RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Chewing gum after giving birth by C-section appears to help new mothers recover faster, stimulating bowel function sooner, which can translate to shorter hospital stays and lower healthcare costs, according to a study published in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
THE DETAILS: Researchers looked at 200 pregnant women who delivered by elective cesarean section and put them into two groups; 93 who received one stick of sugarless gum for 15 minutes every two hours after surgery, and 107 who underwent traditional treatment—no clear liquids until a patient passes gas, and no regular diet unless the first bowel movement.
WHAT IT MEANS: Generally, after any abdominal surgery, including hysterectomies and C-sections, a portion of your intestines is temporarily paralyzed. Most doctors won't allow you to eat or drink until your gut awakens because they don't want food to become stuck in your GI tract and cause complications. This study adds to the evidence that chewing gum is a helpful way to wake up your gut after surgery, perhaps because the act of chewing signals that food is on the way.
Here is some info to chew on when considering faster post-op recovery through chewing gum:
• Make the chew case to your doctor. If you're scheduled to undergo any abdominal surgery, ask your doctor if chewing gum could be used to speed up your recovery. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers found that patients who had undergone colon surgery and chewed gum for 15 minutes four times a day saw a return of bowel function a half a day sooner than those who just sipped clear fluids.
• Chew gum for heartburn relief. According to University of Nebraska Medical Center doctors, chewing gum can stimulate the flow of saliva, which neutralizes acid and helps push digestive juices back down where they belong. A very small British study published in 1997 also found that chewing gum boosted the salivary flow and cleared acid from the esophagus of chewing patients faster than in those who didn't chew gum, suggesting the act could serve as a possible drug-free way to tame reflux disease.
• Don't share with Fido. Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly found in sugar-free gum, mints, cookies, and even toothpaste. While it flavors gum without the need for sugar, it can be lethal—even in small amounts—if dogs eat it. The chemical has been linked to liver failure and death in dogs; if a dog ingests xylitol, the animal could develop vomiting, lethargy, trouble standing, and seizures within minutes. Just two or three sticks can threaten the life of a 20-pound canine. Keep xylitol-sweetened gum where your pet can't get to it; if your dog snatches some, call your vet immediately.