Many people pop gum into their mouths while walking, driving, or sitting somewhere to ward off bad breath or satisfy a craving for something sweet without giving it much thought. But, if you stop to think about it, you realize that chewing gum has many other amazing benefits.

Of course, like most things in life, too much gum chewing can cause problems. Excessive gum chewing can cause migraines in adolescents. However, numerous studies have linked moderate gum chewing to a host of surprising benefits.

Here are ten surprising benefits of chomping on a stick of gum.

1. Chewing gum helps improve eating habits and manage weight

A study out of Louisiana State University showed that people who chewed gum after eating lunch had less food cravings later in the day. They were also less likely to eat high-calorie foods if they had chewed gum once an hour for three hours after eating lunch. So, while chewing gum won’t automatically melt the pounds, it will ward off food cravings, helping you eat less and manage your weight gain.

2. Chewing gum helps improve memory and cognitive performance

It’s been shown that chewing gum increases the flow of blood to the brain by 25 to 40 percent. An increase in flow of blood to the brain results in an increase in the amount of oxygen delivered to the brain, which in turn increases brain function efficiency. Cognitive functions like memory, concentration, and reaction times improve when people chew gum.

Andrew Sholey, a professor at the British Sciences Institute in Australia, has found that short-term memory improves by up to 35 percent just by chomping on a stick of gum. However, chewing too much will interfere with short-term memory, he cautions.

3. Chewing gum helps to release nervous energy and combat stress and anxiety

Psychologists have for years known that chewing gum helps to ease tension and release nervous energy by reducing the stress hormone cortisol in the body. When you chomp on a stick of gum in emotionally charged situations, you are likely to feel calmer and more alert. Actually, chewing gum can be a good substitute for nervous habits like leg-shaking or nail-biting when you’re feeling anxious.

4. Chewing gum helps improve digestion

Although chewing gum does not directly help you digest food, it improves the performance of your digestive system. The way it does this is by stimulating the flow of saliva in the mouth, which, in turn, promotes easier swallowing and activates the digestive processes, including the flow of bile and other helpful acids and enzymes that digest food. When you chew gum after a meal, these digestive chemicals are released and help to avoid indigestion.

5. Chewing gum helps relieve acid reflux and heartburn

Chewing gum after meals also relieves acid reflux and other symptoms of heartburn by reducing acid in the esophagus. Increased saliva production in the mouth is to thank for this. Avoid chewing when you have not eaten, though, as production of these digestive acids can cause bloating.

6. Chewing gum helps prevent tooth decay

The best way to prevent tooth decay is to brush your teeth regularly, but we all know we can’t always brush our teeth after every meal. Chewing sugar-free gum is the next best alternative to prevent tooth decay. The American Dental Association recommends chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after meals, as it has been shown to reduce cavities, plaque, and gingivitis, as well as promote tooth enamel. Just make sure your gum is sugar-free—sugar-containing gums promote tooth decay.

7. Chewing gum helps relieve dry mouth

Because chewing gum stimulates saliva production up to 10 times the resting rate, it’s a huge help in reversing oral dryness, and the problems and discomfort associated with dry mouth.

8. Chewing gum helps fight cold symptoms

Catching a cold is never fun. The symptoms of the cold—buildup of phlegm and mucus—are not desirable either. Thankfully, chewing mint gum can help break up some of this nastiness, although you may eventually need to get a heavy duty over-the-counter pill to completely move that phlegm and mucus.

9. Chewing gum helps fight dependence on addictive stimulants

This benefit comes down to the physical act of gum chewing. When you chew gum, it not only reduces cravings for snacks, but also reduces (or provides a helpful diversion) from cravings for stimulants like nicotine and caffeine. So, if you are trying to quit smoking or break similar addictive habits, chewing gum is a handy strategy to add to your arsenal.

10. Chewing gum helps treat earworms

Earworms are incredibly common—90% of us are victims of the earworm at least once a week. An earworm is a catchy piece of music that gets stuck in our heads and no matter what we do, we can’t seem to dislodge it. While earworms are not harmful, they can be really distracting and totally unpleasant sometimes. Most of us are helpless against them, and just suffer through it. But, you don’t have to suffer through it. Researchers at the University of Reading, UK have identified a cure for earworms. The best way to treat earworms is to chew gum. Now that is something to chew on!

Featured photo credit: Guilherme Yagui via flickr.com

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