Chewing Gum for your Guts?

Does chewing gum after surgery improve bowel function? You’ll be surprised with the answer!

Bottom Line:  Chewing gum in post abdominal surgery patients shortens time to first flatus (by 10 hours), time to first bowel motion (by ~1/2 day), and length of hospital stay (by~0.7 days). For every five patients treated, one fewer will develop ileus. Chewing gum in non-post-surgical constipation has not been studied.

  • Use in colorectal, gynecological, and other abdominal surgeries:
    • Systematic review of 81 Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) comparing postoperative chewing gum to any intervention (9,072 patients)
    • Chewing gum resulted in statistically significant decreases in:
        • Time to first flatus (TFF): By 10 hours.
        • Time to first bowel motion (TFBM): By 13 hours.
        • Length of stay (LOS): By 0.7 days.

Information accessed directly from Tools for Practice, Alberta College of Family Physicians.


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  2. van den Heijkant TC, Costes LMM, van der Lee DGC, et al. Br J Surg. 2015; 102:202-11.
  3. Atkinson C, Penfold CM, Ness AR, et al. Br J Surg. 2016; 103:962-70.
  4. Pereira Gomes Morais E, Riera R, Porfírio GJM, et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016; 10:CD011562.
  5. Kehlet H. Lancet. 2008; 371:791-3.
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