Reasons to Quit Chewing Gum (+ Better Options)

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The minty sweet flavor of chewing gum is a low calorie way to replace desserts, combat cravings, or deal with stress. These days “healthy” chewing gums are even available in health food stores, either sugar-free or with some beneficial ingredients. Of course, simply because something is calorie-free or sugar-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

As with just about everything, there are pros and cons to chewing gum. (Sorry to disappoint if you were hoping for a simple, straightforward answer!) As with most questions regarding health, it’s at least possible to take a look at the research and make an informed (sane) decision.

Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks, shall we?

The Proven Benefits of Chewing Gum

Chewing gum has a number of benefits in its favor! Here are a few.

Reduces Anxiety

There’s no doubt that gum can take the edge off the nerves, and this is confirmed in clinical studies. In a small study of 50 young adult volunteers, those who chewed gum twice a day for two weeks rated their anxiety as significantly lower than those who did not. Another study found that not only does chewing gum reduce anxiety but it also reduces cortisol levels.

Sadly, the anxiety-reducing benefits don’t last, as the study showed no significant difference in anxiety after 4 weeks. At best, data on the effects of chewing gum on stress levels appear to be mixed.

Increases Serotonin in the Brain

Because chewing gum reduces stress, it has also been shown that it can increase serotonin, the “happy” neurotransmitter. Increased serotonin in turn soothes the nerves that conduct pain. So, yes, gum could actually work as a pain reducer!

Increases Cognitive Performance

The same studies that found chewing gum reduces anxiety also found gum chewers experience less mental fatigue. Scientists are still investigating the connection. It might be because chewing increases oxygenated blood in the brain, or because chewing signals the release of more insulin (because it anticipates food), which in turn allows the brain to absorb more glucose.

Activates the Vagus Nerve

I write about the vagus nerve in detail here, but in brief, poor vagus nerve activation is one of the causes of all modern diseases.

The vagus nerve wanders between the brain and several important organs, such as the heart and the digestive system. It controls gut movement and secretion of digestive juice, among other things. It is believed to be one of the ways that gut health and gut bacteria affect the brain. This might explain the effects of gum chewing on mood. Chewing in general can stimulate the vagus nerve (as this Self-Hacked post explains).

By activating the vagus nerve, gum chewing can also increase gut movement and secretion of digestive enzymes. One study suggested that chewing on gum could even help new mothers restore bowel functions after C-sections.

Improves Dental Health

Studies suggest that sugar-free gum use may reduce the risks of dental decay. The evidence is still unclear for other dental health benefits (and the prolonged exposure to acidic ingredients in some gums may actually increase the risks).

It may be that chewing gum simply stimulates extra saliva production and helps the mouth clean itself. Gum containing erythritol or xylitol may also kill bad oral bacteria and increase the good ones.

Chewing Gum: The Flip Side

Ready to go pick up a pack of gum? Not so fast! There are downsides to consider.

Not Effective for Weight Loss (Bummer!)

While it seems like keeping the mouth busy with something low calorie would fight cravings and overeating, chewing gum had no significant effect on weight loss in a randomized control trial involving overweight and obese adults. Chewing on gum somewhat reduced self-reported hunger, but overall had no effect on calorie consumption.

Contains (Potentially) Toxic Ingredients

There are many questionable ingredients in chewing gums (including the organic ones you find in health food stores!). Here are a few common ones:

  • Gum base, a proprietary mix of 46 different chemicals that the FDA allows under the name “gum base.” These substances could be natural plant resins, beeswax, or petroleum-based chemicals.
  • Artificial antioxidants such as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). BHT is linked to cancer risks, asthma, and behavioral issues in children.
  • Fillers such as talc and cornstarch (which could be genetically modified)
  • Titanium dioxide to maintain the vibrant white color
  • Artificial food colors including FD&C color and caramel color
  • And of course, artificial sweeteners like aspartame

Ruins Metabolism

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and acesulfame K are necessary to make gum remain sweet for more than a few minutes. Even an artificial sweet taste can trigger the body to release insulin, which can lower blood sugar and worsen insulin resistance. In addition, artificial sweeteners are generally toxic to good gut bacteria.

“Tricks” the Digestive System

As mentioned, chewing gets the digestive system started by activating the vagus nerve. The gut then secretes enzymes and starts to move. This can worsen some digestive problems like stomach ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome … a pretty uncomfortable downside.

Leads to Swallowing Excess Air

Gassy? Gum chewing can lead to swallowing more air, which can cause abdominal pain and bloating.

Disrupts Sleep

Healthy circadian rhythm and quality sleep are very important for health, and one of the ways our bodies distinguish day from nighttime is eating. Studies have shown that gum chewing increases alertness, which is a good thing during the day but not at night. So you might want to have that piece of gum in the morning!

Causes Jaw Problems

Gum chewing might feel good, but our jaws aren’t made to chew continuously for hours. Excessive chewing can lead to tight jaw muscles, and jaw muscle imbalances if one has the habit of chewing only on one side. This can lead to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), tension headaches, and migraines, especially in children and adolescents.

Not Biodegradable

80 – 90% of chewing gum on the market is made of plastic and not biodegradable, which can present major problems for the environment. In fact, chewing gum is so artificial that insects won’t eat it (and no human should either). Sadly, fish and birds may eat it and possibly choke.

May Erode Enamel

The American Dental Association found that chewing gum can erode the enamel in your teeth. However, the gum needs to have a pH of 5.5 or lower to really pose a risk. So what causes a lower pH in gum? Sugar and flavoring, like citric acid.

So … What to Do Instead of Chewing Gum?

Although chewing on gum has some health benefits, ultimately everything about it is artificial. Typical chewing gums are made of several harmful artificial ingredients, and the chewing experience itself can trigger negative responses in the body.

In short, the downsides that come with chewing gum really outweigh the benefits. And the benefits can be gained more effectively in other ways.

Try These Instead:

  • Find a healthier alternative that doesn’t contain a gum base or artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
  • The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can help mitigate stress and lower anxiety.
  • Bright light exposure (i.e., the sun) and exercise can improve serotonin levels, which improves mood and reduces anxiety.
  • Eating slowly and chewing foods thoroughly can provide the beneficial effects of vagus nerve activation without the negative effects of chewing gum.
  • Deep breathing and meditation can help increase blood flow to the brain and thus improve cognitive performance.
  • Improved vagus nerve activity can come from singing, prayers, and other forms of calm meditation.
  • Improved oral health can be achieved by methods that support good oral bacteria flora, such as oil pulling, homemade remineralizing toothpaste, herbal mouthwash, and supporting dental health nutritionally.

This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Do you chew gum? Have you experienced any of these benefits or downsides? Please weigh in below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


18 responses to “Reasons to Quit Chewing Gum (+ Better Options)”

  1. Katherine Avatar

    This is great info, I’ve been wondering about g chewing in general! I came here for your article on activating the vagus nerve, that was very helpful too. Are there any gums you think are safe for limited use? I’m working on my digestion and having a safe option would be useful!

  2. Jane Avatar

    Fillings rubbing against my gums from the excessive friction caused by chewing gum was a possible cause of my oral cancer and mouth irritations in general, according to my surgeon.

  3. Tanny Avatar

    Thank you for the information. Love your website. According to evolutionary scientists and some dentists, we needs a lot of tough chewing for jaw development. Check out the book Jaws: The story of a hidden epidemic

  4. Zoltan Avatar

    I’ve started consuming xylitol containing chewing gums about a year ago. All seemed to be good in the very beginning, but I’ve also experienced dry mouth from very early… I think chewing a lot might mean drinking less as whilst you chew you feel your mouth wet from the increased saliva production. Bloated tammy and abdominal pain was possibly other side effects, though I’m still not sure if these were caused by the chewing gum or not… I’ve stopped only about a little over a week ago, so will have to see if these side effects will disappear over time or if not, there might be other reasons…

  5. da-AL Avatar

    tx always for your great posts. fyi, my elderly mom was instructed to chew gum on purpose — in order to activate & flush out glands just under her jaw — & it’s helped her a lot.

  6. Kirsten Worden Avatar
    Kirsten Worden

    For just therapeutic/nervous chewing- whole wheat berries will turn to a gummy substance due to the gluten content. Of course use organc non gmo and in moderation. Old pioneer trick.

    Also for therapeutic nervous chewing, I keep containers of fresh chopped veggies handy- especially celery. Minimal calorie contribution but so nutritious.

    For breath or palette cleanse I suck small bits of cinnamon bark, fresh ginger or whole cloves. All of these have health benefits and taste wonderful.

    1. Angie Avatar

      A super alternative!!! All the many health benefits….amazing!! Wish I had some!! Not very accessible here in the US. Have found them online, but quite expensive and can’t be sure of the authenticity or quality of the frankincense resin.
      It sure would be wonderful to have a Boswellia tree growing in our yards!!

  7. Juliana Avatar

    I chew the spearmint Dentyne and Trident Recaldent gums to try to remineralise my teeth, it’s also very refreshing as my mouth gets so pasty. I wonder though if this gum is doing more harm than good? I have very poor health. I believe the original natural gum which is just tree resin is healthy and non-toxic, not sure where to get it these days.

  8. Kate Avatar

    This is a bummer, but sounds very true. I have slight TMJ & hadn’t considered that chewing more often than normal could be a culprit. On the other hand, I have a post nasal drip that kills me. I spend a fortune on natural gum like Glee & Spry. It’s a social thing for me, chewing gum. It gives me a sense of security about my breath. And it makes my teeth & mouth feel cleaner. Far less plaque build up between brushing. And between meals there’s something so refreshing about mint to cleanse the palette. I grow mint & also try to chew on those leaves when I can, but obviously carrying them around isn’t realistic. I guess an alternative is more frequent brushing and mint tea? Still, there’s something nice about the chewing, it does make you feel cleaner in there.

  9. Erica Avatar

    I wonder if it would be possible to come up with a healthy gum? I have PTSD & bad anxiety. I have children with varying degrees of ADD/ADHD. I have seen great improvement in so many areas when we DO use chewing gum versus not using it. I love having the knowledge of the pros & cons….but now I am thinking there HAS to be something, someway, that we can make a healthy and semi safe chewing gum at home. I’m sure there has to be someonr with a chemistry background…or even the knowledge needed to create this. There has to be!


  10. vikky Avatar

    Agree with your info BUT I really do want a good healthy DIY-recipe for chewing gum. Not to eat/chew all the tile … just sometimes. I had already honey combs, but here this isn’t easy to get.

  11. Cindy Avatar

    Awww. It is such a bummer to hear this. I absolutely LOVE gum. But, one one hand it is eye opening, because many of the pros are why i chew gum (i didn’t know that it is proven that gum helps in that way). Some if the cons, like a gassy stomach, which my mom has often when i offer her a piece, makes a lot of sense too. I often use Xylichew, do you think that i should avoid it like the others. Thank you so much for sharing!! I leaned quite a bit today ?

  12. Dolores Avatar

    I have Tourette’s syndrome so chewing gum is a big help in keeping tics at bay. Even in school I had permission to chew so that I could be less fidgety. I wish I knew of more healthy ways to help this…

  13. Fiona Avatar

    For me, gum has taken the place of a sweet after a meal and as such has lowered my calorie intake. Of course, the fact that I always want something sweet after eating is probably another problem in itself.
    When I’m at work, I cant always brush so gum keeps my mouth feeling fresher.
    I dont chew for long…just until the edge is taken off.

  14. Teneko Avatar

    I used to chew gum as a kid and switched to a sugar free cinnamon gum as a teenager. I had to stop when my jaw kept getting tired and started clicking. Hello, TMJ.
    Nowadays I get my “chewing” exercise in on whole flax seeds in my yogurt. Apparently ground flax seeds go bad fast or something so you’re supposed to store them whole…but whole flax seeds pass through the body without digesting and absorbing the nutrients properly. So I have to chew these suckers up really well before swallowing. Oh, my achin’ jaw!

    1. Jeanstar Avatar

      Hi Teneko.
      I can’t tell if you like chewing the flax seed whole. If you don’t, it’s easy to grind them.
      I use a small electric coffee grinder to grind all my seeds just before consuming so they don’t go bad. You can usually get one at Marshall’s or Home Goods.

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