Swallowing gum is a common occurrence, especially in children. They put it in their mouth, chew on it, and sometimes swallow it unintentionally. There has been a long-standing myth that swallowing gum takes years to digest, but is it true?
The truth is that gum does not stay in your stomach for years; it passes through your digestive system like any other food. However, it is not entirely harmless. Let’s take a closer look at why swallowing gum can pose some risks.
The Digestive Process
When we eat food, it passes through a series of organs in our digestive system, starting with the mouth, then to the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and lastly, the rectum. Along the way, the food is broken down, and the nutrients are absorbed into the body. The process of digestion is continuous and takes about 24-72 hours to complete.
The same process applies to gum. When you swallow chewing gum, it follows the same route as any other food. It enters the stomach and then moves to the small intestine. However, unlike food, gum is not easily broken down, and the body cannot digest it. The gum stays in the digestive tract for a couple of days and is then excreted in your feces.
The Dangers of Swallowing Gum
While it’s true that gum passes through your digestive system and is eventually excreted from your body, swallowing gum does pose some risks.
One of the most common risks is choking, especially in children. If a child swallows a significant amount of gum or chews gum while lying down, it can get lodged in their throat, blocking the airway. In some cases, emergency medical intervention is necessary.
Another risk is intestinal blockage. Although it is rare, some people may experience blockage in their digestive tract from swallowing large amounts of gum or from combining gum with other indigestible items like seeds or candy wrappers. This situation requires medical attention to remove the blockage.
Lastly, gum contains sugar and artificial sweeteners that can cause issues for people with diabetes or other health conditions. Therefore, people with such conditions should be mindful of the amount of gum they consume.
Myth Debunked: Gum Does Not Stay in Your System for Years
The idea that gum stays in your digestive system for seven years or more is just a myth. Gum, like any other food, is eventually digested and excreted from your body in a couple of days. This misconception likely arises because people may not notice a difference in their bowel movements after swallowing gum compared to other foods which can take up to 72 hours to pass through the digestive tract.
However, just because gum passes through your system quickly does not make it harmless. As we have seen above, there are still certain risks associated with swallowing gum. Thus, it is better to avoid swallowing gum altogether.
Tips to Avoid Swallowing Gum
There are a few simple precautions you can take to avoid accidentally swallowing gum:
1. Avoid chewing gum too quickly, as it increases the risk of swallowing it.
2. Dispose of gum properly, and make sure it’s out of reach of children and pets.
3. Don’t chew gum while lying down or in bed, as it increases the risk of choking.
4. Educate children on the risks and importance of disposing gum properly.
To sum up, while the myth that gum remains in your digestive system for years is not true, swallowing gum is not entirely without risks. It can pose a choking hazard, cause intestinal blockages, and have adverse effects on people with certain health conditions. Therefore, it is better to avoid swallowing gum altogether and dispose of it properly.
1. Medical News Today – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323781
2. Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/health/swallowing-gum
1. “Is it bad to swallow gum?: Medical Myths, Legends and Health Consequences” by Aaron E. Carroll
2. “The truth about your stomach” by Scientific American