Food & Drinks

What Actually Happens When You Swallow Chewing Gum

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To learn how this work – If you swallow a stick of gum it will take seven years to pass through your gut before it is digested.

Basically because I wasn’t allowed gum I used to eat it on the sly and then when my mum came in the room I’d just gulp it down. It couldn’t hurt…

Of course I later learnt that every time you gobbled a stick down it remained in your stomach for SEVEN WHOLE YEARS! Well, this is what I was led to believe all this time.

Until now- It turns out that it was all one big bloomin’ urban myth, along with that terrifying tale of the boy who swallowed gum and it wrapped around his heart. YUK! The fables must have been introduced by some sadistic a-hole whose sole purpose in life was to scare the living daylights out of every single minor around the world.

And it worked.

Contrary to what we were told in the past, chewing gum is not indigestible. Our body can absorb the gum’s sweeteners – like Aspartame and Sucralose.

However, its base – a mixture of elastomers, resins, fats, emulsifiers and waxes – is a little more difficult for the stomach to break down. So it has to work overtime to ensure that it does.

Rest assured, the almost universally renowned rumor is pretty much medically unfounded. According to David Milov of the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Orlando, Florida, there is no such evidence of the chewy confection remaining in our digestive tract for this amount of time. He said, “On occasion we’ll see a piece of swallowed gum [in colonoscopies and capsule endoscopy procedures], but usually it’s not something that’s any more than a week old.”

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Despite the sticky consistency of our much adored breath fresheners it is no match for the human digestive tract. As soon as chewing gum enters our mouth our saliva begins to penetrate the outer shell and its sweeteners. Then, like with all foods, our stomach muscles start to play their role – contracting and relaxing – slowly pushing the items we have consumed through our systems. Until ultimately it comes to the end of its journey with a trip to the toilet.

This being said, of course swallowing a large mass of gum can cause a problem. In rare cases, minty wads have been known to cause blockages in digestive systems. These cases tend to have occurred in children – because they have smaller-diameter digestive tracts than us adult folk. So I suppose the decades-old bits of folklore our parents told us aren’t totally stupid after all. It’s probably not wise to habitually ingest gum. So thanks mum.

Ultimately what they are trying to teach us is to never swallow, always spit.

 


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