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A Gastroenterologist Reveals Why You May Want To Stop Chewing Gum (For Your Gut!)

Teenager In Retro Tracksuit Blowing Bubblegum
Image by VisualSpectrum / Stocksy
September 17, 2020

You stock your kitchen with pre- and probiotic-rich foods. You eat a diet low in FODMAPs. Perhaps you've even tried intermittent fasting to reduce inflammation1. And yet, your gut is still giving you grief. Um, what gives?

Integrative gastroenterologist Marvin Singh, M.D., may be able to steer you in the right direction. One of the first questions he asks his stumped patients, he shares on the mindbodygreen podcast, is so simple—but it can reveal a ton about your gut health habits: "What kind of gum are you chewing?"

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How chewing gum can affect your gut. 

Believe it or not, your chewing gum can contain FODMAPs. (Remember, FODMAP stands for "fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols," and they refer to the types of carbohydrates that don't get digested or are poorly absorbed2 in the small intestine.) Gum typically falls under the polyols bucket, as "these are your sugar alcohols," says Singh. "Your xylitols, your mannitols, sorbitols—all the things that say sugar-free on the label, most of the time they're going to have these polyols in them." 

So if you participate in a low-FODMAP diet (eschewing high-fructan items like garlic, onion, apples, Brussels sprouts, and more) but still suffer from IBS-like symptoms or discomfort, you might want to take a look at the label on your pack of gum. "There may be two or three of these FODMAPs in the gum," says Singh. "And sometimes just not chewing the gum is actually helpful." 

Even though you're not eating gum, per se, you're still ingesting those high-FODMAP, sugar-free sweeteners when you swallow your saliva—there might not be enough polyols to trigger digestive discomfort in any ol' microbiome, but for those with an already compromised gut, even the minuscule amount can wreak havoc. 

The takeaway.

If you follow a low-FODMAP diet but still face some gut issues, you might be missing the tiny amounts of FODMAPs in chewing gum. If so, you might want to swap your traditional bubblegum for some naturally sweetened options—try it for a beat, and see how you feel.

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