‘Tis the Season…for Chewing Gum?

Dr. Franco is an accomplished physician with a long career distinguished by renowned research, global teaching, speaking and collaboration, and a thriving medical practice at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard University. He is a co-founder of Reflux Gourmet.


‘TIS THE SEASON when I find myself squeezing the steering wheel a little tighter in the holiday traffic, gritting my teeth at the overbooked calendar, and regretting those extra cookies that keep magically appearing. For all the wonderful things the holiday season brings, even good things bring stress.


And what comes with stress? Reflux. Stress is a common trigger for acid reflux, as it can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system. It’s the holiday gift that keeps on giving.


We all know the various behavior changes, medications, and alginates that are commonly recommended to manage reflux, but one little known complimentary therapy provides tremendous benefit and is backed by research. Chewing sugar-free gum has actually been found to have a relaxing effect on individuals, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. By relieving stress, gum chewing indirectly reduces the occurrence and severity of stress-induced acid reflux episodes.

The relief lies in the increased bicarbonate production (your body’s own saliva!) and in the act of gum chewing itself which stimulates the GI system and increases swallowing to promote natural esophageal clearance.

Studies also support that chewing gum can provide much more direct reflux relief and promote better oral, cognitive, and digestive health. The relief lies in the increased bicarbonate production (your body’s own saliva!) and in the act of gum chewing itself which stimulates the GI system and increases swallowing to promote natural esophageal clearance.


Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva; the increased saliva production not only dilutes stomach acid but also plays a crucial role in neutralizing it. Saliva contains bicarbonate, the body’s natural antacid that helps to counteract the corrosive effects of stomach acid on the esophagus and throat. By encouraging saliva production, chewing gum effectively reduces the acidity in the throat and esophagus, promoting relief from reflux.


Additionally, reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes, allowing stomach contents to flow back up into the esophagus and throat – chewing gum has been found to promote better esophageal clearance by increasing the frequency of swallowing. Swallowing helps to clear the throat and esophagus of gastric contents and prevents its prolonged exposure to the sensitive mucosal lining, reducing the likelihood of reflux damage.


Beyond its immediate benefits in addressing acid reflux, gum chewing offers additional advantages for digestive health. The act of chewing stimulates the production of enzymes and gastric juices, preparing the stomach for digestion. It can also help to alleviate bloating and gas, promoting smoother digestion and reducing the likelihood of reflux.


This explains why I go through chewing gum like oxygen in December! What seems like such a simple and insignificant activity has proven to be an essential tool for providing relief from acid reflux and stress. So the next time I’m white-knuckling the steering wheel and can’t find an unscheduled moment to breathe, I’ll always have my gum at hand…and I do believe I just figured out what my family will find in their stockings this year!



This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Reflux Gourmet.
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