Does chewing gum pose health risks? For generations, kids have been told that swallowed chewing gum can sit undigested in the gut for weeks, months, even years. There is a theory that pegs the number of years taken for the human body to digest chewing gum at 7. It is just another one of those tactics used by parents and elders to deter children from adopting an unhealthy habit by instilling in them a false fear of the consequences.
Remember how your siblings, uncles, or aunts told you that swallowing a fruit seed could lead to tree sprouting in your gut? It took you a few years to figure how there was not an iota of truth to it. The myth that chewing gum can take years to digest is somewhat similar, except that complex jargon on chewing gum’s composition makes this theory harder to dispel. Here are some key facts to help you understand how the human body processes an ingested chewing gum and why it is not a reason for concern.
Chewing gum can pass through the human digestive tract without causing any harm or obstructions and is typically eliminated the same way as other foods.
The Basis of This Myth
This myth is based mainly on the composition of the chewing gum. The logic often used to support this myth is that something so sticky and stretchy in its texture which cannot be broken down by the teeth can probably not be digested by the body either. Well, this is true in part. Chewing gum comprises a gum base or gum resin, softeners, sweetener, flavoring, and preservatives. Elements like sweeteners, flavoring agents such as mint oil, softeners such as glycerine or vegetable oil can all be digested within hours.
The gum base or gum resin, on the other hand, can withstand the digestive enzymes and the acid in the stomach, and thus, cannot be broken down. However, the fact that gum base or gum resin cannot be broken down does not mean it sit in your gut for years. It is pushed down the digestive tract through the gut’s peristaltic actions and is ultimately excreted from the body. Even if, chewing gum wound up being stuck in your stomach for some reason, your body would present symptoms such as constipation to signal its presence long before seven years.
Does That Mean It Is Safe to Swallow Gum?
The bottom line is that accidentally swallowing one odd chewing every now and then is not
going to harm your health or adversely affect your digestive system in any way. This does not mean it is safe to cultivate a habit of ingesting gum regularly or in large quantities. When done in extreme, it can lead to health complications. It is especially important to keep kids from swallowing chewing gum, as their digestive systems are far more delicate.