February 20, 2006
Gum Chewing Helps Bowels after Surgery
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chewing gum after intestinal surgery can help reactivate paralyzed bowels and get patients out of the hospital sooner, a study said on Monday.
Patients who have abdominal surgery often suffer a slowdown or shutdown of the bowels called ileus that causes pain, vomiting and abdominal swelling, and they may not be able to tolerate food or even water, the report published in the Archives of Surgery said.
Study participants had no problem chewing sugarless gum three times a day. Chewing stimulates nerves that promote the release of hormones responsible for activating the gastrointestinal system, wrote study author Rob Schuster of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in California.
Seventeen of 34 patients who chewed gum beginning a few hours after surgery passed gas several hours sooner than the half who did not chew, and they had their first bowel movements an average of 63 hours after surgery compared with 89 hours for non-chewers.
The gum chewers got out of the hospital an average of 4.3 days after surgery versus 6.8 days for non-chewers, reducing costs and lowering the risk of complications.
All had had a section of their lower intestines removed because of cancer or chronic infection.
"We conclude that gum chewing early in the postoperative period following (surgery) hastens time to bowel motility and ability to tolerate feedings," the report said. "This inexpensive and well-tolerated treatment resulted in earlier hospital discharge."