What Happens When You Swallow Chewing Gum?

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If you swallow a chewing gum by accident/mistake, it’s unlikely that it will cause harm to your body. It will be moved through the digestive tract by normal ‘pushing’ actions of the gut. Then, it will be handed over to the intestines, which will get rid of it through excretion.

There can be many reasons why a particular thing is named in a particular way; but I think that chewing gum has its particular name because of the one thing that you do as soon as you unwrap it and pop it in your gum-deprived mouth… chew it.

Chewing gum is chewed a lot! For many people, it’s actually great jaw exercise, and other people can’t seem to bear the idea of spitting out a stick of gum unless they’ve been chewing it all day! Such people insist on chewing a piece of gum endlessly, until the gum seems like a bland piece of rubber.

Also, there is a third category of gum-lovers. These are the people who swallow it, either accidentally or on purpose. We are here to talk about those people. What happens if you swallow a piece of chewing gum, rather than spitting it out?

Chewing Gum

Chewing gum is made up either of natural or synthetic materials (gum resins), depending on which chewing gum you choose to pop in for a burst of flavor and some good jaw exercise. Chewing gum usually contains a gum base, as well as preservatives, artificial sweeteners, coloring and flavoring.

Also Read: Why Do Athletes Chew Gum While Playing?

A Terrifying Myth

There is also a frightening myth that frequently makes the rounds among the kids of urban areas claiming that if you happen to swallow a piece of gum, it stays there in your stomach for seven years! As one might expect, it terrifies not only kids, but even adults who accidentally swallow a piece of gum.

Let me clarify this loud and clear: this is a myth! It is practically impossible for a piece of gum to stay inside your body for 7 years.

What Harm Does It Do?

Although it’s true that your digestive system cannot digest a piece of gum as it would digest other types of food, it’s unlikely that a swallowed piece of chewing gum will cause a great deal of harm to your body.

A piece of chewing gum is indigestible because it consists of a gum base that is a mixture of elastomers, resins, fats, emulsifiers and waxes, which is why it is indigestible by the system. The thing is, every now and then, we happen to consume plenty of stuff that is indigestible. It is true that the stomach cannot digest those gum resins, but it does have another way of dealing with it.

A piece of gum that you swallow is moved through the digestive tract by normal ‘pushing’ actions (called peristaltic motion) of the gut. It is pushed and handed over to the intestines, which gets rid of it through excretion. This means that the piece of gum you swallowed finds its way to the lavatory after a day or two thanks to your digestive system!

Chewing Gum

Also Read: What Are The Benefits Of Chewing Food More?

A Word Of Advice

It’s true that chewing gum cannot remain in the body for a long time and therefore doesn’t harm your body. Still, it is advised that you should avoid swallowing gum too often. Continual swallowing of gum, along with consumption of other indigestible food items, can potentially cause blockages in the digestive tract. This is the reason that children below the age of 5 are advised not to consume chewing gums, as they often don’t realize the difference between chewing and swallowing.

Chewing gum is meant to be dealt with in the way its name suggests, so ‘chew’ it, and avoid swallowing it if you can.

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References (click to expand)
  1. Gastrointestinal Motility and Smooth Muscle - Vivo.Colostate.edu. Colorado State University
  2. Physiology of Peristalsis - Vivo.Colostate.edu. Colorado State University
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About the Author

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spearheads the content and editorial wing of ScienceABC and manages its official Youtube channel. He’s a Harry Potter fan and tries, in vain, to use spells and charms (Accio! [insert object name]) in real life to get things done. He totally gets why JRR Tolkien would create, from scratch, a language spoken by elves, and tries to bring the same passion in everything he does. A big admirer of Richard Feynman and Nikola Tesla, he obsesses over how thoroughly science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.