Feeling out of sorts? Try sugarless gum, N.C. researchers find

Maybe this explains why only four out of five dentists recommend sugarless gum to their patients who chew gum: Turns out the first ingredient in most sugarless gums is a laxative: sweet-tasting sorbitol. And there's growing interest among medical providers in harnessing gum's unintended powers to help patients whose insides are, well, gummed up.

UNC-Chapel Hill researchers recently found that patients who chewed sugarless gum after bladder surgery were able to do their business several hours sooner than those who did not. The digestive tract goes on strike after most abdominal surgeries; it can take as long as to four days for things to get moving again. In the meantime, many patients suffer uncomfortable swelling, nausea and even vomiting.

The UNC-CH study is just the latest to show off sugarless gum's potential benefit to blocked-up patients. But prescribing it as a pre-emptive strike against constipation remains a sticky subject.

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