With finals season upon us, many students are turning to gum to improve their focus. But when you're munching away, then go to drink water after chewing mint gum, it creates a glacier in the back of your throat that burns like no other. Even room temperature water feels ice cold after chewing mint gum. How is it that after chewing gum your water is suddenly an arctic temperature?

Gum Doesn't Make the Water Colder

Emery Sereno
You read that right, gum doesn't actually make your water colder. The cause of this awful sensation in cause by thermal illusion. Thermal illusion is similar to sensory illusion, which is at the heart of most magician's tricks and optical illusions. Thermal illusion, on the other hand, tricks your body's perception of temperature. 

Why Does Thermal Illusion Occur?

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Emery Sereno

Thermal Illusion occurs because of a protein in your body, TRPM8 that regulates the movements of ions throughout the membranes in cells. This protein doesn't open for just any stimulus. TRPM8 specifically opens for stimuli with cold temperatures, allowing sodium and calcium into the cells and sending electrical charges throughout your nervous system, thus leading to the cold feeling you get in the back of your throat. 

Why Does Room Temperature Water Still Feel Cold?

Here comes the illusion part. The main chemical in mint gum, methanol, acts as a "cooling agent" that tricks your sensory nerves into thinking that there's something cold in your mouth. Then, when you do drink a glass of water, your brain thinks that this temperature is extra cold and your throat feels like you just swallowed an iceberg. 

Thanks to science, you'll know what to expect when drinking water after chewing mint gum. This finals season, hunker down with a fresh pack of mint gum and a big glass of water, fully prepared to crush your finals. Then, when you feel that cooling sensation in the back of your throat, you'll know it's just your mind playing tricks on you. Once the tidal wave of work passes, you'll also have a new fun fact to share at your upcoming holiday parties.