According to a team of doctors at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in California, patients who chew gum following intestinal surgery leave hospital sooner.
The doctors say the gum chewing helps to reactivate paralyzed bowels which is a common problem following abdominal surgery.
After surgery it seems the bowels often shut or slow down causing a painful condition called ileus.
This results in pain, vomiting and abdominal swelling, and even drinking water becomes intolerable.
In the study thirty-four patients undergoing elective bowel surgery for recurrent diverticulitis or cancer were put into two random groups.
One group chewed gum with no evident problems three times a day, almost immediately after the surgery, while the others did not.
It was found that the gum chewers had their first bowel movements an average of 63 hours after surgery compared with 89 hours for non-chewers.
Lead study author Rob Schuster says the chewing stimulates nerves that promote the release of hormones responsible for activating the gastrointestinal system.
The main measures of success were the first feelings of hunger, the first time to pass wind, the time to the first bowel movement, length of hospital stay, and any complications which ensued.
The gum chewers were out of the hospital on average of 4.3 days after surgery compared to 6.8 days for non-chewers.
Dr. Schuster says the gum chewing early in the postoperative period hastened the time to recovery and is an inexpensive and well-tolerated treatment.
The report is published in the Archives of Surgery.