No, it’s not something most of us are proud to announce. But the stats have spoken – much, much more of us are constipated than we’re ever likely to admit
“It’s estimated that around 1 in every 7 adults and up to 1 in every 3 children in the UK has constipation at any one time,” shared the NHS. And given how uncomfortable the condition can be, we’re sure you’ll be glad to hear that there’s a super-cheap, super-easy remedy suggested by doctors.
Dr. Karan Raj, a doctor known for debunking medical myths on TikTok, recently reposted a video of a woman who had just given birth. The caption reads “The first thing my gastroenterologist husband did when I came out of my C-section,” before showing a piece of gum being handed to the new mother.
Here’s what Dr. Raj had to say about the offer:
Yes, it really can work
“If you’re constipated after abdominal or pelvic surgery, chewing gum could help you in your quest to churn out fresh colon sausage,” Dr. Raj poetically begins.
This is because, he says, “sometimes, after surgery, your digestive system goes on strike. It powers down, leaving you bloated and constipated.”
The doctor explains that this is known as paralytic ileus, a “condition where the motor activity of the bowel is impaired, usually without the presence of a physical obstruction.“
Chewing gum can help to get things moving again, the doctor says, because chewing “tricks your body into thinking it’s eating.” This then “triggers the gastrocolic reflex, so a bunch of gut hormones are released, and the vagus nerve is stimulated, resulting in more intestinal contractions.”
In other words, chewing gum could help to get everything moving again after a serious disruption.
Ok, but... I haven’t had major surgery, I’m just backed up
I hear you – and so does Dr. Raj. Surgery or not, he says that sugar-free gum can sometimes have a laxative effect – under all conditions.
This is because sugar-free gum often contains sorbitol, an artificial sweetener and mild laxative. “It draws water into your large intestine and increases gut motility,” Dr. Raj said.
“And for an even greater chance of dropping a trouser biscuit,” the doctor said, “drink black coffee. It has a prokinetic effect to speed up intestinal transit time.”
I may never look at a Bourbon the same way again.
If you’re constipated on the reg, the NHS also recommends:
- Eating more fibre (“You should eat at least 18-30g of fibre a day. High-fibre foods include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and cereals,” the NHS says).
- Adding bulking agents, like bran, to your diet
- Drinking plenty of water
- Exercising regularly
- Setting a poop routine (yes, really) – your gut likes to know when it’s meant to enter ‘go’ mode
Here’s the full clip: