Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
Intermittent fasting is novel habit of eating that can help with weight loss and detoxification of the body. However, when you fast, also known as not eating for a period of time, you get hungry. This leaves people looking for things they can do to curb the hunger. Many people wonder, can you chew gum during intermittent fasting?
The evidence is irrefutable that intermittent fasting can be a vital weight loss tool. See below for more background on intermittent fasting and why autophagy is so important.
1. Can A Piece Of Gum Break Your Fast?
Most people don’t realize that gum contains sugar. When you are fasting the benefits come from the fact that the body does not have food calories that need to be dealt with in the GI tract. This means that the hormones associated with eating are not present. Specifically, the two hormones listed in the table below are key factors in the benefits of intermittent fasting.
|Decreased during fasting||Increased during fasting|
|Stores sugar as fat.||Breakdown sugar and fat to be burned.|
Insulin promotes turning energy into fat for storage. It does this by promoting the uptake of sugar from the bloodstream into cells. That is why it is used in diabetes, which is a condition where blood sugar is too high. Insulin is very effective at moving sugar from the blood into your cells.
Glucagon basically has the opposite effect of insulin. It promotes breakdown of energy stores so they can be used by your body for energy. Energy is stored in the liver and muscles in a form called glycogen. Glucagon tells cells to break down glycogen and turn it back into sugar that gets released into the bloodstream.
Even though the amount of sugar in gum is small, it still slows down glucagon release and increases insulin. Given all the benefits of fasting, it is NOT worth it to chew gum. See the section below on what you can do about hunger cravings instead of chewing gum.
2. Does Chewing Gum Spike Insulin?
A piece of gum is small and does not contain that many calories…right? Well a piece of gum normally contains the following:
|Regular gum||10 calories||2 grams sugar|
|Sugar free gum||5 calories||0 grams sugar|
While 10 calories is not that much especially out of a 1,500 – 2,000 calorie a day diet it can be problematic during a fast. The reason why is high fructose corn syrup, which is a man made form of sugar. It is much more likely to spike blood sugar levels and cause large increases in insulin than other natural forms of sugar. Even though it is just a small amount of sugar in gum.
Again, during fasting your trying to turn off fat creation and storage that is driven by insulin. Stay away from high fructose corn syrup to maximize your fast.
3. What About Sugar Free Gum?
You may think that gums labeled as sugar free would be your saving grace. The problem is they contain artificial sweeteners. These lab made sweeteners technically do not contain any calories. However, because they are many times sweeter than normal sugar the hormones mentioned above are still affected.
Artificial sweeteners confuse your brain. It senses the sweet taste and prepares your body for calories by releasing insulin from the pancreas.
Your body still reacts to raise insulin and lower glucagon when artificial sweeteners are present. That is a problem for intermittent fasting because even though there are no calories from the gum it can slow the other beneficial effects of low insulin and higher glucagon levels.
Other studies have shown another concern for the use of artificial sweeteners. That concern is insulin resistance, which is when your muscle, fat and liver cells do not respond to insulin normally. They are able to uptake glucose from your blood to make energy. This causes your pancreas to make more insulin.
Insulin resistance is a serious problem that results in type II diabetes. Millions of people today suffer from this condition mostly due to their diet of processed foods. Many of which contain artificial sweeteners.
One piece of gum may not lead directly to insulin resistance. However, during your fasting period you don’t want insulin or its effects breaking the fast. Even if there is no energy being provided insulin will block the positive effects of intermittent fasting.
4. Can You Chew Gum While Losing Weight?
Chewing gum has been shown to help control cravings and curb hunger. It also has some evidence showing it may help in weight loss plans. The caveat is it must be used with proper diet and physical activity. Don’t plan on just chewing some gum to see substantial weight loss.
The American Diabetes Association considers sugar free gum to be a “free food” due to the lesser amount of carbohydrates present.
The act of chewing also prepares your intestines for food. As noted above hormones that prepare the body for food digestion and storage are released. Therefore, the best time to chew gum is just prior to or after you have eaten.
5. Chew Gum During Your Non-Fasting Timeframe
Do you really enjoy chewing gum?
Just like your fasting interval where you don’t eat you also have a time when you can eat. Say your doing a 12 hour fast, that means there are 12 hours when you can eat. However, you will not be eating the entire time. If chewing gum during the non-fasting hours helps control cravings then by all means chew some gum.
If you intend to get the full benefits of intermittent fasting you should avoid chewing gum during the fast. Remember these benefits before reaching for any gum during your fasting hours.
- Insulin levels decrease, thus decreasing insulin resistance
- Lose weight, specifically belly fat
- Growth hormone levels increase
- Cells are being repaired via autophagy
- Protective genes are being expressed
- Reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
- May help prevent cancer
- May help prevent Alzheimer’s disease
6. Can You Eat Mints While Intermittent Fasting?
Similar to gum, mints, or other candies often have only a small amount of calories. There may be sugar free options as well. However, these items can cause similar changes in hormones that negatively impact your fasting period.
Therefore, it is preferred to stay away from mints during your fasting period.
7. What Can You Eat Or Drink During Your Fast?
Many people want to know what they can use to help fight off hunger and cravings during a fast. This is important especially when you first start fasting because your body will be telling your brain you are hungry and need to eat.
Far and away water is the number one thing you can do to prevent hunger cravings. There are a few things you should know before dismissing this idea. Humans are about 2/3 water. Most people today are chronically dehydrated, meaning they do not get enough water.
Water actually kick starts your metabolism, which is a great way to help you lose weight during fasting. Because it is the universal solvent, meaning most things dissolve in water, it helps all the chemical reactions in the body speed up. This results in more calories burned than for people who don’t drink water.
How much should you drink?
A general rule of thumb is to take 1/2 of your body weight in pounds. That is the number of ounces of water to drink each day.
Example: Weight is 150lbs / 2 = 75 ounces of water per day
Drink a majority of this during your fast and you will be surprised how much it helps you make it through that non eating time. In addition you may burn up to 30% more calories after drinking just 16 ounces of water.
Coffee & Tea
Coffee and Tea without creamers, milk, sugar or artificial sweeteners are another good option during you fast. You can also put some healthy fats in them such as MCT oils or ghee and this should help suppress your appetite.
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Collier Roger, et al. Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. CMAJ. 2013:9:185-189.
Boschmann Michael, et al. Water-induced thermogenesis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003:88:6015-6019.