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This Is What Really Happens When You Swallow Gum

Discussion in 'Gastroenterology' started by Ghada Ali youssef, Feb 11, 2017.

  1. Ghada Ali youssef

    Ghada Ali youssef Golden Member

    Dec 29, 2016
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    It is common knowledge that when you swallow a stick of gum, it takes seven years to pass through your gut before it is digested. ‘AHHHHHHH!’ I hear you cry. But wait, quit your whining. Has anyone actually ever scientifically proven that this does in fact happen? I don’t think so.

    When I was growing up chewing gum was banned in my house, along with Cola-Cola. I have no idea why, they just were. I’m sure my mum laid down these rules to benefit me and my sister, but there was a major flaw in her plan. After all, the problem with telling a child they can’t do something, will more often than not result in them doing everything in their power to disobey that order. Am I right? I’m right, aren’t I?

    I’m sure you can all guess where I’m going with this story. Basically because I wasn’t allowed gum I used to eat it on the sly and then when my mum came in the room I’d just gulp it down. Surely it couldn’t hurt…

    Of course I later learnt that every time you gobbled a stick down, it remained in your stomach for SEVEN WHOLE YEARS! Well, this is what I was led to believe all this time. Until now. Flick over to the next page to find the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    It turns out that it was all one big bloomin’ urban myth, just like that terrifying tale of the boy who swallowed gum that wrapped around his heart. The fables must have been introduced by some sadistic a-hole whose sole purpose in life was to scare the living daylights out of every single minor around the world.

    Contrary to popular belief, chewing gum is not indigestible. Our body can absorb the gum’s sweeteners – like Aspartame and Surcralose. However, its base – a mixture of elastomers, resins, fats, emulsifiers and waxes – is a little more difficult for the stomach to break down. Therefore, it has to work overtime to ensure that it does.

    Rest assured, the almost universally renowned rumour is pretty much medically unfounded. According to David Milov of the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Orlando, Florida, there has never been any evidence of the chewy confection remaining in our digestive tract for this amount of time. He said:

    “On occasion we’ll see a piece of swallowed gum [in colonoscopies and capsule endoscopy procedures], but usually it’s not something that’s any more than a week old.”

    Despite the sticky consistency of our much adored breath fresheners, it is no match for the human digestivetract. Flick over to the next page to learn how it all works.

    As soon as chewing gum enters our mouths, saliva begins to penetrate the outer shell and its sweeteners. Then, like with all foods, our stomach muscles start to play their role – contracting and relaxing – slowly pushing the items we have consumed through our systems. Until ultimately it comes to the end of its journey, ahem, with a trip to the toilet.

    This being said, of course swallowing a large mass of gum can cause an issue. Not as much of an issue as ingesting a light bulb, like the 48-year-old Chinese woman below, but an issue nonetheless.

    In rare cases, minty wads have been known to cause blockages in digestive systems. These cases tend to have occurred in children, because they have smaller-diameter digestive tracts than adults. Therefore, I suppose the decades-old bits of folklore our parents told us are probably worth passing on to our children too. So thanks mum, you were right, it’s probably not wise to habitually ingest gum.



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