Although intermittent fasting is a simple diet, tricky questions always arise, especially at the beginning of your journey.
Accordingly, one of the most common questions from my readers is, “Is it okay to chew gum during Intermittent Fasting?”
At first glance, this is a simple question. Nevertheless, to answer it, we need to look at essential mechanisms of fasting in the body.
What Is Intermittent Fasting 16/8?
In intermittent fasting, food is eaten only within a certain period. You spend the rest of the day fasting.
Although there are several forms of intermittent fasting, the most popular is fasting for 16 hours.
Therefore, in 16/8 Intermittent Fasting, you may only eat during a continuous window of 8 hours a day, such as from 12:00 to 20:00.
To assess whether you are allowed to chew gum during Intermittent Fasting, we must first determine why we want to fast in the first place.
In short, there are two main reasons for intermittent fasting:
- Weight loss
- Improved health
Thereby, our body’s hormonal balance is instrumental to both goals.
People can lose weight successfully with intermittent fasting since it is the most effective way to lower insulin levels.
As the essential storage hormone, insulin is responsible for signaling cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream and store excess energy as fat or glycogen.
Accordingly, researchers can predict 75% of the gain and loss of obese people using insulin levels (Kong et al. 20131).
In addition, insulin can prevent the breakdown of body fat (Meijssen et al. 20012).
The 16-hour fasting intermittent stops nutrient intake, lowers insulin levels and ends the body’s storage mode.
Then the body can begin to deplete carbohydrate (glycogen) stores. Once they are empty, the body taps into stored fat for energy.
Thus, it is the nature of the human body to build up fat reserves in abundance to draw from this body fat in times of shortage.
However, now that we eat around the clock regardless of season, we gain weight. Therefore, intermittent fasting can restore the natural balance between eating and fasting.
This way, we can counteract the hormonal imbalance that causes obesity in the first place (Lustig 20013).
The second primary driver of the health benefits of fasting is autophagy.
When food is scarce, this intracellular recycling system kicks in, breaking down broken cellular parts and directing toxins out of the body.
In this regard, the effects of autophagy are so groundbreaking that it was rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2016 (Levine et al. 20174).
But how is autophagy turned on and off?
To this end, three primary nutrient sensors exist in our bodies:
- Insulin: Sensitive to carbohydrates and proteins.
- mTOR: Sensitive to proteins
- AMPK: Sensitive to a lack of energy in cells
AMPK reacts when cells are supplied with energy – regardless of the macronutrient. For this reason, in addition to carbohydrates and proteins, fat also prevents autophagy.
In turn, both AMPK and insulin activate mTOR, so this enzyme, essential for growth, is considered the primary nutrient sensor.
As soon as you eat, it detects nutrient availability and shuts down autophagy.
However, if the nutrient supply is interrupted for a more extended time, cells react strategically and recycle defective cell parts to produce energy.
Since the storage hormone insulin is instrumental in autophagy and weight loss, the recycling mechanism sets the standard.
If you deactivate autophagy, you break the fast.
Can You Chew Gum While Intermittent Fasting?
Some people use chewing gum to satisfy the need to chew. Others use it to curb hunger or get fresher breath.
Since chewing gum is first not swallowed and digested and secondly has a manageable nutritional value, it should hardly influence intermittent fasting.
But is the conclusion that simple?
Does Chewing Gum Break a Fast?
Now that we know that any macronutrient can break the fast, we need to look at the nutrient profile of chewing gum.
An average piece of chewing gum weighs about 3 g and provides the following macronutrients (*):
- Fat: 0 g
- Protein: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 2.1 g
- Of which sugar: 2 g
Two grams of sugar may look negligible at first glance. Nevertheless, this means that a piece of chewing gum consists of two-thirds sugar, which we consume in chewing.
At the same time, we must note that sugar, in particular, can drive blood sugar and insulin levels to astronomical heights.
Especially when it comes to losing weight, the storage hormone is the decisive nutrient sensor. Accordingly, insulin in our body switches from fat burning to fat storage.
Therefore, chewing gum with sugar is not allowed during intermittent fasting.
Can You Chew Gum While Water Fasting?
Likewise, chewing gum is not allowed during therapeutic and water fasting.
Since these are more prolonged fasting methods to maximize autophagy, sugar is a no-go.
Followers of strict autophagy fasting limit intake to water and salt or other electrolytes. Accordingly, mineral water is also a legitimate option, as it is a mixture of water and electrolytes.
If sugar is a problem in fasting, what about sugar-free options?
Does Chewing Sugar-Free Gum Break a Fast?
To retain the characteristic taste, gum manufacturers use various sweeteners instead of sugar.
The majority of artificial and natural sweeteners are not only sugar but also calorie-free.
Therefore, non-nutritive sweeteners provide a sweet taste without carbohydrates. Thus, can sweeteners break a fast?
Due to the lack of macronutrients, sugar-free sweeteners should not cause a rise in blood sugar levels.
But does it only come down to blood sugar levels? People repeatedly oversee that not only the blood sugar but also the storage hormone insulin matters.
Consequently, high blood sugar results cause elevated insulin levels since the essential task of the hormone is to lower the blood sugar again.
Nevertheless, there are ways to activate insulin secretion without raising blood sugar. Sweeteners are one of them.
Although they do not trigger insulin secretion in the same way in everyone, these artificial and natural sweeteners technically break a fast.
Additionally, sugar alcohols such as xylitol are usually not calorie-free, stimulate digestion, and may likewise break the fast (Natah et al. 19978).
The bottom line is that sugar-free chewing gum is just in a gray area because of the low dosage. However, autophagy does not have an analog on/off button.
But could it be affected by chewing sugar-free gum? Yes.
Will chewing sugar-free gum destroy all results? No.
Can constant chewing of sugar-free gum prevent me from losing weight during intermittent fasting? Yes.
For this reason, I would only use sugar-free chewing gum as an exception. Moreover, in my experience, sparkling water, green tea, or black coffee are more acceptable means of curbing appetite.
Is sugar-free hard candy allowed during Intermittent Fasting?
A traditional candy is almost 100% carbohydrates (*). Therefore, we do not need to discuss further whether candies with sugar break a fast.
Accordingly, candies have only one essential task: they provide consumers with an extremely sweet taste.
For this reason, a piece of candy also requires far more sweetener than a piece of chewing gum. Since sugar-free chewing gum already technically breaks the fast, sugar-free candies are not allowed during intermittent fasting.
Unlike chewing gum, they also don’t serve any other purpose, such as having something in your mouth or chewing, which might be psychologically necessary to some people.
In summary, the concentrated load of sweeteners in sugar-free candies stokes cravings more than chewing gum ever could.
Likewise, a growing number of studies looking at food reward pathways support this theory.
In short, because of the lack of calories in sweeteners, the reward component is missing, making people crave sweets even more (Yang 20109).
For this reason, other studies have also found that consuming intense sweeteners does not lead to the desired overall calorie reduction due to increased appetite (Bellisle et al. 200710).
When You Can Chew Gum While Intermittent Fasting
Since chewing gum is mostly sugar, it is not allowed during prolonged, water, or intermittent fasting. Although it technically breaks the fast, the result is not so clear-cut with sugar-free gum.
Sweeteners can interfere with health effects and weight loss during Intermittent Fasting. However, the amount in a piece of gum is so tiny that it is unlikely to make a crucial difference.
If chewing gum is an essential psychological factor that makes intermittent fasting tremendously easier for you, then go for it.
Nonetheless, chewing gum should be sugar-free and not consumed in large quantities. In any case, if you’re chewing gum and not achieving your goals on Intermittent Fasting, I’d leave it out.
Can You Chew Gum While Intermittent Fasting FAQ
Does chewing gum break your intermittent fast?
Regular chewing gum breaks an intermittent fast due to the high sugar content. Sugar-free gum technically breaks a fast but doesn’t make a considerable difference due to the negligible amount of sweetener in one stick.
Can you chew gum while fasting?
Technically any chewing gum can break a fast – even a sugar-free one.
What can you have during intermittent fasting?
During the fasting period, eating is prohibited. However, coffee ☕ and tea 🍵 without milk and sugar are allowed.
Will Extra chewing gum kick me out of ketosis?
Extra chewing gum consists of 70% carbohydrates. While a single extra gum won’t kick you out of ketosis, an excessive amount can.
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