How and Why Chewing Works

  1. Does your child often chew on clothes, pencils toys and fingers?

  2. Do you ever wonder why?

  3. Ever wonder what chewing is really doing for your child? 

Based on a recent study published in Nutritional Neuroscience Dr Gary L Wenk concluded...

Chewing gum increases the glucose level which is body-and-mind fuel. Chewing gum increases blood flow to the brain. Increased heart rate improves oxygen delivery to the brain which can enhance our cognitive powers.

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Chewing in the classroom has had many positive effects

Studies have been done to prove that gum chewing in the classroom has had many positive effects on students.  Let’s take a look at the findings.

The L.A. Times reports a study done at Baylor College of Medicine in 2009.  Sponsored by the Wrigley Science Institute, the findings are conclusive to the positive effects of gum chewing in the classroom.  One hundred and eight students ages 13-16 were assigned to either chew gum during math class, while doing math homework and during tests or to refrain from chewing gum during the same activities. After 14 weeks, the group of students who chewed gum saw a 3% increase in standardized math test scores and received a significantly better final math grade compared to the students who did not chew gum.  The study also concluded that the students who chewed gum required fewer breaks, kept a longer attention span and sat quieter for a longer period of time than those who did not chew gum.

Cardiff University’s study in 2010 proved that chewing gum provided greater alertness, better heart rate, improved reaction times and higher attention span in students.

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Why Chewing Works…

Chewing causes our hearts to pump more blood to our brain than it usually does. More blood carries noggin-nourishing oxygen and that will help brain function better. It also increases the glucose level, making the student more alert. The rhythmic chewing also increases attention. Mental tasks are done 20% more effectively while chewing gum and that's why it makes students "smarter". Chewing should be allowed especially during big tests. Kids who chew gum during tests do 26% to 36% better. Chewing gum soothes students’ minds, so they can learn more in school.

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Chewing to reduce Anxiety

For starters, chewing gum is associated with reduced anxiety and lower cortisol levels. The stress relief can occur almost immediately, but has long-term effects, too. In one study, participants who chewed gum twice a day for fourteen days rated their anxiety as significantly less than the non-chewers. And not only are gum-chewers less stressed, they may be more alert, too.

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Common Reasons Children Chew

Taken from ARK's very own Debra C. Lowsky, MS, CCC-SLP.

Debra explains why some children chew on everything?

The most common explanation for why some children chew is because of stress and/or anxiety.  Chewing provides proprioceptive input to the jaw that is very calming and organizing.  It’s similar to how some people might bite their fingernails when they’re nervous, or pace back and forth, do deep breathing, tap their foot, etc.  It also harkens back to how mouthing/chewing/sucking is a self-soothing technique when we’re babies.  These are all mechanisms for how we cope with stress.

Chewing as a calming mechanism is especially true for children who have Autism and/or sensory processing disorder (SPD).
Individuals with sensory issues process the world differently, and oftentimes it can be very overwhelming.  Lights might be brighter.  Sounds might be louder.  Touch might be painful.  And so forth.
Short for self-stimulation, stimming is one way that individuals with sensory issues organize themselves and manage all of the extra sensory information bombarding their systems.  Stimming is typically anything repetitive, such as flapping one’s hands, rocking back and forth, spinning things, repeating certain words, chewing, etc.

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If your child is reaching for a chew, offer them a safe chew solution







References: Gary L. Wenk Ph.D. Author: Your Brain on Food ARK's very own Debra C. Lowsky, MS, CCC-SLP


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