What happens when you swallow gum?

Nov. 10, 2017

The urban legend that gum sits in your stomach for seven years is a lie. Gum is basically immune to digestion, so you should think twice about swallowing it.

Bodies can break down colors and flavoring, but primary chewy ingredients like tree sap and butyl rubber can’t be processed by your digestive system.

In fact, the phrase “gum base” generalizes ingredients that are trade secrets. Popular gum brands typically don't disclose their full list of ingredients.

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Gum base withstands stomach acid and digestive enzymes and passes through the system in one piece before coming out with human waste.

Gum is a foreign object to the body comparable to coins, so a large piece has the potential to get stuck on rare occasions.

A 1998 paper described one blockage in a 4-year-old who received gum as an incentive for potty training; he had a "taffy-like" mass removed from his rectum.

So swallowing a lot of gum frequently can lead to an awkward ER visit — but if you only swallow one piece, you won’t carry it around for seven years.