Imagine how messed up out a person’s digestive system would be if every piece of gum they swallow by intention or by mistake stays in their gut for seven years as the urban myth suggests. Fortunately, that is not the scenario that takes place inside a digestive system when chewing gum takes a trip through it.
The first stage of digestion of chewing gum takes place in the mouth where the saliva breaks down some of its carbohydrates and you start swallowing its sugars before you swallow the gum itself. However, the majority of gum ingredients such as resins, waxes, elastomers and fats are indigestible and all parts of the digestive system cannot break them down.
The Journey Out
Our digestive system doesn’t digest everything we swallow but that doesn’t mean that what we didn’t digest gets to stay in. There are muscles that line all parts of the digestive system and move everything we swallow by making the gut tract contract and relax around it. This movement, known as peristalsis, carries the indigested remains of chewing gum outside of the body with stool in a matter of one to two days.
Knowing that swallowed gum would leave one’s system in a duration that is much shorter than seven years doesn’t make it safe to constantly swallow chewing gum. If you swallow an enormous piece of gum or several small pieces of gum after each other, it can block your digestive system. This usually happens with children because their digestive tracts have a smaller diameter than those of adults.
If you are a big fan of chewing gum, stay away from Singapore which bans it to keep the streets clean. The country has a strict law against chewing gum in the street and anyone gets caught while chewing gum will be fined.