Ask Giz: What Actually Happens When You Swallow Gum?

Ask Giz: What Actually Happens When You Swallow Gum?
Image: iStock

Welcome back to Ask Giz, where we answer your questions no matter how lewd or ludicrous.

We love answering your burning Giz-related questions, be it tech, health, science or gaming-specific. You can submit your question here. We’re a day off the fortnight promise this week, but we’ll be back to normal programming once all these public holidays are unfortunately over.

This week, our question comes from Sara in Perth. Sara asks “What actually happens when you swallow gum?”.

You know, this is actually a pretty interesting question to me, someone who has never really had a problem with swallowing gum. I’ve done it ever since I started chewing the stuff (my favourite is Big League Chew and you should try it, too). But my editor Asha, who has somewhat of a gum addiction, said she would never.

So, let’s get to the bottom of it.

What actually happens when you swallow gum?

The common belief is that swallowing gum is bad for you because it sits in your stomach for a long time. This is simply not true, as explained by Mayo Clinic.

While it is true that your body can’t digest chewing gum, that doesn’t mean it won’t leave your body. If swallowed, the gum will travel through your digestive track and will leave your body with your waste.

It’s only rarely that swallowing gum causes a problem. Large amounts of swallowed gum have been related to digestive track problems, in which the amount of gum swallowed builds up in the digestive system and becomes impenetrable. These blockages are more likely to happen when gum is digested with other things the body can’t break down.

So here’s what happens: it goes down your throat, into your stomach, and then leaves your body through the digestive system some 40 hours later. You shouldn’t be that worried if a piece of gum goes down your throat, but you should probably avoid swallowing several pieces of the stuff in a short amount of time, combined with swallowing indigestible things like seed shells.

Don’t panic

Really, it’s nothing to worry about.

There are things to be concerned about under the right circumstances, but as long as you’re not chewing and swallowing a full packet every time you think about having some gum, mixed with indigestible things, you should be fine.

Ask Giz is a fortnightly series where we answer your questions, be it tech, science, gadget, health or gaming related. This is a reader-involved series where we rely on Gizmodo Australia’s audience to submit questions. If you have a question for Giz, you can submit it here. Or check out the answer to our last Ask Giz: Does Masturbation Make You Less Fertile?