Does gum stay in your stomach for 7 years?
The urban legend that a piece of gum will sit in a person’s stomach for seven years if swallowed has stood the test of time, making many wonder just how many pieces of gum are down there.
It turns out, there is a lot less than a person might think.
“The gum base, which is made of natural or synthetic rubber, actually only sits inside the body for a day or two before the undigested substances passes out of the body while flavorings and sugars in the gum are absorbed into the body,” says Dr. Asif Lakha, a gastroenterologist with Advocate Medical Group in Niles, Ill.
Just because gum doesn’t sit in a person’s stomach for years, it doesn’t mean children should chew gum.
“Children should not be given gum because of the risk of choking,” says Dr. Lakha. “Kids are also at risk of swallowing multiple pieces of gum, especially when they do not know that they need to spit it out after chewing. In rare instances, this can result in a ball of gum getting stuck and obstructing the intestinal tract.”
For kids and adults alike there are few side effects which can result from chewing gum:
- Gum, especially mint flavored gum, reduces the intake of healthy food by making fruits and vegetables taste more bitter.
- It can trigger temporomandibular joint disorder, which is pain in the muscles and joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull.
- It can cause one to swallow excess air, which can cause bloating and abdominal discomfort.
- Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol or xylitol can cause diarrhea by acting as diuretics in the gut.
- It can trick the body into thinking that food will be coming down into the stomach and consequently increase acid production, which is believed to cause stomach ulcers.
The popular treat also offers some health benefits, Dr. Lakha says. Research has found that chewing gum can improve memory, reduce cravings for a high-calorie snack and improve oral health.
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