Oops! I Swallowed My Gum


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Soo...  I've always liked chewing gum. If I wasn't chewing food, I was probably chewing gum, kind of like that kid from Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryAlong with my unhealthy obsession with chewing gum I frequently swallowed the gum when I was tired of chewing it, it was just more efficient than spitting it out and having to find a suitable place to rid of my gum.  A couple of years ago my  gran, the lovely soul that she is, told me that  it takes seven years for the body to digest gum and that if I continue to swallow gum it will all accumulate in my digestive system and clog up my bum hole.  The idea seemed preposterous to me, how could the gum I've been chewing stay in my bowels for seven years. Baffled as I was I never questioned my gran's statement; after all, she was much older and presumably wiser. So I have stopped swallowing my gum but one question that stays lingering in my mind is what really happens to gum if you swallow it?

In 1998 the Journal of Paediatrics discussed three cases where children swallowing gum caused nearly fatal problems:

"The first tale was of a four and a half year old boy who had been addicted to chewing since he was two. By the time his parents finally took him to get help, he was up to seven pieces of gum a day--each one he had conveniently disposed of down his throat. When the mass created a blockage, his doctors had to pull the "taffy like substance" from him manually. The next subject, also four, would indulge in gum several times a day as a reward from her parents. The subject was known to gulp down her first piece just so she was allowed another. In the end "multiple spheres of chewed gum congealed into a multicoloured rectal mass" had to be extracted. The final tale comes from a regular gum-chewing one and a half year old. The girl apparently decided to spice things up by taking in four coins with what she was chewing. The mass had to be pulled out via a special coin-in-body retrieval system. " 

(adapted from gizmodo.com)

To understand what happens to gum after you swallow it you must first understand what it is made from. Chewing gum is made of either synthetic or natural materials such as gum resin or gum base, preservatives, flavorings  and sweeteners. According to David E. Milov, MD, the body is able to absorb sweeteners, such as sugar, and they can add up to a lot of calories if you chew a lot of sugary gum. So if you are watching your calorie intake remember each piece of gum is about 5 calories! Unfortunately, for anyone who has swallowed their gum, the human digestive tract can't digest the gum resin. But luckily it is moved through the digestive tract by the peristaltic actions of the gut. Doctors estimate that it takes roughly two days to digest and eliminate any gum you have swallowed. So for any avid gum chewers like me and Violet Beauregard out there, the fact that myth that gum takes seven years to digest has been proven false has come as a godsend. Now I can rest easy and not worry about a clogged bum hole. 

2 Comments

I have always heard rumors that swallowing gum was a bad thing and that it lasts in your stomach for a long time. So hearing about this stuff is very interesting. I still don't think anyone should swallow their gum since it has no real nutritional value to the body, it was always meant to be chewed. It's good to know that gum does not stick around even though the stomach can't digest it if someone was to swallow their gum.

This is an interesting blog post because for most of my life I've always been told and thought that swallowing your gum was the worst possible thing you could do for your stomach. My parents always told me the infomous myth that if I swallowed my gum I would end up having a big ball of gum in my stomach by the time I was an old man and that I would have to get it surgically removed. Rough , I know but thats the way they scared me into not swallowing my gum. But its true swallowing your gum is pointless and stupid because how hard is it to just spit it out? Here's a great article on how bad it is to swallow your gum. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/digestive-system/an01006

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