Mastication as a Stress-Coping Behavior

Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:876409. doi: 10.1155/2015/876409. Epub 2015 May 18.

Abstract

Exposure to chronic stress induces various physical and mental effects that may ultimately lead to disease. Stress-related disease has become a global health problem. Mastication (chewing) is an effective behavior for coping with stress, likely due to the alterations chewing causes in the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and autonomic nervous system. Mastication under stressful conditions attenuates stress-induced increases in plasma corticosterone and catecholamines, as well as the expression of stress-related substances, such as neurotrophic factors and nitric oxide. Further, chewing reduces stress-induced changes in central nervous system morphology, especially in the hippocampus and hypothalamus. In rodents, chewing or biting on wooden sticks during exposure to various stressors reduces stress-induced gastric ulcer formation and attenuates spatial cognitive dysfunction, anxiety-like behavior, and bone loss. In humans, some studies demonstrate that chewing gum during exposure to stress decreases plasma and salivary cortisol levels and reduces mental stress, although other studies report no such effect. Here, we discuss the neuronal mechanisms that underline the interactions between masticatory function and stress-coping behaviors in animals and humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mastication / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological*

Substances

  • Catecholamines