Chewing gum is better than drugs for easing nausea after surgery, Australian study suggests
Study found gum helped nausea in nearly twice as many people than an anti-nausea drug
By Julia Medew
Chewing a piece of gum could be more effective than a leading drug for nausea, new research suggests.
About one in three people suffer nausea and vomiting after surgery.
In some cases the queasiness can last for days and cause people’s wounds to bust open.
Nausea after surgery is more common among women and for people who already get motion sickness.
It also seems to be associated with certain procedures, particularly those where people’s abdomens are blown up with gas so surgeons can move their instruments around.
Dr Jai Darvall, from the Royal Melbourne Hospital, said that since drugs used to treat nausea and vomiting after surgery were ineffective for some people, he and his colleagues set out to test chewing gum against a leading drug treatment among 94 women having surgery.
Women who felt sick after their procedures received either a stick of Wrigley’s peppermint gum to chew while being monitored in the recovery room, or the anti-nausea drug ondansetron.
In the gum group, 15 of 47 patients experienced nausea and vomiting. Twelve of these patients chewed gum (one didn’t want to and two more were too sleepy).
Nine of the 12 given gum - or 75 per cent - said it fully resolved their problem within about 10 minutes.
In the drug group, 13 patients experienced nausea and vomiting.
All of them were given ondansetron through an intravenous drip, but only five - or 37 per cent - said it fully resolved the problem.
Dr Darvall said while the small study, published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, needed to be replicated and done in multiple hospitals to prove gum was a useful treatment, it was encouraging.
He said chewing gum was cheap and didn’t require an intravenous line, making it potentially attractive for the treatment of nausea suffered by millions after surgery each year.
Post-surgery nausea is considered such an annoyance that one US study found people were willing to pay A$100 (US$75) for a treatment to get rid of it.
Dr Darvall said chewing gum was already prescribed by colorectal surgeons to help patients stimulate their digestive system after major bowel surgery.
He suspects that chewing is the key mechanism, rather than the peppermint flavour.
“We think it’s tricking the stomach and brain into thinking the person is eating ... Perhaps the brain finds it hard to be eating and nauseous at the same time,” he said.