More insights on ED behaviors: chewing gum and stress

One of the signs our daughter was struggling with her eating disorder was in increase in gum chewing (sugarless, naturally). This is well known as a common symptom of those unable to eat - the Minnesota Starvation study documented amazing amounts of gum use. This is usually interpreted as a way to satisfy one food-related urge without actually eating.

But another thing may be at play as well: new research finds chewing gum may reduce anxiety. Lower cortisol, better focus, better performance, less anxiety.

My favorite line in this report: "Study to be presented orally..."

The most "well, duh..." aspect: the study was done by Wrigley, a chewing gum manufacturer.


  1. Geez, what a surprise, positive findings about gum from a gum company. Who would ever think that??

    I actually am always chewing gum, and yes, sometimes I do it to avoid eating, but most of the time it's to keep my breath nice and fresh.

  2. This makes me recall the years I jokingly would say, "some people hve a pack-a-day smoking habit, but I havea pack-a-day gum habit." Yes, it was to avoid eating. However, the advent of xylitol use in sugarless gums put an end to that, as my stomach can't handle it. Fortunately, I had also started upping my calories at the same time, so letting go of the gum was not as difficult as I had anticipated. Add to that the fact that I'm not wasting money on something that is entirely unnecessary--it's a win-win situation.

  3. I once had a pack-a-day gum habit, and it was to keep from eating. I "learned" this from myriad women's magazines who advise this as part of a weight-loss strategy.

    And the xylitol can act as a purgative, making it more attractive to some people with ED.

  4. I never really did the gum thing- I bite the inside of my mouth too much! I did chew a lot when I was phobic of fluids, and needed to wet my mouth. And I will when I need to stay awake for short periods while driving. But mostly I was afraid of the calories in gum and if I did chew, I'd time it to make sure that I would absolutely burn off every last calorie.

    The logic of an eating disorder...

  5. I am working on recovery and chewing gum right after every meal really does reduce the stress after eating.

    I don't know if I would be able to eat at all if I couldn't chew gum afterwards.

    This is my best explanation for why I chew gum:

    After I eat, the first thought that enters my mind is "how am I going to to get rid of it?"

    Since, I can't engage in the behaviors and I feel powerless -

    I chew gum because it prolongs me having to answer the question, "how am I going to get rid of it?"

    Also, to me chewing gum is still eating so if I chew gum for an 1 hour a meal then I don't have to deal with the stress of holding on to the food because I am still "eating."

    I know it doesn't make sense that someone with anorexia would prolong the "eating/chewing process" but when the purging and restrictive behaviors are taken away, the anxiety is too great and chewing gum helps.

    I also noticed that ever since I started recovery, If I can't chew gum, I will chew a celery stalk very slowly because I don't want to deal with the stress of "after-meal time" and not being able to engage in the behaviors.

    So I don't think it's just gum that reduces the stress for anorexics. It could be anything that is repetitive and soothing or something that tricks the mind into believing it's eating.

  6. Anon (the last one!),

    Your last paragraph makes perfect sense. I used to put puzzles together after eating. I got one of those 80 bazillion piece puzzles and worked on that throughout refeeding. And if chewing gum helps, go for it!

  7. I did the chewing gum thing. I still do, when I'm stressed. I have a piece in my mouth right now...but not for that reason. Thank goodness.

  8. The gum or sometimes mouth wash kills the bad taste in someone's mouth if they haven eaten. It temporarily satisfies the taste buds and makes them forget they're hungry.


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