February 20, 2006

Gum chewing helps bowels after surgery: study

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

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."