Bloated? Quick question then.
Do you chew gum?
If so - do you choose sugar-free gum over regular gum as the 'healthy' way to keep your breath fresh, your teeth clean, and help you concentrate on your drive home?
Well you might like to know that sugar-free gum is not the healthy option it's cracked up to be and could be causing your belly to bloat.
Sugar-free chewing gum contains synthetic sweeteners that could give you wind, bloating and diarrhoea. There’s a warning on the back of the packet that it has a laxative effect. But it’s so small you’ve probably never noticed it.
Some people assume that the wind they get after chewing gum is due to swallowing air.
But it’s the sweeteners that are the biggest problem - sugar alcohols like mannitol, xylitol and sorbitol - which are hard to digest and can ferment in the gut causing a build-up of gas and a bloated belly. They can also cause water to be drawn into the bowel leading to loose stools or diarrhoea.
It's not just sugar-free chewing gum that can have this effect.
If you look closely you'll see the same laxative warning on packets of sugar-free mints too.
In fact anything that's being promoted as being sugar-free could cause the same reaction in your guts so it's worth checking labels on sweets, fizzy drinks, flavoured water, squash, spreads and sauces too.
John (not his real name) came to see me suffering from daily diarrhoea. It began with a stomach bug - and had never stopped. When John first became ill a friend suggested he eat mints to calm his tummy. By the time I met John he had been eating a full packet of large sugar-free mints every day for 7 years!!
John had never noticed the ‘May have a laxative effect’ warning on the back of the packet. As soon as he stopped eating the mints his guts calmed down and the diarrhoea stopped.
Not everyone reacts to sweeteners in this way.
But if you are dealing with wind, a bloated belly or are regularly running to the loo - chewing sugar-free gum (or eating sugar-free mints like Brenda) isn't going to help.
Along with the sugar-alcohol sweeteners, Aspartame is another sweetener found in sugar-free gum.
Aspartame is linked to inflammation in the bowel and is bad news.
Aspartame has also been linked to a host of serious health issues that would make inflammation in the bowel seem like a walk in the park - dementia, cancer and multiple sclerosis to name a few.
Regular gum is full of sugar which will rot your teeth and gums so I'm not suggesting that that's a better choice.
Chewing any kind of gum - sugar-free or regular - can upset your digestive system.
When you chew food you’re sending a signal to your body to produce stomach acid - so that when the food arrives in the stomach protein digestion can begin.
When you chew gum you're sending the same signal - but there’s no food for the stomach acid to breakdown. If you chew gum between meals you could end up with indigestion or reflux caused by too much stomach acid.
Chewing sugar-free gum can cause bloating, wind, diarrhoea, inflammation in the bowel, acid reflux or indigestion -but regular gum can cause digestive problems too.
So if you want to have a happy healthy tum - stop chewing gum!