‘Chewing-gum’ diarrhea

A 66-year-old woman who was a patient of two doctors in Miami Beach, had a three-month history of severe chronic diarrhea, having to go to the toilet between 12 and 50 times a day. Yet, there was no mucus, blood, cramp, fever nutritional deficiency or other signs of real illness. X-rays and probes of various kinds revealed nothing of interest. Making it all the more frustrating, every kind of anti-diarrhea medicine in the book was tried without success.

What was the problem?

Chewing gum, her doctors say.’When dietary history was re-examined at length,’ they wrote in the American Journal of Digestive Diseases, it was revealed that the patient habitually chew.ed 50 to 100 sticks of sugarless chewing gum daily, to aid her in weight reduction. Upon abrupt withdrawal of chewing gum, all diarrhea ceased and gastro-intestinal complaints abated.’ The explanation for this chewing-gum effect is that most sugarless gums, well as many foods for diabetics contain sorbitol, and this, it turns out tends to have a laxative effect in large doses. Usually, in an adult, that effect would not be noticed unless the person was consuming 10 or more pieces of gum a day. At the rate of 50 or even 100 a day, the effect can be disastrous. Drs Lee D. Goldbetg”and Norman T. Ditchek dubbed the syndrome ‘chewing- gum diarrhea

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