“Beware, child, make sure you do not swallow the chewing gum”, this is what we have heard for years now. Almost 80% of us have swallowed gum at least once when we were kids but little do we know about what happens to the gum when we swallow it. Does the gum remain in our stomach for many years? Can the swallowed gum be removed from our bodies? What happens to the gum when it enters our body? Does it have any impact on our health?
In this article, we will be looking at the clear answers to all these questions regarding what happens if we swallow gum. So, let’s begin.
What is gum actually?
Gum is nothing but a rubbery candy favored by children a lot. Gum generally comes in different shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. Gums are basically chewed for the taste and flavor and are mainly made up of a gum base along with added sweeteners, colors, and softeners.
History of chewing gum
People have been chewing gum for ages. Recently a gum made of birch-bark tar that could be about 5000-6000 years old was found in Finland which proves that gum exists from the stone age era.
There are several histories that prove the existence of chewing from ages.
- Ancient civilizations like the Mayans and the Aztecs used to chew naturally made gum which was known by the name chicle. This gum was made from the latex sap of the Sapodilla tree. They basically chewed it to keep their breath fresh and to fill cavities.
- The ancient Greeks chewed mastic gum made from the resin of the mastic tree. Mastic gum has antiseptic properties and is believed to maintain good oral health.
- Many other civilizations used to make gums from grasses, trees and resins for the purpose of sticking things together.
- In 1860 the first flavored chewing gum was introduced which was made using synthetic rubber. This leads to the pathway of modern-day gums that contains sweeteners, flavors and gum base.
How should one eat chewing gum?
Chewing gum is never meant to be swallowed rather we chew it until the flavors and taste are gone, and then spit it out. This is how an individual should use gum.
But what if we swallow the gum by mistake? Does it affect our digestive system and remain in our stomach for several years. Well, to understand this we need to understand how the digestion process works.
How does digestion occur in our body?
Digestion is a systematic process. As soon as we eat something it follows a process where the first step includes chewing the food. Here the food mixes with the saliva which makes the food easy to swallow. As soon as you swallow this mixture your body further breaks it down and extracts all its nutrition before the food reaches the stomach. In the stomach, gastric acid (the stomach acid) transforms this food into a paste that allows the food to pass through the digestive tract very smoothly. Finally, the food which cannot be broken down or absorbed is excreted from the body via the anus.
What happens when we swallow gum?
When it comes to swallowing the gum it’s a totally different game. This is because no matter how powerful your stomach acid is the synthetic rubber gum easily resists it.
Despite the combined efforts of your saliva enzymes and stomach acid to digest the gum, they won’t be able to break and dissolve it.
So does it mean it stays in the stomach? No, not actually. It won’t stick to the side of the intestine or stomach and rest there for several years. Instead, your body will treat it just like any other food it cannot digest. The gum is easily excreted within the next three days through your poop.
This proves the myth wrong about bubble gum staying in our bodies for several years.
Should I visit the doctor if I swallow gum by mistake?
If one swallows a piece of gum there is no need of visiting your doctor as the gum is excreted naturally in the form of poop with the next 3 days.
But if you have swallowed a large amount of gum along with other indigestible objects this might lead to a blockage in your lungs or stomach and might disturb your digestive system. In this case, your doctor needs to perform surgery to remove it from your digestive gland.
Should my kids chew gum?
You should not allow your kids to chew gum until and unless they understand the difference between chewing and swallowing gum. Gum is meant to be chewed and spitted out as soon as it loses its taste. By the age of 5, a child might understand the difference between a pack of gum and a pack of candy (which one to swallow and which one to chew and spit out).
Does chewing gums have any side effects?
It is recommended to not chew more than 2-3 gums per day and it will be better if the gum is sugar-free. Chewing normal gums way too much can have adverse effects on your health which includes
- Gums that contain sugar can cause cavities.
- Cinnamon flavored gums may irritate your mouth as they can be hot and spicy.
- Gums that are made sugar free but use sorbitol as a sweetener may cause diarrhea.