What Actually Happens When You Swallow Gum?

By Lila De Almeida

January 27, 2022

Many people are fooled by the myth that chewing gum takes seven years to digest. Although you should avoid swallowing chewing gum, your digestive system can handle it in moderation.

According to Chewsy Gum, “Gum base is one of the main chewing gum ingredients found in gum and is made up of three main components: resin, wax and elastomer. In short, resin is the main chewable portion, whereas wax helps to soften the gum and elastomers help to add flexibility.” However, gum hasn’t always been made up of these ingredients. In fact, chewing gum can be traced back to ancient times. Elizabeth Nix writes that the Ancient Mayans and Aztecs chewed chicle, a secretion of the sapodilla tree. Interestingly enough, the Aztecs had rigid social expectations regarding chicle. Unmarried women and children could chew chicle freely, but all men and married women could only chew it in private.

Obviously, nowadays, chewing gum is a commonality spanning  all age groups. In order to discourage people from swallowing it, the rumor spread that gum stays in the stomach for seven years. The digestive system does not contain the enzymes to break down gum base, according to Duke Health. Regardless of this, it passes through just like other things we can’t digest, like corn. 

Still, you should try to keep the gum in your mouth, not your stomach. Duke Health warns that “the natural and artificial sweeteners in sugar-free gum can cause nausea, diarrhea, and headaches if swallowed in large quantities.”

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