What Actually Happens To Your Body When You Swallow Gum?

Everyone who has ever chewed gum usually tries to blow that perfect bubble without it completely exploding in our faces. Sometimes we come across that ”oops” moment when we accidentally swallow a piece.

shutterstock_423370009It doesn’t matter if it’s a piece of HubbaBubba, Fire ball or one of those rainbow-balls coming out of a vending machine, swallowing a piece of gum always feels uncomfortable. Some say that all the pieces of gum accumulate in your stomach that form a big pound that’ll never go away. Others say swallowing gum will stick to your intestines and will only be completely digested after seven years.

Is it actually dangerous to swallow gum or is it just a bunch of old tales?  If you still get worried every time you swallow gum, lets get the facts straight.

Evidence was found proving in 7000 BC people in Northern Europe started to develop a habit of chewing on indigestible substances. Only, back in those days, people were chewing on pieces of black tar. The base of the gum that we know today was developed in 1946 when chemists learned to make synthetic rubber.

shutterstock_364784783It’s mostly butyl rubber, the same rubber they use to make basketballs, which became a substitute for most natural rubber in chewing gums. Most gums are made from a synthetic rubber, or a mixture of artificial and natural bases.

Softeners are added to keep the moisture and to prevent the gum from becoming hard. The most popular softeners are glycerin and vegetable oil.

Now, to get all the confusion out of the way.

No, you won’t form a gum ball in your stomach and no, it won’t take seven years to digest one piece of gum. When we chew on a piece of gum we know it is not meant to be swallowed. But when this accidentally happens we can luckily rely on our body to take care of this small moment of dis-ease.

For starters your digestive system treats gum as it would treat any other food. The digestive juices break down different aspects of the gum like the sweeteners, softeners and flavorings. The synthetic rubber, the indigestible part of the gum, stays behind. Not even our digestive enzymes or our stomach acids can break it down.

So what happens to the part that is left? It goes through our system as a whole. It does not stick to our stomach, ribs or intestines. It leaves our body in the same way the other digested foods does.  On average it takes a piece of gum two to three days to leave our body.

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The worst case happened to a girl back in 1998 that swallowed so many pieces gum that she developed multiple spheres of gum that congealed into a rectal mass.  This was experienced as highly uncomfortable but in no way life threatening.

Even though swallowing a piece of gum can’t really be seen as a threat, it can be the cause of some other dangers. For instance when overly used it can be the cause of tooth decay or tense your jaw from constantly chewing. Even worse, it can be the cause for a young child to choke.

We’re not going to get into all the unknown long term effects of the chemicals that are being used in gum.  But as for swallowing it, just try your best to blow that perfect bubble without swallowing the thing whole.