Gum is shown to be good for acid reflux — but can certain flavors be better or worse options? Spearmint is a classic gum flavor, so you may wonder if it impacts acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), if at all. Here's what to know about spearmint, plus the best gums for acid reflux.
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Gum and Acid Reflux
"Studies and clinical reports have found that gum may actually help minimize gastric reflux, especially after eating a meal," says Kristi King, RDN, LD, senior pediatric dietitian at Houston-based Texas Children's Hospital, clinical instructor at Baylor College of Medicine and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
This is how gum helps, King says: "Chewing gum increases saliva production in the mouth. Increased saliva causes frequent swallowing. The saliva will actually act as a neutralizer to the stomach acid. Important to note: Saliva will not reduce the amount of acid that the stomach has produced, but it can raise the pH (acidity level) so that it is more neutral."
Mint Gum and GERD
But if you're going to chew gum to help reduce reflux, King says any kind of mint — like spearmint or peppermint — could be a trigger. While "there is no scientific evidence that peppermint or spearmint can be the actual cause of GERD, if you already suffer from GERD, it could potentially make symptoms worse," King says.
Why? According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFGD), spearmint or peppermint can relax your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle, the gatekeeper between your esophagus and stomach. And, if your LES doesn't close properly, stomach acids can seep back up into esophagus (the tube that connects your throat to your stomach), the IFGD says.
But King says the jury is still out on whether mint gums have an effect on acid reflux. "Again, no scientific studies show that mint makes symptoms worse — only individual patient experiences reported," she says. Mint is known as a natural smooth muscle relaxant, she says, which could include the esophagus. However, she says, not all research points to spearmint having any effect on the LES.
Ultimately, "nutrition is an individual thing," King says. "When it comes to spearmint gum and whether it's good — or bad — for reflux, you have to decide for yourself. It will just depend on your body, your symptoms and your tolerance."
Translation: If it is a trigger for you, it is best to avoid it.
Best Gum for Acid Reflux
If you want to chew gum to try and help reduce reflux, King says any sugar-free gum or flavor will do the trick. She says the sugar-free factor, though, isn't so much to help your GERD; "it's more to reduce exposure of sugar to your teeth and keep your dentist happy."
And, chew on this: As you may have experienced, if you take medications to help alleviate your reflux, they can make your mouth dry, the American Dental Association (ADA) says. Per the ADA, chewing sugar-free gum is a good antidote for dry mouth because it accelerates saliva production. Saliva is good for your mouth, not only because it helps neutralize the acids from reflux, but because it also helps wash away bacteria that can attack your teeth and cause cavities.
If you have frequent reflux, the ADA says it's very important that you see your dentist regularly so that your teeth stay healthy.
Other Helpful Tips for GERD
Beyond chewing gum for your GERD, the IFGD also recommends these simple tips to help reduce the discomforts of GERD:
- Avoid alcohol. Like mint, alcohol can weaken your LES.
- Avoid triggers. These offenders
may cause acid reflux, so if they bother you, avoid them:
- Tomatoes and tomato products.
- Carbonated beverages.
- Go lean. Fatty foods tend to stay in your stomach longer, requiring more juices to break them down, so choose lean cuts of meat and skip fried and high-fat meals. When possible, choose instead to grill or bake foods without butter and oil.
- Stay upright. To keep those gastric juices down, remain in an upright position for at least two hours after eating.
- Don't eat before bed. Reclined positions are the perfect recipe for reflux. Try to eat three to four hours before lying down to sleep.
Read more: The Dos and Don'ts of Eating With GERD
Is This an Emergency?
- International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: “Diet Changes for GERD”
- Kristi King, MPH, RDN, LD, CNSC; senior pediatric dietitian, Texas Children’s Hospital; clinical instructor, Baylor College of Medicine; spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Houston
- American Dental Association: “Erosion: Stomach Upset and Your Teeth”