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Chewing gum given to cancer patients to aid recovery

Bowel cancer patients at a London hospital are being prescribed sugar free chewing gum as doctors believe it can help them to recover after surgery. It...

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|Jun 27|magazine6 min read

Bowel cancer patients at a London hospital are being prescribed sugar free chewing gum as doctors believe it can help them to recover after surgery.

It is thought that regularly chewing on gum can increase the speed at which patients’ digestive systems get back to working order.

A study has found that after undergoing surgery patients that were prescribed chewing gum were able to return home from hospital on average two days earlier than those who were not given gum.

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A trial of using chewing gum as a recovery tool is currently underway at the University College London Hospital to try to find new ways of helping patients recover from surgery.

Doctors are requesting that patients who are booked in for bowel cancer surgery take supplies of sugar-free chewing gum with them to the hospital.

After patients have emerged from the operation, surgeons are asking them to chew the gum three times a day for a period of one hour.

Alistair Windsor, a colorectal surgeon said in a media interview: “One of the things that delays people recovering from surgery is that they get what is called an ileas - where the bowel goes to sleep.”

“It seems that chewing gum can stimulate the saliva, which starts enzyme production in the pancreas, and that then stimulates gastro-intestinal activity.”

The trial is currently in its sixth month and although results are yet to be published surgeons feel that the patients are responding well to the chewing gum treatment.

“Patients seem to like it and in particular like the fact they are doing something to aid the recovery. We don't yet know how far it is speeding up their recovery, but there doesn't seem to be a downside to it,” Windsor said.

However, previous international studies on the benefits of chewing gum as a possible recovery tool have found that it can speed up healing.