Researchers hypothesize that chewing gum reduces recovery time after colon surgery the same way that chewing food does, by stimulating gastrointestinal hormones and by causing pancreas and salivary gland to increase secretions, explains WebMD. A 2008 analysis of five studies concluded that gum chewing reduces recovery time by around one day.
Studies that measure the effect of gum chewing on recovery time generally measure the time it takes for the patient to pass gas or have a bowl movement, as this is a good indicator of restored intestinal function, WebMD reports. On average, post-operative patients who chewed gum for five to 45 minutes three times a day had their first bowl movement more than 24 hours sooner and passed gas around 16 hours sooner than patients who chewed no gum.
It is important to note, however, that while these results are intriguing, they are not statistically significant, given the size of the studies, WebMD explains. That means it is possible that the results generated by this analysis are the result of random chance. The researchers involved in the analysis suggest that more research be conducted. If gum chewing can reduce recovery time, it could mean enormous savings because extended hospital stays after colon surgery are very costly.