Finally, the truth: we finally know what happens when you swallow gum

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I was like most growing children: a deadly fear of accidentally swallowing my chewing gum. “It’s going to stay in your stomach for seven years!” Every child knew this. And it looked horrible. For a young person, seven years equals eleven billion years. Obviously, nothing should stay in your stomach for that long. But was there any truth behind this terrible warning? Has the gum really resided in you for so long? The Institute of Human Anatomy decided to answer this question in its latest video. The good news is, you don’t have to worry about this old woman’s story. You just have to worry about something much worse.

Warning: you may need a strong stomach to handle this thorough examination of your bowels.

The gum, with its myriad of mysteries as to what goes into the “gum base,” won’t get stuck in your tummy. But like this video (which we first saw at Boing boing) explains, it has nothing to do with stomach acid and other enzymes that usually break down food. The gum is impermeable to them. It just comes out of there, however, because our stomachs are adept at keeping the digestive train moving.

The chewy treat will also survive its journey through your small and large intestines. The other organs that help juice and bile break down food are also no match for sticky substances. Relax, this is not unusual. Like many foods that we intentionally eat, gum is indigestible. Our body cannot process it. However, the gum will eventually make its way throughout your digestive tract. Finally end up in your stool in two to three days.

As long as you swallow gum only occasionally, you should be fine. Our bodies can handle a lump or two here or there. But send too much of it into your gut at once and you could end up with a gum bezoar. Which looks like something you would produce if you accidentally swallowed an alien.

Lying to kids isn’t great. Lying to them to scare them is even worse. But telling them a little lie about an imaginary seven-year danger of swallowing gum is better than telling them the truth about the bezoar.


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