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Will Chewing Gum Relieve My Heartburn?

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Updated May 19, 2008

Question: Will Chewing Gum Relieve My Heartburn?
Answer:
Chewing gum is known to stimulate the production of saliva. But how will this help with heartburn?

Previous studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum after meals can help prevent cavities by lowering acid and sugar levels in the mouth. In an effort to see if chewing gum could also help with acid reflux, researchers at Britain's Kings College in London tested their theories on 21 volunteers in 2005. Over the span of two days, the volunteers ate two high-fat meals, one each day. After one of the meals the volunteers would chew gum for 30 minutes after the meal, and after the other meal they didn't chew any gum. For two hours after each meal researchers measured the levels of acid in each volunteer's esophagus. The researchers then compared the results from the time after meals when gum was chewed, and from the time after those meals when gum was not chewed. The results of that study showed that chewing gum after a meal reduced acidity levels in the esophagus.

Chewing gum or sucking on a lozenge for 30 minutes after meals increases the production of saliva. And because saliva is alkaline, it can help neutralize the acid. Saliva can also relieve heartburn by bathing the esophagus and lessening the effects of acid refluxed into the esophagus by washing it back down to the stomach.

While the results of various studies support chewing gum to reduce the effects of acid reflux, it is important to remember that it may not work for everyone. In particular, chewing gum or sucking hard candy may lead to swallowing excess air. Swallowing air, in turn, can result in bloating and an increase in flatulence. It is important, therefore, to discontinue chewing gum or sucking hard candy if swallowing air becomes a problem for you.

Carol Ann Rinzler, Ken DeVault, MD. Heartburn & Reflux for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2004.

Anil Minocha, M.D., Christine Adamec. How to Stop Heartburn: Simple Ways to Heal Heartburn and Acid Reflux. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2001.

"Digestive Health Tips: 10 Tips on Belching, Bloating, and Flatulence." American College of Gastroenterology. 15 May 2008

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