Is It True That Gum Stays in Your Stomach for 7 Years?
Unless you grew up in Singapore, where the sale of chewing gum has been illegal since 1992, you have probably heard someone say that if you swallow gum it will stay in your stomach for seven whole years. While no one knows the origin of this urban myth, the truth is it’s a great story for parents to tell their kids in order to ensure they don’t swallow chewing gum – which can be a choking hazard. In reality, the body doesn’t digest gum, but it is passed in only a few days.
Even though the main ingredients in gum are sweeteners, flavoring, preservatives, and softeners – things the human stomach has no problem breaking down -, the base of the sweet confectionery is actually indigestible. It is due to the synthetic polymers and elastomers gum is made of that the body can’t digest it. But the good news is it will only stay in our stomach for a week at the most.
Just like other indigestible fibrous foods, such as nuts, seeds, and corn, chewing gum will first find its way to the small intestine, which will absorb sugars and nutrients. Then, it will be moved to the colon, and eventually, be passed during a future bowel movement. However, even though gum doesn’t actually stay in our stomach for seven years, it doesn’t mean we should purposefully swallow it: large amounts of gum can still lead to blockages in the intestine.