Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. This tube is called the esophagus. When this happens, that all-too-familiar burning sensation, regurgitated food, or a sour taste may result.
Chewing gum may reduce inflammation and soothe your esophagus. This is because chewing gum causes your saliva to become more alkaline. This can neutralize the acid in your stomach.
These effects can vary depending on the type of gum you’re chewing, though.
A number of meaningful health benefits are associated with chewing gum. For example, it has been linked to increased mental performance. Chewing gum is said to improve concentration, memory, and reaction time.
It’s thought that chewing boosts blood flow to the brain. In turn, this increases the amount of oxygen available to the brain. This may enhance cognitive functioning.
When it comes to acid reflux, chewing gum works to reduce acid in the esophagus. The act of chewing can increase your saliva production, and cause you to swallow more. This allows any acidity in your mouth to be cleared much more quickly.
Gum chewing may provide even more relief if you chew bicarbonate gum. Bicarbonate can neutralize the acid present in the esophagus. Your saliva already contains bicarbonate.
If you chew gum with bicarbonate, you’re not only increasing saliva production, you’re also adding more bicarbonate into the mix. This can amplify its neutralizing effects.
Multiple studies, including one published in the Journal of Dental Research, indicate that chewing sugar-free gum for half an hour after eating may reduce symptoms of acid reflux. These findings aren’t universally accepted, though. Opinions are mixed about peppermint gum in particular. It’s thought that minty gums, such as peppermint, may have the opposite effect on acid reflux symptoms.
Although peppermint is known for its soothing qualities, peppermint may inappropriately relax and open the lower esophageal sphincter. This can allow gastric acid to flow up into the esophagus. This may trigger symptoms of acid reflux.
Chewing sugary gum can be detrimental to oral hygiene. It can damage your tooth enamel and increasing your risk for cavities. If you decide to chew gum to combat acid reflux, be sure to select a sugar-free gum.
Many people find that simply avoiding the foods that trigger their heartburn is enough to eliminate the problem. Others benefit from elevating their head during sleep.
If you smoke, your doctor may recommend you try to quit. Smoking can reduce the esophageal sphincter muscle’s effectiveness, making acid reflux more likely.
You may also benefit from using over-the-counter (OTC) medications. These medications include:
- Antacids: Available in chewable or liquid form, antacids usually work quickly by immediately weakening stomach acid. They provide only temporary relief.
- H2 receptor antagonists: Taken in pill form, these reduce acid production in the stomach. They don’t provide immediate relief, but may last up to 8 hours. Some forms may also be available by prescription.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Also taken in pill form, PPIs reduce production of stomach acid and may provide relief for up to 24 hours.
If OTC drugs and lifestyle changes aren’t enough to provide relief, your doctor may recommend prescription-strength medication for you. If your esophagus has already been damaged by stomach acid, your doctor may recommend surgery. This is generally a last resort.
Acid reflux can disrupt daily life. If left untreated, it can cause lasting damage to your esophagus. Chewing sugar-free gum may help reduce inflammation and irritation.
If you plan to add chewing gum to your daily routine, remember to:
- Choose a sugar-free gum.
- Avoid minty gums, which can cause your symptoms to increase.
- Chew a bicarbonate gum, if possible.
If your symptoms persist, you should speak with your doctor. They can help create the best treatment plan for you.