A Doctor Explained What Actually Happens When You Swallow Gum

Mythbusting your childhood fears

We all know that moment. You’ve been chewing on the same wad of juicy fruit for 40 minutes even though the flavour disappeared a half hour ago. The problem is, you’re sitting on the bus with no where to put it. You think about putting it under the seat but you’re better than than, and then you consider swallowing it — but your mom’s voice appears in your head: “once you swallow it, it’ll take 8 years to digest” she says.

Haunted by those urban legends you heard as a child, you’re forced to make the dreaded decision… do I swallow my gum?

Well, thanks to a recent Buzzfeed article, we now know just what exactly goes down in your digestive system after swallowing a chewy piece of sugar-free spearmint.

According to NYU Gastroenterologist, Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, “Your GI tract is very strong — if it can digest a tough steak, it can digest gum. Once it’s in, it’ll go out like everything else” She adds. “There is no specific time frame because everyone’s digestive system motility is different.”

Phew. I guess that would explain why there has never been a reported incident of a gum tree growing inside of anyone.

To break it down, when gum is swallowed, whether it be intentionally or just by accident, it will pass through the body at an average pace, just like a piece of food. The only difference being, gum has no significant source of nutrition, so it is not broken down and digested in the same way.

But don’t just start swallowing every piece you chew! Dr. Ganjhu says, “Gum won’t harm or kill you but it just isn’t logical to swallow it purposefully.” So why put your body through that extra little bit of work, when you can swallow real food instead?

Keep calm and chew on.

Main image courtesy daveynin via Flickr