Have you ever worried about what happens when you swallow gum? Does it really stick to your insides and take seven years to pass through your digestive system, as many people believe? Let’s investigate this urban legend and debunk the myths surrounding swallowed gum.
The Truth About Swallowed Gum
Contrary to popular belief, swallowed gum does not stay in your stomach for seven years. While it is true that our bodies cannot fully digest chewing gum, it generally passes through our digestive system in one or two days, much like any other food we eat.
That being said, just because swallowing gum won’t clog up your insides for seven years doesn’t mean there aren’t potential risks involved. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Risk of choking
Swallowing large amounts of gum or chewing it along with other objects can increase the risk of choking, especially in young children who might not understand the dangers associated with putting non-food items into their mouths.
While unlikely, swallowing a lot of gum could theoretically cause an intestinal blockage if it sticks together with indigestible materials like hair or seeds. However, these types of obstructions are very rare and usually only occur in people with pre-existing gastrointestinal conditions.
How Our Bodies Digest Food
To understand why swallowed gum isn’t such a big deal after all, let’s take a closer look at how our bodies break down and absorb food:
- We chew food into small pieces while mixing it with saliva.
- The saliva contains enzymes that start breaking down complex carbohydrates and fats.
- The whole mixture travels down the esophagus into the stomach.
- In the stomach, digestive fluids continue breaking down proteins and killing bacteria.
- From there, the partially digested food moves into the small intestine where it mixes with bile and pancreatic juice , which further break down nutrients.
- The rest of the liquid is absorbed in the colon and finally eliminated as feces.
The Fate of Swallowed Gum
Now that we know what happens to our food when we eat it, let’s see how gum fits into this picture:
- We chew gum until it’s soft enough to swallow.
- Once in our stomachs, digestive juices start breaking down some of its components like sugar and flavorings.
- However, most chewing gums are made from synthetic polymers that are resistant to enzyme activity, meaning they can’t be broken down by our bodies’ natural processes.
- Instead, gum sticks together and passes through our digestive system mostly intact.
- Eventually, if everything goes smoothly, undigested gum exits your body in a bowel movement within one or two days.
Myths About Swallowing Gum
So why do people believe swallowed gum stays in their stomach for years? Most likely because someone told them so when they were young and impressionable; after all, kids are very gullible.
Another possible explanation is that people confuse swallowed gum with indigestible objects like seeds or corn kernels that sometimes show up whole in stool samples.
Regardless of how this urban legend started, there is no evidence to support it and no reason to worry about swallowing a piece of gum every once in a while.
Q: Can I get sick from swallowing my chewing gum?
A: It’s unlikely you’ll get sick from swallowing your chewing gum since most kinds won’t cause harm other than passing through your GI tract largely unchanged.
Q: Is there anything special I should do if I accidentally swallow my bubblegum?
A: There is generally no need for special treatment if you swallow your gum. It will pass through your digestive system and exit your body within a few days.
Q: Why shouldn’t I swallow my chewing gum?
A: You should avoid swallowing large amounts of gum, since ingesting too much can cause intestinal blockages. However, the occasional swallowed piece isn’t likely to be harmful.
In conclusion, while swallowing gum is not ideal, it’s important to know that the myths surrounding it are just that – myths. So next time someone warns you about the dangers of swallowed gum sticking around in your stomach for years, you can confidently rebut their claim with facts and science!