Page last updated at 00:42 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 01:42 UK

Chewing gum aids bowel recovery

chewing gum
Chewing stimulates the nerves of the digestive system

Chewing gum aids recovery from bowel surgery, mounting evidence suggests.

The latest work published in Archives of Surgery reviews data from five recent trials involving 158 patients.

Chewing gum appears to speed up the return of normal bowel function by stimulating nerves in the digestive system, say the UK report's authors.

Trials are now needed to see if this, in turn, can reduce the recovery time needed in hospital, the London-based team from St Mary's Hospital say.

In each study, a group of patients chewed sugarless gum three times per day following surgery for a period of five to 45 minutes and were compared with patients who did not chew gum.

Chewing is a bit like eating and it starts peristalsis, which is the movement of the bowel
An advisory nurse for Bowel Cancer UK

Patients who chewed gum passed gas and had a bowel movement sooner than those who did not chew gum - signs that their bowel function returned sooner.

Any type of abdominal surgery can slow down or halt bowel function - a condition known as ileus, which can cause serious complications.

In four of the trials, the length of hospital stay after an operation was also a day shorter for the patients who chewed gum.

But the researchers say more work is needed to see if this is a direct link rather than a chance finding.

If chewing gum did reduce hospital stay, this could save the NHS millions of pounds, say the researchers, given that more than 31,000 bowel operations are carried out in England each year and an overnight stay in hospital costs the NHS around 200.

An advisory nurse for Bowel Cancer UK said: "Chewing is a bit like eating and it starts peristalsis, which is the movement of the bowel.

"Ileus - when the bowel is slow to start working again - can occur after an operation, but it has become less common as surgery has become more refined.

"There is some evidence that chewing gum might help, but not enough that bowel surgery patients are routinely being advised to chew gum."




SEE ALSO
Chewing gum weight loss warning
11 Jan 08 |  Health
New bowel cancer treatment hailed
10 Nov 06 |  South Yorkshire

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific