We have been repeatedly warned not to swallow chewing gum or it could sit in our stomach for years. While this might be a common myth, the warning is much heeded.
Studies have suggested that our gut cannot digest chewing gum due to its main ingredient, gum base. The gum base is made up of synthetic rubber, which is not digested by the human body.
Gum base is what gives chewing gum its 'chew', according to the International Chewing Gum Association. It is made up of a combination of waxes, softeners and non-toxic and safe-to-consume polymers.
The idea that gum sticks to the lining of the digestive system and stays in your body for years is a myth.
As food and liquids are eaten, they pass through the digestive system, where they are digested and absorbed before leaving the body as feces.
Whereas, our stomach is not designed to break down the gum base. The chewing gum will eventually move intact through the digestive tract and pass out of your system like any other food, but takes a bit longer.
Whereas, gulping down large amounts of gum, or several small bits in a short time period, may form a mass which blocks the digestive tract.
This blockage can disrupt the process and cause digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Treatment will depend on its severity. A stool softener may work in some cases to help the obstruction pass. In the most serious and rare cases, surgery is necessary.
Gum can also be a choking hazard and cause serious respiratory issues if accidentally inhaled. Hence it is advisable not to give gum to toddlers and children.