Millions of Americans suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the chronic backsplash of acid into the esophagus, more commonly known as heartburn. Heartburn can ruin a great meal in no time and the intense burning is enough for you to reach for the closest antacid.
However, research shows that there might be an easier way to stop heartburn in its tracks. And it doesn’t involve popping a pill – not even a supplement.
In a recent study, researchers fed people meals that induced heartburn. After the meal, subjects chewed gum for 30 minutes. Researchers then measured acid pH levels.
The people who chewed gum had significantly lower acid levels. The lack of acid offered heartburn relief. Gum chewing reduced acid for up to three hours.
Chewing on a piece or two of gum, it seems, helps force fluids back into the stomach and flood the esophagus with alkaline saliva, neutralizing acids that cause the characteristic burning sensations.
Chewing gum stimulates the salivary flow rate so any acid that accumulates in the gut is washed away and cleared more quickly.
Heartburn is usually a result from eating too much food, too fast. Your stomach then pushes the acid back up into your esophagus. The saliva induced by chewing gum neutralizes the acid and pushes it back down to where it belongs.
Antacids are the most common form of treatment for heartburn. You don’t need a prescription and they are usually effective in relieving pain. But they also come with severe side effects.
Extended use of antacids may actually worsen your condition. They are also known to cause constipation, diarrhea, and mineral deficiencies. But worst of all, long-term use of antacids can potentially cause kidney failure and osteoporosis.
Chewing a piece of sugarless gum is safe and effective. No side effects. And you get the extra benefit of helping to prevent cavities by doing it.
But remember that most sugarless gums contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose and those have their own list of side effects.
Most health food stores carry sugar-free gum that uses xylitol as a sugar substitute. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in plants, fruits, and vegetables.
It is made from birch wood and used as medicine or as a sweetener. Gum sweetened with Xylitol may cost you a little more, but it’s natural and worth it.
So, the next time you start to feel that awful burn, chewing gum may be one of the simplest and safest ways to prevent and control heartburn.