By Nicholas Bakalar, August 26, 2008, The New York Times – Chewing gum after abdominal surgery may help in recovery, British researchers found in a review of several small studies.

The scientists looked at results from five randomized trials involving 158 patients who had undergone colectomy, the complete or partial removal of the colon. In each study, the postsurgical treatment of patients was the same except that roughly half were randomly assigned to chew gum after their operations.

The researchers found that chewing gum reduced the time for the gut to become active, and lowered the incidence of obstruction of the bowel that sometimes follows surgery. Four studies found the length of postoperative stay in the hospital to be a little more than one day shorter for gum chewers, but that result was not statistically significant and may have been due to chance.

The authors, writing in the August issue of The Archives of Surgery, suggest that chewing gum stimulates the release of gastrointestinal hormones while avoiding the nausea and vomiting often caused by eating too soon after an operation.

“No one knows what the mechanism is,” said Dr. Sanjay Purkayastha, the lead author and a surgical resident at St. Mary’s Hospital, Imperial College London. “But chewing has some effect on kick-starting the gut. We suggest that patients chew gum three times a day post-surgery.”


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