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Gum takes 7 years to digest? Not quite!

Gum digestion
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Ever heard that chewing gum takes 7 years to digest if you accidentally swallow a piece?

This is one myth that it’s time to de-bunk. Let’s get into it.

THE MYTH:

  • If you attended school in the past few decades, I’ll bet that you heard that, if you swallow a piece of gum, it will sit in your stomach for 7 years. This one is most definitely not true.
  • Now, this might seem like a harmless piece of playground chat, but I think it points to something bigger. We are all more conscious of what we eat, these days – but not of what happens AFTER we swallow.
  • This matters because it can leave us open to believing all sorts of misinformation about food ‘rotting’ in our stomachs, and potentially susceptible to ‘diets’ that are rooted in a view of gut health that is not supported by science.

THE FACTS:

  • Chewing gum is made up of a gum-base, sweeteners, flavouring, preservatives, and softeners. Your digestive system breaks most of these down with ease.
  • However, the base of the gum, made up of a mix of ingredients including synthetic polymers and waxes, cannot be digested.
  • But this does not mean that it sits in your gut for years. Your digestive system breaks down what it can, and passes what it cannot in your poop. (Ever noticed sweetcorn shells in the toilet bowl? The same goes with the gum base and any other poorly digested food.)
  • If you accidentally swallow a piece of gum, it will usually pass through your system in fewer than 7 days. NOT 7 years.

THE FINAL WORD: Your digestive system is smart – and doesn’t allow unwanted food bits to stay for years and years.

This is NOT to say that swallowing chewing gum is an amazing idea. It is not. Ingesting large amounts can eventually lead to  intestinal blockages, especially in children.

But if you accidentally do swallow the odd piece? Not the end of the world.