Chewing gum may aid surgery recovery

By Linda Rano

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gum Chewing gum Us

A study by researchers at the Division of Urologic Surgery,
University of North Carolina, US, suggests that chewing gum may
speed the recovery of bowel function after gastrointestinal

The research adds to a host of other benefits linked to gum-chewing in recent years, including studies showing that sugar-free chewing gum is an aid to oral hygiene, while other studies have linked gum chewing to a sharper memory. The study aimed to determine whether gum chewing in the immediate postoperative period facilitates a return to bowel function in patients undergoing cystectomy and urinary diversion. The researchers said that several studies had shown chewing gum may stimulate bowel mobility after gastrointestinal surgery. Urinary diversion typically uses a segment of bowel therefore it was conceivable that patients undergoing cystectomy and diversion may benefit from gum. The study described how 102 patients underwent radical cystectomy, which includes removal of the bladder, and urinary diversion for localised bladder cancer. Each patient followed the same perioperative (surrounding the procedure) cystectomy care plan, with the first patients undergoing surgery between July 2004 and August 2005, serving as the control group and the second set of patients undergoing surgery from September 2005 to July 2006. To act as the control the first group was not given the chewing gum, while the second group was given gum beginning on postoperative day 1. Outcome measures included time to flatus (flatulence), time to bowel movement, length of hospital stay and complications. The study showed that time to flatus was shorter in those patients who received the gum, 2.4 days compared with 2.9 days. Time to bowel movement was also reduced in patients who received the gum, 3.2 days compared with 3.9 days, but there was no significant difference in length of hospital stay. A statement issued by Faculty 1000 Medicine, an on-line service providing access to medical literature and opinions, said that chewing the gum is thought to stimulate the smooth muscle fibres and secretion from the salivary glands and liver. Bradley Kropp, member of Faculty 1000 Medicine and Professor of Paediatric Urology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, said that he will be giving chewing gum to his patients undergoing reconstructive surgery. He is quoted as saying: "In today's high-tech, molecular-driven scientific world, it is nice to come across an article that can be implemented immediately into our practices without increased healthcare cost​." He added: "Just think how much a pack of gum would cost today had the pharmaceutical industry come across this information first​." The study was described in the December 2007 Elsevier publication Urology The latest study adds to a growing volume of research showing benefits from gum-chewing, including research published by Wrigley last November which claimed that chewing a stick of gum can help focus and sharpen the mind, ultimately helping to improve memory recall. The findings came from a study of nearly 600 marketing students at a US university who were given sticks of Wrigley's gum during a test. According to Wrigley, students who chewed gum during the test scored on average 90, whilst those who weren't given any gum scored only 60. Meanwhile, in September three of Wrigley's sugar-free chewing gums became the first in the US to earn the American Dental Association's seal of approval, underlining claims that chewing gum can help with oral health.

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