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Half of all Americans enjoy chewing gum — some for stress relief, others to aid concentration, still others simply for pleasure. Several studies, however, recommend rethinking what you chew, because many gums are not as healthy as advertised. Consider these factors when you make your next purchase:

  • Go natural. Once upon a time, gum was crafted from tree sap. Today’s gum base, however, is typically manufactured of synthetic polymer rubber, a polyvinyl acetate plastic, or both. Look for all-natural or organic gum with chicle — the sap of the sapodilla tree — as the base.
  • Avoid sugarless gum. Studies have found that aspartame — a common artificial sweetener in sugarless gum — can overstimulate nerve endings and increase muscle tension, which may trigger stress headaches. Some research suggests that chewing a lot of gum can also result in intestinal upset: At an extreme, consuming 15 or more sticks a day of sorbitol-sweetened gum may result in chronic diarrhea and abdominal pain.
  • Monitor the sugar. If you’re seeking a calming stress reliever, take it easy: A stick of gum typically contains 2 to 6 grams of sugar — ½ to 1½ teaspoons.
  • Watch out for artificial ingredients. If you want to freshen your breath, eschew artificial flavors and look for gum with natural essential mint oils.
  • Dispose properly. Most modern gums are not biodegradable; the sticky stuff sticks around if spit out on the pavement. Chewing gum is the second most common litter after cigarette butts.

This originally appeared as “Chew on This” in the November 2019 issue of Experience Life.

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