Is swallowing gum really bad for you, and is it true or myth that it takes years to digest? – Christoph L.
Swallowing gum isn’t harmful except in rare instances. Combine a lot with sunflower seed shells and you’ve got a porcupine glob in your gut. Yes, it has happened. People with constipation problems should avoid frequent occasions of swallowing gum to prevent intestinal blockage. For anyone with normal digestion, there is no risk.
If you swallow gum, you can only digest the sweeteners. The gum base is insoluble and humans don’t have the digestive enzymes to break it down. But it doesn’t stick to your stomach wall or intestinal tract. It’s a myth that gum will stay in your gut for any length of time. It simply passes intact through your intestines with other undigested food matter until excreted in stool.
Here’s something to chew on:
According to Scientific American, “the Food and Drug Administration defines chewing gum base as a ‘nonnutritive masticatory substance’ that may be composed of any number of natural or synthetic elastomers, or rubberlike materials, as well as plasticizing softeners, resins and preservative antioxidizing agents. The permitted elastomers include natural, tree-derived chicle, a gum chewed by indigenous Central Americans, and the somewhat less traditional butyl rubber, which also finds use in the manufacture of inner tubes.”
– Debbie J., MS, RD
Do you have a question about your diet or nutrition?