It is the life-long myth that when you swallow a piece of chewing gum, it stays in your stomach for 7 years because the stomach acids and the intestines aren’t able to excrete it out like other food items that you eat. But this couldn’t be more wrong.
You may have accidentally swallowed gum, but staying in your body for 7 years isn’t its fate. Let’s check out what really happens when you swallow a piece of chewing gum.
Gum is meant to be chewed — but sometimes accidents happen.
Maybe it went down with a gulp of water…or maybe there just wasn’t anywhere to spit it out.
And you’ve probably heard that swallowed gum stays in your stomach for seven months or seven years or some other absurdly long time.
Gum-swallowing myths were super popular when you were a kid. And chances are you still kinda believe whichever one sounded most plausible back then.
So what actually happens when you swallow gum?
BuzzFeed Health reached out to gastroenterologist Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, D.O., associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, to find out what exactly goes down in your digestive system when you swallow your gum (and if it’s actually bad for you).
Basically, gum passes through your body just like any food — but it doesn’t get completely digested.
“Your GI tract is very strong — if it can digest a tough steak, it can digest gum,” says Ganjhu. So you have the strong gastric movements and the acids and enzymes to break the gum down. The only difference is that the base of gum doesn’t get dissolved completely because of its chemical properties, and also the contents don’t get absorbed into the small intestine like most foods, says Ganjhu.
“Once it’s in, it’ll go out like everything else. There is no specific time frame because everyone’s digestive system motility is different,” says Ganjhu.
So yes, you will eventually poop it out.
No, it won’t stick to the side of your intestines or build up in a giant gum wad or anything like that. Even though it doesn’t fully dissolve, it’ll still become wrapped up in fecal matter and pass through in a bowel movement, says Ganjhu. It’s similar to swallowing teeth (or corn tbh) which can make it through your intestines pretty much intact.
The only thing you’d have to worry about “getting stuck” is if the wad is actually too large to fit through the opening of your stomach from your esophagus, though you probably wouldn’t be able to swallow a wad of gum that big in the first place.