We typically experience five basic tastes: salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami. The feeling of hot and cold is not a taste, but it happens due to a process known as chemist tests. Your mouth is cold due to the menthol of gum.
When menthol touches your tongue, it activates the receptors in your mouth. At this time, drinking water gets a touch better with these receptors, and our tongues sense it as colder. So, most of the time, we drink water but can not feel the water temperature properly until the gum helps.
Why does gum make water cold?
A chemical in gum or menthol tricks the brain into thinking that the gum area applied is cold, even though it’s the same temperature as before. Specifically, gum binds with cold-sensitive receptors. These receptors contain things called ion channels, TRPM8.
Menthol stimulates the cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors in your skin and mucosal tissues. This is the same receptor that gets activated at cooler temperatures. When you chew gum with menthol and then drink water, the water enhances the activation of these receptors, making you perceive the water as colder than it is.
- TRPM8 protein reacts by allowing a charged sodium and calcium particle to enter the cell.
This chemical change in the cell causes it to send a signal to your central nervous system, which causes the perception of feeling cold. The protein reacts to more than external temperature changes and can also be triggered by compounds known as cooling agents.
One such compound, menthol, is the main ingredient in most products. When this compound comes in contact with your body and water, it triggers those same temperature receptors and causes your brain to perceive a cooling effect. So when you drink a cold beverage after eating gum, it can send those receptors into overdrive. For this reason, cold water always hurts your mouth after brushing your teeth with minty toothpaste.
The menthol doesn’t lower the temperature of the water. It only makes your mouth more sensitive to the cold sensation. This is similar to how capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, triggers heat-sensitive receptors, making your mouth feel hot.
So, the gum makes us more sensitive than normal and thus tricks our brain into thinking that we’re feeling a cold sensation. This sensation can last long after the menthol is gone.
The cooling sensation from the gum can be quite beneficial in the summertime. Add a little mint/gum to your poolside cocktails for an extra refreshing taste, and forget fanning yourself or pouring water over your head.
Mint oil contains menthol and has long been used to relieve muscle and bone pain. Applying menthol to your skin activates the coiled sensing nerves, making the area numb, and you no longer feel the pain. Rubbing menthol on aching muscles also causes the nearby blood vessels to widen, increasing blood flow in the area. Thus healing happens much faster.