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Myth: Swallowed chewing gum will rot in your stomach for 7 years

TRUTH: Though your gum is not to be swallowed, your gum will not rot in your system, will not affect your digestion, nor will it remain inside your body for 7 years. Or even 1 year.

Here’s why I’m 100% certain this is the case: Gum has 4 main ingredients: sweeteners, flavorings, softeners, and a base. The sweeteners, flavorings and softeners are digestible (which is why gum has a few calories). By digestible, I mean that those compounds can be broken down by the same acids and enzymes in our digestive tract that breakdown food. The gum base, however, is not digestible, so it cannot be broken down.

Ok, so we agree that gum isn’t broken down by your body but what about the 7 year rot?

You’re joking right? Your entire digestive system is a single tube with muscles that push foodstuff along and out. That’s its job so unless you suffer from a digestive disorder, your body will move the gum out of your system.

How can I be sure? Well, we eat plenty of other indigestible things too – primarily fiber (insoluble fiber). Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains, nuts and seeds, and the skin of fruits and vegetables (among other things). So while you’re not digesting that gum, you’re not digesting parts of other foods that will move through your intestines and out the other end.

I have to admit one, teeny tiny fact. There have been cases reported where children who swallow gum experience a blockage in their intestines from it. Ok, while I concede that gum-swallowing may be dangerous to children who swallow large amounts, it is unlikely that an adult would ever have that experience. Unless, of course, this adult also swallows a penny or other small object that the gum can wrap around. So, if you’re swallowing gum and pennies, you might want to take a more serious look at what you put in your mouth.

BOTTOM LINE: Gum is for chewing but if you swallow it, don’t fret. Your intestines will push it through your tract, like they do with so many other things. It’ll pass, probably within 24 hours. And for that matter, I have yet to hear of anything that sits in your digestive system and rots – but if you’ve heard of something, share it by commenting below!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  1. Discovery Health
  2. Scientific American

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