Here's something you don't read every day from a reviewer. After he looked over a recent study in Urology, pediatric urologist Bradley Kropp of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center had this comment: "In today's high-tech, molecular-driven scientific world, it is nice to come across an article that can be implemented immediately into our practices without increased healthcare cost." The subject was gum. Specifically, a pack a day for postsurgical patients. Chewing a piece every few hours, according to the study, stimulates the intestinal tract to start working again after surgery.
Patients who have had major abdominal surgery—a urological example would be removal of a cancerous bladder, or cystectomy—know all too well that immediately afterward, the digestive tract slows or shuts down completely. The goal is to restore normal function quickly, to prevent blockages, swelling, and pain (and allow patients to return to normal food). In the study, conducted among 102 patients at the University of North Carolina by Raj Pruthi and others, 51 patients who had had a cystectomy chomped a piece of Wrigley's Freedent every two to four hours, starting the day after surgery. Compared with 51 similar but Freedentless patients, the gum chewers' intestines started working about half a day earlier.
It's not a new idea. A much smaller study reached the same conclusion a couple of years ago. More gum isn't better, by the way. In January, the British Medical Journal ran a report about two German patients who lost significant weight from diarrhea because they chewed so much sugar-free gum—three or four packs a day. The artificial sweetener sorbitol, like mannitol and other polyalcohol sugars, is a laxative in large amounts.
Having abdominal surgery? BYOG. If you don't, and hospitals begin administering it to postsurgical patients, Kropp's ecstatic "without increased healthcare cost" will take a hit. Five bucks a stick. I can see it on the billing statement now....