Gum: The answer to a common complication of heart surgery

If you have heart surgery coming up, the last thing you want is any sort of complication. Because if everything goes smoothly — including recovery — that means you can get home and back to normal life faster.

But before the hospital will discharge you they have some criteria you have to meet…

  • Your vital signs will need to be stable. That’s of utmost importance.
  • You will need to have been able to get out of bed at least three time daily and for meals.
  • You’ll need to be able to walk around with either nursing staff or family members.
  • Your pain will have to be under control.
  • And — you’ll have to have a bowel movement.

This last one is trickier than you might suspect…

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Not “going” means no “going home”

Unfortunately, one of the most common complications following a major surgery is known as a post-operative ileus — the lack of normal muscle contractions in the intestines that leads to a buildup and potential blockage of food material.

An ileus occurs when your intestines completely shut down and your bowels are obstructed. Of course, that leads to abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and difficulty tolerating a normal diet. Not what anyone hopes to endure who’s just had heart surgery.

It’s actually not too uncommon an experience after a major surgery, but it’s among the more common complications following heart surgery.

You’d think that your doctor would be ready and waiting in the wings with a medication or treatment that would take care of it right away.

But not so fast…

It’s pretty much been I.V. fluids, getting up and moving — and getting off pain medication (which can cause constipation. Then it’s a game of wait and see.

Well, now there might be a not-so-advanced way of dealing with the complication instead. And it could be as easy as popping in a stick of your favorite chewing gum.

Sham feeding to kick your system into gear

While it might sound strange that chewing gum could be the answer to a complete intestinal shutdown, researchers from Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pennsylvania say it could be just what the doctor ordered.

In fact, they found that chewing gum after heart surgery seems to kickstart the digestive tract, helping patients feel better and potentially be discharged sooner than those who aren’t given this extremely simple intervention.

The team studied close to 840 patients who underwent either open heart surgery, aortic valve replacement, or mitral valve repair/replacement — some who chewed gum immediately after and some who didn’t.

And their results showed that only two of the 341 gum-chewing patients, just 0.59 percent, developed postoperative ileus. 

On the other hand, 17 patients of the 496 in the non-gum chewing group, or 3.43 percent, ended up with the condition.

This means that chewing gum resulted in a five-fold reduction in the incidence of post-operative ileus.

According to the researchers, chewing gum likely works to stimulate the intestines by tricking them into believing food is coming.

It’s a phenomenon known as “sham feeding” where your body believes food is coming so your gastric juices start flowing, digestive enzymes start churning out and your intestines become mobilized.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about postoperative ileus in advance of an upcoming surgery.

And when you’re not dealing with surgery, be sure to take naturally good care of your colon to keep things moving along. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, til you’re in a pinch, but a happy colon can go a long way in keeping you happy and healthy too.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!


Chewing Gum after Heart Surgery May Help Relieve Gut Problems – The Society of Thoracic Surgeons

Postoperative Ileus – Teach Me Surgery

Sham Feeding – Science Direct

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.