Be it work or family, there are plenty of reasons for anyone to feel stressed out and depleted. Unfortunately, it is all too common for people to pick stimulants such as caffeine or taurine to fight their exhaustion, when in fact, those products might add to the stress. Instead of opting for a fourth coffee or a third energy drink, it might make sense to take a look at the benefits of sugar-free chewing gum for stress relief and overall focus.

The benefits of sugar-free gum have long been established for dental care: the American Dental Association says that while chewing sugar-free gum is no substitute for brushing your teeth, those gums sweetened by non-cavity-causing sweeteners such as aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol can help prevent tooth decay. That said, it is less apparent to many consumers that chewing gum has benefits in both the area of stress relief and sustained focus. A 2015 study found that: “positive attributes of effects of chewing on attention, especially on sustained attention, were shown in over half of the reports. These effects also appeared with improvement in mood and stress relief and were influenced by time-on-task effects. Further studies are needed, but chewing could be useful for modifying cognitive function.”

Another study in the same year found that the effect of chewing enhanced productivity and reduced cognitive problems. This study underlined that this has little to do with how fast you chew; chewing more quickly did not accelerate these effects. In 2002, researchers used control groups to analyze the impact of chewing gum on memory retention, and it fascinatingly improved the abilities of test subjects in both immediate and delayed word recall. And in 2009, scientists found that on top of being a stress relieving agent, gum also served as a mood booster for healthy test subjects: “Compared with the no chewing condition, gum chewing was associated with significantly higher alertness coupled with reduced subjective stress and state anxiety. These findings were supported to some degree by physiological responses although caution should be exercised in interpreting the salivary cortisol results.”

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The question is now how simple chewing gum has the ability to achieve these results. It appears that the methodical act of chewing reduces the salivary cortisol levels, which governs the body’s stress response. Chewing sugar-free gum increases saliva flow which helps to wash away bacteria, viruses and toxins in the mouth, nasopharynx and upper gastrointestinal tract. Contrary to many uppers used in the workplace, such as coffee, chewing gum instead keeps working people level-headed and comes without the downsides of restless legs or nervous jaw clenching.

The benefits of sugar-free gum display to what extent small-scale solutions can offer big rewards for stressed-out workers. So next time, before you think you feel overwhelmed by your work day, it might be a good idea to add a fruity breath freshener to your break.

Bill Wirtz is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Consumer Choice Center.