What does Hubba Bubba, crunchy apples & carrots have in common?
Did you know chewing gum, crunchy apples & carrots are some of the best sensory supports around?
I have been meaning to write about this for a while. I literally talk about the ‘magical’ powers of chewing gum 1:1 to others daily. My humans around me secretly roll their eyes when they hear me on the phone or in person talking to a client about the benefits of Hubba Bubba AGAIN!
So much so that recently when my son was going to the Melbourne Show he got me the HUBBA BUBBA show bag as a JOKE (prompted by Bree my awesome sidekick here at Kaiko) because I never shut up about it…
I know, I know.. for many the thought of chewing gum is a HARD NO. Stay with me though… you may (or may not) change your mind…
I wanted to talk to it as, although chewing things & wanting chewing gum &/or crunchy food is instinctive for many, understanding the WHY, on a conscious level, means that we can make a more active choice to seek it when we need to…
I honestly think I recommend it as a clinician more than our fidgets lol! Some of the great things about is that it’s ACCESSIBLE - you can get your hands on some almost anywhere. If you are at work and having a crappy day & you’ve forgotten your amazing Kaiko fidget (grin) usually a colleague or a nearby shop will have it. It also has a super wide range of flavours, so if minty isn’t your thing there is usually another flavour that will tick the box. Crunchy food is also a WINNER for similar reasons. Anything basically that gives the jaw a good workout.
When explaining to people the why behind my tip of using chewing gum, I regularly hear - “oh they are always bugging me for chewing gum, I hate it so haven’t let them have it”, or “yes I chew chewing gum ALL THE TIME is that why I like it?”, or “ah is that why they are always wanting to eat?” “is that why they love crunchy food?”……
For many it’s instinctive to seek it, even little people… and there is a REASON .. a super clever regulatory reason they do….
When trying to emotionally regulate/calm it is instinctive to be ‘oral’ . Our brain is wired to seek oral input to calm/regulate/stabilise… it’s why we comfort eat often, chew nails, fingers, tops etc etc - it’s a story many of us are familiar with. Crunchy foods such as carrots, apples and chewing gum (as it is a lasting chew) are the instinctive go to for many but an even more powerful tool when we understand why so that it becomes a conscious thing we seek.
It’s helpful to know that our core stabilisation starts in the mouth. Chewing is often a direct response to needing to stabilise core/decrease cortisol /adrenaline and brain’s way of trying to increase focus/regulate. In general, sensory tools (including chewing) do greatly assist with reducing anxiety for most. What actually happens in the brain is ..
When anxious or stressed
- our survival/instinctive part of brain SWITCHES ON (amygdala) & releases cortisol and adrenalin which SWITCHES OFF the front part of the brain (frontal cortex which is essentially responsible for executive function (learning, thinking , reason etc)
- ….. SO when we are anxious or stressed or under ‘threat’ ADRENALIN & CORTISOL are high = FLIGHT FIGHT ON / EXECUTIVE FUNCTION OFF
- MOVEMENT (any movement really but chewing & fidgeting awesome) activates the part of the brain that DROPS ADRENALIN & CORTISOL in the brain
- as ADRENALIN & CORTISOL lower, the executive function (front part) of brain can SWITCH BACK ON and allow concentration/function/learning/ listening etc
The jaw, being the closest moving joint to the brain, is the most ‘efficient’ body movement & why it is often the brains ‘go to’ when anxious.
Of course for some chewing gum is not an option (texture, taste, additives etc etc) and that’s perfectly OK - honestly, the KEY is the movement or CHEW factor – so anything that allows a rigorous chew is a great alternative, but nothing quite beats the ole’ hubba bubba in my opinion.
Hope this is helpful!