Smacking and Farting

Gum and Guts: Here’s a nice review of studies showing that smacking sugarless gum after bowel surgery aids in the return of gut-function. For those of you who’ve survived gut-surgery, you already know that one of the more surreal aspects of the experience is the post-op early morning routine. There you are, groggy and slightly drugged, exhausted from the machines that go beep all night, and, in the pre-dawn darkness, an eager young face, framed by a stethoscope, looms into your view and cheerily inquires if you farted during the night. Yes, they wake you up for this. And the euphemisms that we in healthcare use only make the situation more confusing and Fellini-esque. “Kind sir, have you passed gas?” – then your mind reels, wondering if this pre-dawn question is somehow connected to buying a Prius.

But (pardon the pun) nooo. The ability to “pass gas” is not a reference to shrinking carbon footprints – it is the first sign of gut recovery. Sugarless gum aids in that process, according to several studies. Besides the stimulation from saliva and taste and chewing, we here at Doc Gurley also wonder if xylitol plays a role – if you ingest too much, xylitol can cause diarrhea. Regardless, with the surgeon’s permission, it now seems that a bunch of flowers, a trashy magazine, and a pack of sugarless gum should be the gut get-well gift of choice. And when that pre-dawn face looms, eager to inquire about flatulence, you can blow a bubble in reply…

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