Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This


What Really Happens If You Swallow Your Gum?

Your mom told you a million times not to do it. You did it anyway. Did it really sit in your stomach for seven years? Could it possibly have wrapped around your intestines and strangled them? Is a gum tree still growing inside you? What really happens if you swallow your gum?

We've all heard the old wives tale warning of such disaster, but to our knowledge there's been no serious health issues related to swallowing it (choking on gum is another matter, though.)

Though your stomach can't break down a piece of gum the same way it breaks down other food, your digestive system can move it along through normal intestinal activity (in other words, it comes out the other end.)

When swallowed, gum is eliminated as human waste in the same way - and at the same rate - as any other swallowed matter.

Wrigley, one of today's top leading gum manufacturer's, explains, "Chewing gum has five basic ingredients - sweeteners, corn syrup, softeners, flavors and gum base (the part that puts the "chew" in chewing gum). The first four ingredients are soluble, meaning they dissolve in your mouth as you chew. Gum base doesn't. And although it isn't meant to be swallowed, if it is, it simply passes through your system, just like popcorn or any other form of roughage." It starts traveling down your esophagus, into your stomach, enters the small intestine, and makes its way to the large intestine. This normally takes only a few days.

Gum Can Potentially Be Hazardous, However

According to Alisa Raines Lefevre, R.N, C.R.R.N, "the greatest harm of swallowing bubble gum is not even digestive in nature. For a 2-year old, chewing bubble gum poses a significant risk of choking." Most toddlers have a full set of teeth, but may lack maturity in their chewing and swallowing skills.

About 15% to 30% of chewing gum is gum base, a natural or synthetic indigestible rubbery substance that makes the treat resilient to hours of jawing.

Dr Karl S. Kruszelnicki, a physician, author, and science commentator on radio and television says "the bad (and relatively uncommon) side effects of chewing gum include diarrhea, tummy pain and flatulence mouth ulcers (from cinnamon flavouring), high blood pressure and low blood potassium (from liquorice flavouring) and higher blood mercury levels (from dental amalgam already in your mouth, but only in cases of excessive chewing)." Other unpleasant side effects can include mechanical injury to the teeth, overuse injury (temporomandibular joint syndrome) and even extrusion of dental repairs.

Is Sugar-Free Gum Better?

While there are no recorded events that prove the old wives tale right, Dr. Weil, a popular health and alternative medicine doctor, says that "sugar-free gum, whether swallowed or chewed in large amounts, can cause digestive problems. The sugar substitutes (hexitol, sorbitol, and mannitol, to name a few) found in sugar-free gum are not absorbed, but pass into the small intestine and colon, where they can cause diarrhea."

In addition, aspartame - a popular sugar substitute in gum - has been linked to decreased vision, headaches, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, and many other ear and skin side effects. Some experts have also questioned another popular sugar substitute, Splenda, also known as sucralose, claiming that too little is known about its safety due to a lack of human studies.

Back in the Beginning

Kids in North America spend ½ a billion dollars on bubble gum every year.

It wasn't until 1869 that modern chewing gum products appeared. Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, conqueror of the Alamo, hired New York inventor Thomas Adams to develop a new form of a rubber substitute using chicle, the dried milky sap of the Mexican Sapodilla tree. Chicle didn't quite work as a replacement for rubber, but as a gum it soon dominated the market.

Sticky Side Note

When spat on the ground, chewing gum will stick firmly and is very difficult to remove. For this reason, chewing gum has been banned in Singapore since 1992 as a result of a "gum infested" city. Instead of throwing away their gum, or swallowing it, seems like the city folk in Singapore decided to spit it out on the streets or tack it to the walls for disposal.

It was only a year ago that the Free Trade Agreement went into affect in Singapore, and therapeutic gum can be purchased with a physician's prescription. Try to smuggle it into Singapore next time you are visiting, you'll get a "Go Directly To Jail" card for one year, and a hefty fine of $5500 (US).

Final note

Since chewing gum has been chewed, parents have been trying to prevent their children from swallowing it by warning them of "gum trees," strangled intestines and more. Truth is, if you decide to chew a piece and you happen to swallow it, don't worry - it will pass right through in a few days.

The Old Wives' Tale Club Answers ... © is a regular column that explores and exposes the truth behind popular myths toward maintaining or improving your safety, health, wealth, relationships, career, or home ... or simply making you say, "Oh!" or maybe "Ah ha!" If you have a myth, fable, legend or any of their kin that you'd like The Old Wives' Tale Club to consider for exploration, email it to

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This