I waited a while to publish this post because – like any addict – I figured relapses were likely. But I’m almost 2 weeks in now, so here it goes.
Thoughts on GUM.
It’s pretty easy to limit my Orbit habit on non-work days, but lately I’ve been making big strides in keeping my sticks to a minimum on work days too. What sealed the deal was how different (in a good way) I felt when I went without. This is one area that weaning doesn’t work. It has to be all or none to reap the rewards. More on that in a bit…but first, some background (for context)…
I’ve been trying to quit for a while, but it’s not easy when I’m guzzling coffee and seeing patients back to back. I don’t want to have nasty breath! Yes, obviously I could give up coffee AND gum and solve both addiction problems, but let’s focus on one vice at a time, okay? I need some kind of guilty pleasure.
Truthfully, I think I chew gum more out of a boredom than anything else. I don’t know how or when I got so dependent on the stuff, but I must have some kind of oral fixation. It’s actually more abnormal for me to be without gum than with it. <— That’s a problem.
I like having minty fresh breath just as much as the next person, but it was getting out of hand. I’m talking 3/4 a pack per shift. Clearly that kind of addiction needs an intervention. Sugar-free gum is also loaded with fake sugar (all those ones that end in –ol) which are FODMAPs. Polyols aren’t my main problem group, but I’ve definitely noticed that my GI system is way happier without them. Plus it reduces my daily load considerably, thereby leaving room for more of the good stuff, like hummus.
The best thing to come out of quitting is the increase in water consumption. Now I am drinking water by the kanteen-full which (a) cleans my mouth after eating/drinking, (b) prevents dry mouth, and (c) helps with constipation. Win win win.
I’m also saving a pretty penny now that I don’t have to spend $6 a week on gum. Thankyouverymuch.
So, when I got sick last month and spent weeks on the couch, doing little beyond eating, hallucinating, and sleeping, I inadvertently went gum-free for over a week. Considering how sick I was, my appetite was minimal, so when I did eat I wasn’t minding my FODMAPs very well and wound up making meals that had both beans and wheat (something I ordinarily avoid). And yet, my GI system wasn’t a wreck.
Qualifiers: I was eating snack sized portions (probably making the FODMAPs load smaller than what I’d eat in a normal meal). I wasn’t doing anything physical (it’s hard to tell if you’re bloated when you’re lying down and only 35% conscious).
That said, it got me thinking…what was I doing differently then that allowed me to feel decent while eating combinations of FODMAPs that had previously caused me to feel like crap? The answer is not as simple as EATING GUM (because as we all know IBS and FODMAPs aren’t that cut and dry). But I do think it was a big part.
Maybe my previous attempts of reducing faux sugars and polyols (in the form of sugar-free gum) were unsuccessful because I didn’t feel any different? After all, without any benefits, it’s hard to see a reason to give something up. But now I’m starting to wonder if that’s because cutting back isn’t enough. Weaning may be the way to go in other addictions, but I don’t think it does the trick with gum. Perhaps gum is something that needs to completely get the axe before the GI symptoms disappear? Please bear in mind, this is all just guesswork on my end. I’m no scientist, so the biochemistry and physiology of chewing gum is a mystery to me, but from a layperson’s perspective it may have something to do with the fact that gum isn’t like food. We don’t swallow it, digest it, and then get rid of it. We chew it – for a long time. Does that mean it’s just a continuous release of FODMAPs? If so, that means my habit has been pretty anti-FODMAPs. Popping one piece after another after another (I’m the worst on night shifts!), I’ve been basically streamlining FODMAPs to my body. Subjecting myself to sorbitol for a fairly constant duration of time. That could definitely create a lasting effect on the gut. One that may be present with ten pieces or two – which might be why I didn’t notice a change in how I felt after merely reducing the amount I was chewing. I always told myself a tiny piece of gum couldn’t possibly have enough FODMAPs to count. I considered it negligible in my overall FODMAPs load, but I never factored in the manner in which it is enjoyed. I’d venture to guess quality trumps quantity in this case.
So no gum for me.
This is just my experience. I have no clue if other IBS-ers will have similar responses by giving up gum. What I do know, is that since I’ve gone without I’ve been feeling a lot better. I’m not exaggerating, it’s truly noticeable.