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Had bowel surgery? Chew sugarless gum

The gum-chewing group recovered faster left after an average of 4.3 days compared to 6.8 days for the control group.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2006 12:18 IST

Researchers have found that chewing sugarless gum might help bowel surgery patients recover faster.

The researchers at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, California, studied 34 patients who underwent surgery to remove a portion of the large intestine - a procedure known as sigmoid colon resection - and found that getting people to chew gum may be helpful.

Half of the participants chewed sugarless gum three times a day following their surgery. The rest did not. The gum-chewing group left the hospital after an average of 4.3 days compared to 6.8 days for the control group.

Patients who chewed gum also passed gas sooner, and had their first bowel movement earlier than the rest.

"There is some scientific basis for chewing stimulating gut function, and early return of gut function is an important goal of post-operative care," said Neil Mortensen, an expert adviser to Bowel Cancer UK.

"This is a small study which needs to be confirmed in bigger trials," he said.

Any type of abdominal surgery can cause a marked decrease or stoppage of intestinal function, a condition known as ileus. This can cause pain, vomiting and abdominal distension and keep patients in hospital longer, he added.

There is also an increased risk of infection and breathing problems. Some patients who undergo bowel surgery are known not to be able to tolerate food or even water in the immediate aftermath of their operation.

First Published: Feb 22, 2006 12:18 IST