Feeling frazzled and under the pump? A humble stick of chewing gum could help lower your stress levels. While long-term stress management requires a number of strategies including regular exercise, mindfulness and could even be helped through the consumption of daily vitamins and supplements, it’s also handy to have a few tricks up your sleeve to stop stress in its tracks. Especially in light of new research that shows that Australian workers are stressed at least once a week.
While behaviours like meditation and deep breathing are ways you can quickly stop a stress spiral, there is something even easier that you can do. Simply chewing on a piece of gum has been shown to be a rapid stress reliever. In fact, a study from 2009 found that chewing gum was associated with reduced self-reported stress and anxiety in participants after they completed a series of pressurised tasks that required them to work on multiple things at the same time.
According to a review of studies published in 2016, the behavioural effects of chewing gum have actually been studied for over 80 years and while some of the research has been contradictory, the overarching theme seems to be that, for some people, gum has the potential to lower stress levels quickly for a short period of time.
There are a few thoughts as to why this is the case, with one possible explanation being that chewing gum has the ability to inhibit the “the propagation of stress-related information in the brain. The neural mechanisms underlying the stress-reducing effects of chewing gum involve the prefrontal cortex which then changes the HPA axis and ANS activity”.
Research from 2015 also looked at gum’s ability to dampen stress and found that while it can relieve these responses, the greatest change was found when people chewed more strongly, with researchers concluding: “high masticatory performance is required to achieve this effect”.
Whether or not chewing gum is a habit you currently hold, it’s something to consider to ease future stress-related tension. “The benefits of long term chewing on stress reduction suggests that it may be a simple, cost-effective method of reducing stress and improving quality of life and well-being,” researchers wrote in their study review.