Modern Mythology: Welcome to the Gum Show
Modern Mythology is a Teen Skepchick feature in which we try to cut through the woo so you can make informed decisions. If you have any questions, contact us here.
We’ve all done it. You’re walking down the street, chewing some gum and minding your own business when – GULP – you swallow it. The whole wad of gum, creeping slowly down your esophagus, and leaving a giant lump in your throat. And despite yourself you think, “Great. Now I’ll have that piece of Wrigleys sitting in my stomach for the next seven years.”
Well guess what, nerd, you’re wrong! Despite what seems to be conventional wisdom, a swallowed piece of chewing gum will not sit in your stomach for years and years.
According to snopes.com, the persistent little myth likely stems from the fact that chewing gum is indigestible. It’s true that gum is not completely broken down by the body’s digestive system, but that doesn’t mean that the masticated mash just hangs out in your stomach. There are no special rules for chewing gum as far as your colon is concerned:
“Generally, gum is made up of four general components, and our bodies can easily break down three of these. The gum’s flavorings, sweeteners and softeners are all no match for human digestion. It’s the gum base that sticks around. Gum base is made mostly of synthetic chemicals, and these chemicals give gum its chewy property. It’s designed to resist the digestive properties of the saliva in your mouth. But once it’s swallowed, even the gum base is subjected to the same treatment as regular food, and after it’s recognized as useless by your digestive system, it goes the same route as any waste product.”
But while chewing gum might not take seven years to digest, whether swallowing it is good for you is a more complicated question. Doctors don’t recommend that you make a habit out of swallowing your chewing gum. There have been reports of children who swallow lots of gum of becoming constipated because the gum combined into a “taffylike” mass that needed to be taken out. These are, however, extreme cases. As long as you’re not eating gum like candy, that piece of watermelon splash you swallowed when you were 10 is probably not going to cause you any problems.
Featured image credit: Don Hankins