Study finds chewing gum has benefits after heart surgery

The new study has investigated the benefits of chewing gum after heart surgery and found it might help with gut problems post-surgery. Researchers discovered that chewing gum after heart surgery could help the digestive tract begin working quicker and allow patients to be discharged sooner than those who don't chew gum. Sirvan S. Seng, one of the study researchers, said that there was no previous work investigating the use of chewing gum for recovery in heart patients.The study discovered that chewing gum helps accelerate the return of gut function after surgery. Furthermore, chewing gum is easy to implement and can be used with virtually all patients after surgery. Researchers studied patients receiving elective open-heart surgery, heart valve replacement, or mitral valve repairs and replacements in their work. The study group consisted of 341 patients undergoing surgery between 2017 and 2020 who chewed sugarless gum after surgery.

The study also had a second group consisting of 496 patients receiving similar surgeries between 2013 and 2016 who did not chew gum after their procedures. Out of the group of 341 patients who did chew gum, only two of them were confirmed to have postoperative ileus. Out of the 496 patients who did not chew gum, 17 of them developed postoperative ileus. Postoperative ileus results from the lack of regular muscle contractions in the intestines, leading to a potential blockage of food material.

Problems in the digestive tract are some of the most common complications in postoperative heart surgery patients. Researchers know that up to 5.5 percent of postoperative heart patients will be afflicted with the condition. The condition does slow down recovery and result in longer hospital stays.

Researchers on the project believe chewing gum stimulates the intestines using "sham feeding," where they believe food is coming. The team found postoperative gum chewing to be inexpensive and effective at improving gut function and helping to shorten hospital stays.