Chewing Gum and Stress Relief – What Does The Research Say?


In 2008, a study of the effects of chewing gum on stress relief was undertaken byAndrew Scholey, Ph.D., professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia.

He looked at what happens to the levels of a hormone called Cortisol when someone chews gum. Cortisol is a hormone that is released by the body and which is increased when someone is stressed.

Cortisol is produced naturally by the body all the time.  Small increases of cortisol have positive effects on the body and are responsible for creating  bursts of energy for survival reasons; improved memory function; increased immune reaction; lower sensitivity to pain and helping to maintain balance in the body’s functioning overall.

It is usually secreted into the bloodstream at higher levels in the morning, when we need to function more, with the levels gradually reducing during the day to be at their lowest at night when we don’t need bursts of energy. Although stress isn’t the only reason that cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, it has been called the stress hormone because it is secreted in higher levels during any stressful situations.

You can see that cortisol is helpful to the body if produced at the appropriate time and in the correct amount. The problem is that following a lot of sustained stress, the body does not have the opportunity to return to normal between bouts of cortisol secretion and remains in  ‘high alert’ too long and chronic stress can result.

Chronic stress can lead to reduced cognitive performance; reduced thyroid function, raised blood sugar, decreased bone density, reduction in muscle bulk, increased blood pressure, lower immunity and increased abdominal fat, which is associated with heart attacks and strokes.

You can understand that it is important that we learn to relax between bouts of stress in order that the body does not become overwhelmed with cortisol for long periods. That is why yoga, relaxation, massage, chiropractic treatment, meditation, exercise and correct breathing  are encouraged in our stressful world where we often don’t make time to ‘switch off’ all day.

The research looked at 40 people when chewing and not chewing gum whilst doing various tests and it showed that chewing gum helped relieve anxiety by nearly 17 % during mild stress and nearly 10 % during moderate stress. They measured cortisol levels in the participants’ saliva and found that cortisol was 16 % lower in the gum eaters than the non chewers.

Maybe that’s why so many football managers chew gum on the touchline and it might help you if you chew some gum when you are overstressed!

Chiropractors treat TMJ problems – pain in the jaw area – often, because when we are stressed we can clench our teeth and overstress the jaw muscles. This can lead to headaches and neck pain too. If you are feeling stressed too often, try gum but also call us to see if we can help you to relax your jaw and neck muscles too.