causes teeth to form cavities. This leads to bad breath due, plaques, and further teeth deterioration. Therefore, next time you want to chew gum choose a sugar-free one.
➢ Increased headache or migraines
Studies have reported that people who chew gum constantly can have migraines, headaches due to that. Though research is still uncertain concerning this and hence more studies need to be carried out to confirm it as a fact.
➢ Reduced concentration
This finding conflicts with the above ‘benefits’, but it really means that the evidence is inconclusive.
➢ Can lead to jaw problems
This jaw condition is known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). This is when you excessively chew gum hereby stressing the joints in your jaw or the muscles
surrounding it. It results in neck pain, headaches etc.
Not to worry, this condition is rare, unless you are popping gum every minute of the day.
What Research Say about Effect of Chewing Gum on Stress and Anxiety?
Researchers have a lot to say about chewing gum to relieve stress or anxiety. Nowadays, the population levels of stress have spiked. Some of the reasons possibly due to social media, economic status, work, education etc. However, using chewing gum to relieve stress is not a new concept.
- The American Institute of Stress reported that the U. S. Army recognizes that chewing gum can help reduce stress. This recognition can be traced to as far back as world war I where chewing gums were included in the soldiers’ combat ration.
- A study done by Japanese researchers claimed that chewing gum for 10 minutes a day can help reduce anxiety levels.
- The research was conducted to investigate the effect of chewing gum on the stress of university students. In the study, 72 students were used, some refrained from chewing gum and others did not. These were done for two weeks, which at the end, researches found out that perceived stress was reduced by students who chewed gum.
- A Wrigley Science Institute – the manufacturer of Wrigley’s Extra chewing gum – sponsored research reported that people of the age group 18 to 49 years shows a reduced level of stress when they chew gum.
- In another study by researchers from Cardiff University, they organized a mock job interview, where people who chew gum and those that don’t were allowed. They discovered that chewing gum limits anxiety and stress.
These studies validate the fact that chewing gum can be an inexpensive tool for reducing stress and anxiety. Though more studies need to be done especially on chewing gum on psychologically induced stress.
My personal opinion is some of those ‘claims’ are yet inconclusive and confirmed only after conducting proper systematic evidence reviews on the claims.
How Chewing Gum Help Anxiety and Stress?
You may ask, in what way does chewing gum reduce stress and anxiety?
Salivary cortisol (a hormone in our body) has been shown to be a marker for stress. This means that whenever we are stressed out, our cortisol level is high, the same can be said in a reverse scenario. In some of the researches carried out, they did a salivary analysis. It was discovered that people who chewed gum have low levels of this salivary cortisol compared to those who don’t. However, the mechanism is still uncertain.
6 Best Chewing Gum for Anxiety and Stress
Wondering about the best chewing gum to chew when you are feeling anxious or stressed out? Here are some chewing gum products to check out next time you are shopping:
➢ Wrigley’s Extra chewing gum
➢ Bazooka bubble gum
➢ Orbit gum
➢ Dentyne sugar-free gum
➢ Hershey ice breakers
Now let’s review each of them.
1. Wrigley’s Extra Chewing Gum
Do you want your breath to be fresh all day? Then they say always chew Wrigley’s Extra. It also comes in exciting flavours like watermelon and strawberry etc., beat that!
This product from Wrigley Company
was one of the company’s first-sugar free products. It was launched in 1984, and it can be found in many countries like Australia, New Zealand, United States of America etc.
Key features: Wrigley’s extra comes in various ranges, sizes, flavours. The ranges are:
➢ Regular range
This range is available in spearmint, butter mint, strawberry, peppermint flavor etc. However, the most popular flavours are peppermint and spearmint.
It also comes in 14g pack (10 pieces inside), 27g pack (14 pieces), a 54g bottle etc. It’s available in most countries, including Australia and New Zealand etc. you should check your store to see if it is available.
➢ White range
Available in similar sizes, flavours and packs as the regular range except with some unique flavours like lemon-lime.
Its added benefit is to keep the teeth white and remove any stain.
➢ Active range
This range contains crystal erythritol strips for fresh breath.
It comes in similar sizes, packs and flavours as the other two ranges.
2. Orbit Gum
This is still a product from Wrigley Company, one of the most popular gum producers. It was discontinued and relaunched in the United States.
Like the Wrigley’s Extra, it comes in varieties of flavours like Orbit Doublemint, orbit sweet mint etc. The Orbit also comes in various shapes and sizes too.
3. Bazooka Bubblegum
This product is part of the division Bazooka Candy brand, which is part of the Topps Company Inc.
It comes in Red, white, blue color scheme, and it includes a comic strip. The comic character is called “Bazooka Joe”. Addition of comic characters was excluded from these products in 2012 by the company.
➢ The colour of the gum itself is pink.
➢ It comes in a box or pack that contains 6 cups of bubblegum. Each cup contains 60 pieces of gum.
➢ They have a sugar free variety which comes in original flavor and flavor blasts.
➢ It now includes puzzle strip instead of the comic strip
4. Dentyne Gum
A product of Mondelez International, it has a series of sugar-containing gums and sugar-free gums.
➢ It contains Dentyne Ice, Dentyne Fire etc. series which are sugar-free.
➢ It comes in a box, which contains nine packs of the gum. Each pack contains 16 pieces of Dentyne gum.
➢ Dentyne Gum is also available in different flavors like peppermint etc.
Also, a product from Wrigley Company, though it is targeted towards teenagers.
The name “5 gums” depicts that the gum has five calories and that it stimulates the five senses.
It comes in various sizes and flavours.
6. Hershey’s Icebreakers
Ice breakers was initially launched by Nabisco’s Holding LifeSavers Division.
The product, along with other things, was purchased by Hershey Company in 2000.
➢ It contains 40 pieces per bottle or pack.
➢ It has a series of flavours like ice cubes arctic grapes, ice cubes cool lemons etc.
➢ It is sugar-free.