Research shows that teenagers and younger children who chew gum may be giving themselves migraines or tension headaches.
This is an interesting finding that can save children a lot of stress, pain and the need for medication. This particular study was only carried out on children and teenagers, at Meir Medical Center’s Child Neurology Unit and Child Development Center and community clinics in Tel Aviv. The findings have been published in the journal Pediatric Neurology.
Dr. Nathan Watemberg of Tel Aviv University-affiliated Meir Medical Center conducted the study and found that out of 30 patients, 26 reported significant improvement in their headaches, and 19 had complete headache resolution when they stopped chewing gum. Twenty of the improved children then agreed to go back to chewing gum and interestingly all of them reported an immediate relapse of symptoms.
Headaches are quite common in childhood and become even more common during adolescence, especially in girls. The usual triggers include stress, tiredness, use of video games, lack of sleep, heat, smoking, loud noise, sunlight, skipped meals, and menstruation.
The researchers noticed that many of their patients who reported headaches were daily gum chewers; teenage girls in particular.
What is it about chewing gum that causes headaches?
The researchers think it’s one or both of the following: repetitive chewing causes stress to the temporomandibular joint (the place where the jaw meets the skull); the artificial sweetener aspartame, which is present in most sugar free gum can trigger headaches.
If you want to learn more about preventing headaches there is some useful free information here.
Nathan Watemberg, Manar Matar, Miki Har-Gil, Muhammad Mahajnah. The Influence of Excessive Chewing Gum Use on Headache Frequency and Severity Among Adolescents. Pediatric Neurology, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2013.08.015