What happens if you swallow gum?

Comment on this story
chewing gum sxc sxc.hu A cider made from jackfruit and an energy-boosting chewing gum are some of the novel food products Durban University of Technology (DUT) students introduced to the world this week.

London - It is an urban myth that terrifies young children. Swallow a piece of chewing gum and it will take seven years to pass through your gut before it is digested. Or so they say.

An even hoarier tale has it that swallowed gum can wrap itself around your heart.

But what does happen if you should accidentally eat a stick of gum?

Chewing gum is made out of gum base, sweeteners, colouring and flavouring.

The gum base is pretty indigestible – it is a mixture of elastomers, resins, fats, emulsifiers and waxes. Most of the time, your stomach really cannot break down the gum the way it would other foods.

However, your digestive system has another way to deal with things you swallow. After all, we eat lots of things that we are unable to digest fully.

The gut just keeps moving them along until they make it all the way through the intestines and come out the other end.

So gum usually ends up in your lavatory one to two days later. Even though gum is sticky, it is usually no match for the power of your gut.

Our saliva will make an attempt at digesting chewing gum as soon as we put it in our mouths.

It might penetrate the shell and sweeteners, but much of gum’s base ingredients are indigestible.

It's then up to our stomach muscles – which contract and relax, much like the way an earthworm moves – to slowly force the things we swallow through our systems.

The system can still get gummed up, though.

Swallowing a huge wad of gum or swallowing many small pieces of gum in a short time can cause a blockage within the digestive system – most often in children, who have a smaller-diameter digestive tract than adults – but this is extremely rare. – Daily Mail

Get our free Lifestyle newsletter - subscribe here...

sign up

Comment Guidelines

  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.

  5. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles. You are only required to verify your email address once to have full access to commenting on articles. For more information please read our comment guidelines