You chew it. You stretch it. You blow it. And, be honest, sometimes you stick it on things. But what happens to your body when you swallow chewing gum? And, not just once but all the time?
If you always swallow your gum, could it plug up your body? Is it true that it could kill you?
It’s minty, fruity, and mmm, delicious. We love it so much that globally, it’s a $29 billion industry, that’s expected to double by 2025. Chewing gum might even help your health. A study from Swinburne University said that chewing gum can help reduce stress levels. And a 2002 study showed that chewing a piece of sugar-free gum could improve your short-term memory.
But it also contains many ingredients used in things like caulking, white glue, and plastic bags. So is it safe to swallow gum? Let’s start by saying that gum does not stay in your stomach for seven years. You knew that, right?
A healthy body can expel a piece of gum in a few days. So, swallowing a piece of gum from time to time isn’t going to kill you. But if you always choose to gobble down your gum, it could be another story. The problem is, gum doesn’t break down like other food.
Gum, like some seeds and corn, can turn into indigestible masses called bezoars. They can accumulate in your digestive tract, and even cause a blockage. It’s because gum is a kind of rubber. Originally made of chicle, a sap from the sapodilla tree in Central America, it was synthetized in a laboratory after World War II.
Do you still want to try this? Seriously? All righty then.
You’ve been swallowing several pieces of gum each day, for a few days. And they build up in your digestive system. If foods, fluids, gastric acids, and gas build up behind the blockage, it could create pressure.
You would probably experience bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation, among other things. And pain. You would definitely feel pain. You should probably pack a few things and seek treatment at the closest hospital.
If it’s a partial blockage, then you’re lucky. It’s easier to treat the problem. You’ll likely get intravenous fluids to rehydrate your body. A catheter into your bladder will drain out your urine. And a tube into your stomach would relieve pressure, swelling, and vomiting.
But if you have a complete blockage, it could tear you apart. Your intestines could rupture, leaking harmful bacteria into your abdominal cavity. That could kill you. Even if your stomach or intestines don’t rupture, a blockage can prevent blood from getting to other parts of your intestines. That can cause infection, tissue death, sepsis, and multiple organ failures.
And that could kill you too. Just in case you’re wondering. In both cases, you might need to go under the knife and that would be no fun. So it’s a terrible idea to keep swallowing your chewing gum.
- “What Really Happens When You Swallow Gum, According To A Doctor”. Liz. Newman. 2021. Thrillist.
- “Swallowed Gum: What Happens If You Swallow Gum?”. 2021. Healthline.
- “What Happens To Gum When You Swallow It? Find Out Whether It Stays In Your Stomach For Seven Years — VIDEO”. Julie Sprankles. 2016. Bustle.
- “How Long Does Gum Take To Digest? How Long It Stays In Your System”. 2021. Healthline.
- “The Worst That Can Happen When You Swallow Gum”. 2021. Verywell Health.
- “What is chewing gum made of?”. Howstuffworks.
- “Global Chewing Gum Market Size 2015-2025 | Statista”. 2021. Statista.