Chewing gum has a long history as a weight loss aid. It keeps the mouth occupied while satisfying oral fixations. The belief is that chewing gum helps people lose weight by reducing their food intake dramatically. It may seem like a helpful tool, and you may wonder, “can you chew gum after bariatric surgery?” The short answer is that it’s not recommended. The long answer is a bit more complex.
Chewing Gum Contains a Surprising Amount of Sugar
Your surgeon will likely tell you not to chew gum after your procedure for several reasons. Although individuals may eat less if they chew gum more, the gum isn’t always a healthy option. Many are high in sugar, containing two grams or more of sugar per stick. That may not seem like a lot, but it adds up if you’re burning through packs of gum every day.
Chewing Gum Can Cause Stomach Pain and Gas
The obvious solution would be only chewing sugar-free gum, but that’s only part of the problem. When you chew without eating, you end up swallowing a lot of air. Introducing air to the digestive tract has significant consequences for bariatric patients. The resulting gas and stomach pain can last for several hours. The brief joy of chewing a stick of gum is not a reasonable tradeoff for the lengthy and painful side effects.
Chewing Sugar-Free Gum Can Irritate the Digestive Tract
Chewing gum also stimulates the bowels by increasing intestinal enzyme secretions. The digestive tract undergoes a lot of change after bariatric surgery, and diarrhea may occur. Sugar-free products contain sugar alcohols, which are known to cause diarrhea and may further irritate the bowels after bariatric surgery
Chewing Gum May Block Up the Bowels
Lastly, chewing gum may cause a blockage. Most people don’t intentionally swallow their gum, but it can happen by accident. Bariatric patients have to chew their food thoroughly to achieve a paste-like consistency. Chewing gum doesn’t break down like regular food, and the swallowed wad can cause a bowel blockage. Most bariatric patients agree that chewing gum isn’t worth the potential need for emergency surgery to remove it.
Many bariatric patients opt to avoid chewing gum after their surgery due to the many unpleased side effects that may occur. If you’re a regular gum chewer or rely on it to combat bad breath, you have a few alternatives. Breath mints or strips can break down and won’t cause the unpleasant effects of chewing gum. You can also try chewing on a mint leaf to freshen your breath. It does the job of gum without prolonged periods of chewing and swallowing air. Unlike gum, mint leaves can break down when swallowed.
Still have questions? Contact us to discuss your concerns and learn if bariatric surgery is a good fit for you.