A health tip for a better summer

By Bill Wirtz

Many of us are taking advantage of the summer months, specifically July and August, to unwind and alleviate the stress accumulated over the past year. Undoubtedly, it is a wonderful feeling to disconnect at the beach, free from the constant influx of emails, text messages, and lengthy work calls. However, it is important to note that a brief summer break alone is insufficient to fully relax and alleviate work-related stress. Engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and incorporating sugar-free gum into your routine can all contribute to relaxation and stress reduction.

Engaging in regular exercise is an excellent method to reduce stress levels. Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins in the body, which have mood-enhancing effects. Additionally, exercise can improve the quality of your sleep, further aiding in stress reduction. Similarly, adopting a healthy diet can also promote relaxation. Consuming excessive amounts of sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy fats can lead to weight gain and inflammation, both of which can contribute to heightened stress levels. On the other hand, incorporating ample fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet can significantly improve your overall well-being.

However, it is worth mentioning that there is a lesser-known stress reduction tool that is often overlooked in discussions on this topic. This particular tool is often perceived more as a treat rather than a health aid. Surprisingly, sugar-free gum can assist in winding down and achieving a state of relaxation. Chewing gum stimulates the release of endorphins, which can uplift your mood. Furthermore, it can aid in enhancing focus and concentration, which can be particularly beneficial when experiencing stress.

Research on the advantages of sugar-free gum has been well-established in terms of dental care. According to the American Dental Association, while chewing sugar-free gum cannot replace brushing your teeth, gums sweetened with non-cavity-causing sweeteners like aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol, or mannitol can aid in preventing tooth decay. However, many consumers may not be aware that chewing gum also offers benefits in terms of stress relief and sustained focus. A study conducted in 2015 revealed that chewing gum positively affects attention, particularly sustained attention, in more than half of the reports. These effects were also associated with improved mood, stress relief, and influenced by the duration of the task. Although further research is required, chewing gum could potentially be beneficial in modifying cognitive function.

Interestingly, the research conducted to explore the benefits of chewing gum is not a recent development. In 2002, researchers conducted a study with a controlled group consisting of 75 subjects who chewed gum, and they discovered improved memory aspects associated with gum chewing. Additionally, chewing gum possesses antiviral properties and can assist in smoking cessation, which is something worth considering regardless of the season.

During the summer, while a portion of individuals will enjoy their time at lakes or beaches, those who remain in air-conditioned workstations will have to cope with the pressures of their daily work routine. Interestingly, certain occupations experience a higher workload during this season compared to other times of the year, such as call center employees during the peak air travel season. In such circumstances, chewing gum should be easily accessible as a means of relieving stress, rather than resorting to smoking or consuming sugary snacks to alleviate tension.

Bill Wirtz is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Consumer Choice Center.