So you just swallowed an innocent piece of gum. And now you are having cold sweats thinking that you will carry it in your gut for 7 long years, based on what you heard from a co-worker or read from a social media post. But is it really harmful for you to swallow gum? Read on to find out.
First and foremost, gum is not supposed to be swallowed — it’s something that should be spitted out once it’s no longer sweet or already devoid of flavor, or when your jaw is already exhausted from all the masticating action.
The reason why gum is meant to be spewed out rather than flushed down your throat is because one of its most important ingredients is indigestible, and that is gum resin which is a synthetic material. Even though it’s true that those acids in your stomach are highly corrosive, they are actually powerless when it comes to breaking down gum resin.
But just because gum resin is capable of withstanding digestive acids doesn’t necessarily mean that it will stay for a very long, long time in your body — a total of 7 years, according to many.
Doctors say that swallowed gum will eventually be expelled from the body, but it won’t take 7 years. It may actually be out of your system in just 24 to 72 hours. Yes, that’s how quick it is to leave you be. Even though indigestible, gum is treated by your digestive system just like any other food — it gets rid of it in just 1 to 3 days.
There is no way that swallowed gum will stay for a really long time somewhere in your body because of the manner by which your digestive system works.
You see, there’s this so-called peristalsis, which is the involuntary wave-like constriction and relaxation of the muscles of the esophagus, stomach, and other hollow tubes along your digestive system. And it’s exactly because of the presence of this peristalsis why it is virtually impossible for swallowed gum to get stuck somewhere in your body.
Also contributing to the efficient sweeping of swallowed gum out of your body is the fact that your digestive system, from your mouth to your rectum is lined with mucous membranes.
Your mucous membranes contain specialized cells that secrete a thick type of fluid called mucus. The role of mucus is to have the inner linings of the various organs of your digestive system protected from harm. Since mucus is a slippery substance, that piece of gum you have swallowed is unlikely to adhere to any part of your gut.
However, just as one would expect, there is always exceptions to the rule, and swallowed gum is not an exemption.
A problem may strike if you happen to swallow lots and lots of pieces of gum all at the same time — it’s almost always certain that your digestive system will have a hard time pushing them out when that happens, and it’s something that can leave you with a bout of constipation.
In case gum is swallowed together with another indigestible item such as a coin, then a problem may also arise. And that’s why it’s not a good idea for kids to be allowed to chew gum, most especially if they are not aware that the super gummy product should be spitted out and not swallowed.