Does the sound and look of chewing gum irritate you? I have to admit, it’s not the prettiest of actions – but for those struggling against fatigue, inattention and anxiety, it can be very helpful and worth overlooking the irritation it can cause the “non-chewer”.
Repeated research studies have found that chewing gum has the effect of calming the nerves and improving sustained attention. How it achieves this is still under study.
Not only does it work to keep fatigued workers, students and drivers more alert and less worried, but one study has shown that sustained use over 2 weeks reduced perceived anxiety in comparison to a control group of “non-chewers”.
As an occupational therapist, I see many children for whom paying attention and/or managing their anxiety, is a truly difficult thing. One solution I frequently recommend is chewing gum and parents are often surprised to find just how well it works.
As long as a child understands to chew and not swallow, and parents consider it safe for them, most children who normally struggle with the transition from home to school, settle much more quickly with chewing gum.
Once home, if they need to complete homework or other focussed tasks, chewing gum extends their ability to sustain attention. I’ve found this is particularly helpful for children who are coming off medication for ADHD, and have known teenagers with this diagnosis who otherwise struggle with focus, to be able to work for a couple of hours while chewing.
For best effect, offer 2 pieces of gum to provide a larger bolus to chew. To protect teeth, non-sugar gum is the best choice. As an added bonus, chewing gum containing xylitol (non-sugar sweetener) can help to reduce the incidence of ear infections. One such option that carries a little additional anxiety support is Rescue Remedy Chewing Gum, a homeopathic gum designed specifically for reducing anxiety.
NB: By the way, if you’re travelling, you might want to pack some mint gum, as it can help calm unsettled stomachs and stave off motion sickness