Yes, both experience and scientific studies suggest that chewing gums help soothe acid reflux symptoms.
The best chewing gum for acid reflux is probably a bicarbonate gum, but other flavors also provide relief, while certain other types might make symptoms worse.
How does chewing gum help acid reflux?
During an acid reflux episode, stomach acids find their way back up into the food pipe, irritating the lining of the esophagus and causing a burning sensation around the middle of the chest, called heartburn.
Sometimes the stomach content can travel all the way up to the throat, causing symptoms like hoarseness, coughing, phlegm, or lump in the throat. This condition is called silent reflux, (or LPR, laryngopharyngeal reflux) as people usually don’t experience heartburn in this case.
In order to relieve the symptoms, the acids should either be neutralized, so that the irritation stops, or should be washed back into the stomach, where they belong, or both.
Turns out the right kinds of chewing gums can help in both:
- Chewing gum increases salivary flow. The increased saliva production and swallowing frequency help to clear the throat and food pipe, washing stomach acids back to the stomach.
- The exact pH of saliva depends on the type of chewing gum, but it is relatively neutral, which helps to dilute the highly acidic stomach content.
What kind of gum is good for acid reflux?
Not all chewing gums are the same, some chewing gums are great for acid reflux, others can make your symptoms worse.
Sugar-free chewing gums after eating are not only great for oral health, but they can also soothe heartburn and other reflux symptoms.
Several flavors soothe acid reflux symptoms:
- bicarbonate gums – these are probably the best for acid reflux
- ginger gums
- xylitol gums
- mastic gums
- licorice gums
These flavors turn out to be especially useful in relieving reflux symptoms:
Bicarbonate gum for acid reflux
Bicarbonate chewing gums will provide some of the best relief to those that are suffering from acid reflux. This gum can help neutralize the acids in the esophagus and add to the natural levels of bicarbonate that is already found in the saliva.
Bicarbonate gum for LPR
Bicarbonate gums are also great for LPR.
A study in 2001 examined the effects of chewing gum on silent reflux symptoms:
The data show that gum chewing consistently increases esophageal and pharyngeal pH, and that bicarbonate gum causes greater increases than regular gum. For patients with LPR, gum chewing appears to be a useful adjunctive antireflux therapy.(source)
Those who experience a sour taste in the mouth, coughing, or phlegm after eating – these are all typical LPR symptoms – might find that a bicarbonate gum 30 minutes after meals is a great remedy.
Best bicarbonate gum for acid reflux
The best bicarbonate gums for acid reflux and GERD are sugar-free and contain no mint or peppermint, as they might cause symptoms for those who are prone to acid reflux.
You can try one of the many bicarbonate gums available online or in supermarkets, but most of them also contain mint, which might or might not be a trigger for you.
Your best bet is to go to your local pharmacy and ask what sort of bicarbonate gum do they recommend for acid reflux.
Ginger gum for acid reflux
Ginger has been known to help neutralize the acids and help reduce stomach issues. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine:
Ginger is one of the best digestive aids because of its medicinal properties. It’s alkaline in nature and anti-inflammatory, which eases irritation in the digestive tract.(source)
However, too much ginger (over 4 grams a day) seems to make acid reflux symptoms worse. It is unlikely to consume that much by chewing ginger gums, but if you are drinking ginger tea to soothe your acid reflux symptoms, you might want to watch out for this.
Xylitol gums for acid reflux
While sugary foods are not recommended to people with acid reflux, the amount of sugar in chewing gums is so little, that it should not cause a problem.
However, it is still recommended to chew sugar-free gums, as chewing gums with sugar are bad for your teeth.
Both xylitol and sorbitol are used in sugar-free chewing gums.
According to the Journal of Dental Research, chewing a piece of sugar-free gum around half an hour after eating will reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.
Does xylitol cause acid reflux?
You might have heard that sugar alcohols like xylitol or sorbitol might trigger acid reflux. While this is true, they are usually well tolerated by most people.
Overconsumption might indeed cause gas, bloating, and acid reflux, but this would require amounts for more than what a chewing gum contains.
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are more at risk, but even they might get away with the tiny amounts of xylitol a chewing gum contains.
Mastic gums and acid reflux
Mastic gum is proved to be effective for indigestion and stomach ulcers. It is considered to be “possibly safe” for most people, even though there is not enough data about its effects during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
If you have a pistachio allergy, you might be allergic to mastic.
When in doubt, ask your pharmacist or physician before trying mastic gums for your reflux symptoms.
While we haven’t found any scientific study about mastic and acid reflux, mastic seems to reduce stomach acids, so it is probably effective against acid reflux.
What chewing gums are bad for acid reflux?
Mint and nicotine gums are not recommended for people with acid reflux.
There is a muscle – called lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – between the food pipe and the stomach. This muscle is usually closed, preventing stomach acids from seeping back into the esophagus.
The problem with both mint and nicotine gums is that they tend to relax this muscle, which makes the acidic backflow more likely.
Chewing gum and stomach acid
Many people think that chewing gum increases gastric acid secretion since chewing makes your body think you are eating and the stomach starts to produce acids. This may especially be a problem when chewing gums on an empty stomach.
However, research says otherwise:
It is concluded that although chewing gum causes a stimulation of the gastric acid secretion, this increase is so small that it does not justify an advice against the use of chewing gum in patients with duodenal ulcer or x-ray negative dyspepsia.(source)
So chewing gum indeed increases stomach acid secretion but to a very small extent.
Potential problems with chewing gums and acid reflux
While chewing gums proved to be a great acid reflux remedy, there are a few things to be aware of, so that you avoid potential problems:
- Always take sugarless gums. The sugar in chewing gums is very detrimental to your teeth.
- As mentioned above, avoid chewing gums with mint or nicotine.
- Be careful not to swallow excess air while chewing. Excess air in the stomach increases the likelihood of an acid reflux episode.
- Too much chewing can overuse the chewing muscle, causing temporomandibular joint disorder.
- Sugar substitutes might cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and other symptoms for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
When used right, chewing gums can be a great and simple acid reflux remedy:
- Take a chewing gum right after having a meal and chew it for about 30 minutes. This should help the body neutralize the acid and will help remove the burning feeling in the food pipe and the throat.
- Be sure to use sugar-free gums and avoid mint and nicotine. Ginger and bicarbonate gums are usually the most effective.
- Do not swallow excess air while chewing.
Following these simple steps greatly increases the chance of avoiding unpleasant acid reflux symptoms after having a meal.