Five randomized studies have shown that chewing gum after colon surgery reduces the time it takes for patients to pass gas and have a bowel movement.
Patients in the studies chewed sugarless gum from 5 to 45 minutes, three times a day after surgery. Control groups had similar surgeries but didn’t chew gum.
There was a trend toward leaving the hospital sooner, but the studies were too small to definitely show fewer hospital days for the gum chewers.
Still, the study authors wrote,
The potential cost savings from the reduction of even one postoperative day compared with the cost of several sticks of chewing gum are huge.
During intestinal surgery, the bowels stop moving contents forward, a situation known as ileus. After surgery doctors listen for sounds in the bowel and wait for gas to pass through the rectum as signs that bowel activity is resuming.
Overall in the five studies, patients who chewed gum passed gas about half a day sooner and had their first bowel movement a day sooner.
The team concluded,
Chewing gum may enhance intestinal recoveryfollowing colectomy and reduce the length of hospital stay. Owing to the potential for substantial cost savings, larger-scale,blinded, randomized controlled trials with placebo arms are warranted.
More information about the overview of gum studies is on Medpage Today.
SOURCE: Purkayastha et al., Archives of Surgery, Volume 143, Number 8, August, 2008.