Here’s a health tip that will relax you as much as your summer vacation

A lot of us are taking time off this July and August to relax from the stress of the last 12 months. Arguably, it feels amazing to tune off at the beach, free from emails, text messages, and long work calls. However, a short summer break isn’t all you need to wind down from work stress. Regular exercise, watching your diet, and sugar-free gum can all help you relax and de-stress.

Regular exercise is a great way to reduce stress. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Exercise can also help you sleep better. Eating a healthy diet can also help you relax. Eating too much sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy fats can lead to weight gain and inflammation, which can contribute to stress. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you feel better.

That said, there is a small health helper that is often forgotten in the debate of stress reduction tools, usually because it is rather regarded as a sweet than a health tool. In fact, sugar-free gum can help you wind down and relax. When you chew gum, you release endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Chewing gum can also help you focus and concentrate, which can be helpful if you’re feeling stressed.

The benefits of sugar-free gum have long been established for dental care: the American Dental Association says that while chewing sugar-free gum is no substitute for brushing your teeth, those gums sweetened by non-cavity-causing sweeteners such as aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol can help prevent tooth decay. That said, it is less apparent to many consumers that chewing gum has benefits in both the area of stress relief and sustained focus. A 2015 study found that: “positive attributes of effects of chewing on attention, especially on sustained attention, were shown in over half of the reports. These effects also appeared with improvement in mood and stress relief and were influenced by time-on-task effects. Further studies are needed, but chewing could be useful for modifying cognitive function.”

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It turns out that research conducted to explore the benefits of chewing gum isn’t new at all. In 2002, with the help of a controlled group totalling 75 subjects who chewed gum, researchers found improved aspects of memory through gum. Chewing gum also has antiviral properties and helps to quit smoking (something you should consider regardless of the season).

While some of us will spend some of this summer at a lake or beach, those left behind in the (sometimes inadequately) air-conditioned workstations will need to manage the stress of daily work life. In fact, many jobs are busier during the summer season than they are otherwise, think call center employees during the world’s busiest air travel season. This is where chewing gum should be a more readily available stress reliever than cigarettes or stress-eating sugary snacks.

Bill Wirtz is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Consumer Choice Center.

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