A major milestone in healing from intestinal surgery is the ability to pass food through the body.

“From the stomach to the gall bladder to the intestine itself to the liver, any time you open the abdomen it gives you what is called the ileus. The ileus is when the intestine is not functioning normally after the surgery,” says Dr. Moutta Benmaamer, general surgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.

The ileus refers to the duration that the digestive system is frozen. It can take two or three days before a patient has restored bowel function, and up to a week or more in some cases involving colon cancer- but the process must be achieved before a patient will be released from the hospital.

“The problem with this intestinal surgery is when you put the patient to sleep the intestine goes to sleep too. The patient wakes up but the intestine goes to sleep,” says Benmaamer

Anything that speeds up the digestive system is a welcome relief. To achieve this, some doctors are giving gum a go, using chewing gum in the hopes that the gum will restart, or stimulate gastrointestinal recovery.

“Chewing gum is only a benefit. We do not have any complication that increases with chewing gum. So, we are very at ease giving it to people,” says Benaamer

A new study found giving post-op patients gum four times a day cut the ileus from 51 hours to 43. In less invasive, laparoscopic procedures, downtime may be reduced by 20 hours.

“We are trying everything to make sure the intestine is back to its normal function before we send the patient home,” says Benaamer

Anything to get the digestive juices flowing that is inexpensive and tasty too!

View More Health Matters video segments at leememorial.org/healthmatters/

Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.

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