How Bad Is It to Swallow Gum?

The age-old myth of swallowed gum staying in your body for seven years is officially busted.

The human body is a mind-blowing marvel in many ways. Just consider the fact that it can produce millions of blood cells in under 60 seconds. But sometimes, its abilities are undermined. A perfect example of this is the age-old myth that chewing gum can stay in your body for seven years (or these fitness myths). “This is about as scientifically true as swallowing watermelon seeds will make you grow a watermelon in your stomach,” says Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. Let us dive into the truth behind what happens when you swallow gum.

What happens when you swallow gum?

While it’s not true that chewing gum will stay in your body for seven years, it is true that the synthetic portion of it isn’t digestible. But that doesn’t mean the synthetic portions are just going to sit around for years—gum rarely stays in your body for more than a week. This is because the stomach periodically empties its contents into the small intestine, so if you swallowed gum, it would then move to the colon, and finally pass in the stool, according to The Ohio State University.

Is it dangerous to swallow gum?

With that being said, “some components of gum, such as sweeteners, are actually digested,” writes Fabian Ortega for yalescientific.org. However, frequently swallowing wads of chewing gum won’t do your body any favours.

“Repeatedly swallowing gum can lead to a bezoar, a small mass of indigestible material that can potentially lead to a bowel obstruction,” says Edwin McDonald, a gastroenterologist and associate director of adult nutrition at the University of Chicago.

(Psst: Did you know chewing gum is actually good for you?)

How often can you safely swallow gum?

So can you occasionally swallow chewing gum and be OK? Yes. Should you? Probably not. “It would be wise to avoid making this a habit,” Ortega writes. “In order to avoid a potentially sticky situation, it is good practice to spit out your chewing gum.”

Next, read about the common health myths even doctors believe.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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