“It stays in your stomach for seven years!” “You’ll get an ulcer!” “Satan will rise again and use his powers to bring back the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s!”
All things I’ve heard in regards to what happens when you swallow your gum, and every single one of them bullshit (although to be honest, the McPick Two Menu at McDonald’s really does need to die). But what actually happens in your stomach when you swallow gum? Deciding it was high time to put the mystery to bed once and for all, Buzzfeed interviewed Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, D.O., associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City to find out:
“Your GI tract is very strong — if it can digest a tough steak, it can digest gum,” says Ganjhu. So you have the strong gastric movements and the acids and enzymes to break the gum down. The only difference is that the base of gum doesn’t get dissolved completely because of its chemical properties, and also the contents don’t get absorbed into the small intestine like most foods, says Ganju.
“Once it’s in, it’ll go out like everything else. There is no specific time frame because everyone’s digestive system motility is different,” says Ganjhu.
Ganjhu goes on to explain that even though gum does not fully dissolve, it still gets passed through your system via a good ol’ hearty bowel movement. If you don’t quite get what that means, it’s similar to how corn gets digested – it can get through your digestive system almost completely intact, which you’ve probably already noticed if you’ve ever had corn in your Chipotle and then done a double take after dropping off your kids at the pool.
Just because it’s technically safe to swallow, however, doesn’t mean that you should:
“Chewing gum has absolutely no nutritional value so most health professionals would advise against swallowing it,” says Ganjhu. Besides that, the whole point of gum is to chew it until the flavor is gone and then spit it out. “Gum won’t harm or kill you but it just isn’t logical to swallow it purposefully,” says Ganjhu.
Ehh I dunno Ganjhu, I’m a pretty lazy person and when a trash can is too far out of reach and my conscience is screaming at me to not ditch my gum on the ground for someone to step in later, swallowing it seems like the best option available. Maybe I just like living life on the wild side, or maybe the idea of seeing my poop speckled with colorful chunks of gum sounds like a fun thing to wake up to in the morning.
God, I need a hobby.