I Have PKU—What Gum Can I Chew?

If you are one of the thousands of people living with Phenylketonuria, known as “PKU” for short, there’s a chance you have a hard time finding gum to chew. PKU is a hereditary disease that affects the body’s ability to metabolize Phenylalanine (Phe), an amino acid that serves as the building block for proteins. People who have PKU must follow a strict diet, including cutting out artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Since most gum has aspartame, what gum can people with PKU chew?

Without the ability to metabolize Phe, it builds up in the body and, if untreated, can eventually lead to musty-smelling breath, urine, or body odor, seizures, tremors, stunted growth, irreversible brain damage, learning impairments, memory loss, behavioral problems, and more. A diagnosis of PKU is certainly life altering, and means there is a long road of strict diet and lifestyle management ahead. 

For someone with PKU, the best way to manage it, and prevent Phe from building up in their body, is to cut high-protein foods out of their diet. This strict diet should be followed for life, and research shows that those with PKU who do, can live relatively symptom-free. PKU diets are heavy on fruits and vegetables, low-protein grains, and healthy fats, like those found in avocados. Protein-rich foods like eggs, dairy, meat, fish, beans/legumes, and nuts must be avoided.

It also means no additives like yeast, wheatgerm & gelatin, or artificial sweeteners like aspartame, because they all contain high levels of Phe. Aspartame especially poses a problem for people with PKU because it is found in many foods today that are thought to be healthy and labeled “sugar-free,” “diet,” “light,” “reduced-calorie,” etc. But the consumption of aspartame by someone with PKU will most likely NOT be healthy, and to have the same effect on them as eating beef or peanut butter.

That doesn’t mean that someone with PKU will be devoid of occasional gum-chewing. There are other sweeteners that contain no protein, like xylitol, a naturally-occurring carbohydrate found in the fibrous parts of plants, which can be consumed without worry of a Phe build up.

Xylitol also has the added benefit of having tooth-decay prevention properties and having a low glycemic index, making it ideal for diabetics and those following a ketogenic diet, too! And lucky for those with PKU, Glee Gum offers a line of natural plant-based chewing gums.

The products in Glee’s line of gum are sweetened with either cane sugar or xylitol harvested from birch and beech trees, allergy-friendly, junk-free, and safe for those with food allergies or diet restrictions. It’s just another way that Glee helps you Change What You Chew. Click here to shop Glee now.

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