Chewing gum speeds up recovery from colon surgery

Scientists in Britain say chewing gum after colon surgery improves the recovery of the bowel.

The researchers from St. Mary's Hospital, London, say they have found that following surgery to remove all or part of the colon, chewing gum enhances recovery of intestinal function.

The researchers say one of the inevitable responses to the trauma of abdominal surgery is the inability of the intestines to pass contents and this is a major factor in the pain nausea, vomiting and cramps commonly suffered after such surgery.

By analysing the results of five trials involving 158 patients, Dr. Sanjay Purkayastha, B.Sc., M.R.C.S., and colleagues reached the conclusion that patients who chewed gum three times per day following surgery for a period of five to 45 minutes, took far less time to recover normal bowel function and also had a shorter stay in hospital.

Problems following such surgery is estimated to cost health services millions each year.

The researchers say gum chewing is thought to act as a kind of "sham feeding," stimulating nerves in the digestive system, triggering the release of gastrointestinal hormones and increasing the production of saliva and secretions from the pancreas.

They say the evidence suggests that gum chewing following abdominal surgery offers significant benefits in reducing recovery time and time in hospital.

The research is published in the August issue of Archives of Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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