In Myanmar, betel nut chewing is a popular habit that is passed down through generations.  Betel nut is available from areca tree which is a feathery plant cultivating widely in Asia and parts of Africa.  According to WHO, there are more than 600 millions people worldwide using betel nut differently. 

In Myanmar, although it is also chewed alone as divided or sliced, most popular usage is wrapping sliced or divided betel nuts in leaves of the Piper betel vine coated with lime.  It is known as betel quid.  Tobacco or flavorful spices may also be added.  Chewing betel nut has more side effects than health benefits.  Then, chewing betel quid has more side effects including those from tobacco and lime.

Here I want to introduce some significant side effects of chewing betel nut so you can be getting rid of this habit faster.


1. Promoting cancer occurrence

It is one of the most prominent side effects.  Betel nut is classified as carcinogen by WHO.  Chewing it can cause precancerous changes in the mouth and lead to mouth, throat, laryngeal and esophageal cancers.  Using it alone is enough to promote these cancers.  In addition with tobaccos, chances become amplified too much as tobaccos are also highly carcinogenic.


2. Increased risk of oral sub mucous fibrosis

Another significant side effect is that betel nut chewing increases the risk of oral sub mucous fibrosis.  It is a disease causing stiffness in the mouth and eventually the loss of jaw movement.  Another worse fact is it is incurable.


3. CNS effects and intoxication

Betel nut is now accepted as most popular psychoactive substances, after nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, around the world.  Betel nut contains natural alkaloids which are causing release of adrenaline.

CNS stimulating effects such as alertness, increased stamina, sense of well-being, euphoria and salivation may also occurred.  But these do not have enough benefits of health in comparison with side effects.  In addition, betel nut can also cause intoxication if chewing too much.


4. Pregnancy and nursing

According to recent studies, chewing betel nuts during pregnancy and lactation can cause DNA damage and fetal damage.  So, you should get rid chewing betel nut if you are a pregnant woman or lactating mother.


5. Dependence and addiction

As other CNS stimulating agents, it can also cause high dependence.  Any dependence is not good for a person.  Dependence and addiction to betel nut which has CNS stimulating effects is worsening.  For a person with strong habit of chewing betel nut or betel quid, it will cause him irritable or even restless if you can’t get them after eating or drinking something.


6. Renal diseases

There are only a few studies indicating relation between chewing betel nut and chronic kidney disease.  But it should not be ignored.  For Myanmar people, who are more chewing betel quid than betel nut alone, there are also side-effects of coated lime on betel leaves.  Taking too much or too long taking of lime can initiate formation of renal stones and many other renal diseases.


7. Association with many oral diseases and others

Betel nut chewing is usually associated oral problems such as gum irritation, tooth decay, tooth staining and damaging of enamel of tooth.  Other studies show that some cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome are also linked with chewing of betel nut.

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