You've heard of functional foods, but functional gum? Research now shows that popping a piece can help clean your teeth, curb your cravings, even make you smarter. But there's more: New chews do it without chemicals. (Kick-start your new, healthy routine with Women's Health's 12-Week Total-Body Transformation!)
The benefits are blowing up: Americans chew about 16 pieces a week—and it's a good habit to keep up. One to three sticks daily helps reap some surprising body benefits.
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Who said gum is for ditzes? Au contraire: It may improve your powers of concentration. In one study, gum chewers were faster and more accurate at a mental task than those who tackled the same problems sans the sticky stuff. Other research has found that chewing fires up your neurons, increasing brain signals in five different regions.
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The sugarless variety can be good for your teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). It increases the flow of saliva, which helps neutralize and wash away tooth-harming acid from your food. But take note: While any gum can increase saliva, chewing one with sugar could nix any benefits.
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Chewing gum for 30 minutes after eating a high-fat meal may reduce acid reflux symptoms, especially heartburn, according to a study in the Journal of Dental Research.
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Study subjects who chomped a piece for 45 minutes after lunch snacked 10 percent less later on, leading researchers to believe a stick may suppress hunger.
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Gum can help you poop better. C-section patients—who typically have trouble returning to their usual GI routines post-op—resumed regular movements faster when they had gum three times a day. Researchers believe chewing may jump-start the digestive system and get things moving again. Patients also had fewer issues with nausea.
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Women's Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now!