Gum is meant to be chewed, but what happens when it isn't anymore? We've all done it: accidentally swallowed that piece of minty fresh gum with a big gulp of water or maybe not so accidentally swallowed it because there simply wasn't anywhere to spit it out.

Does a giant wad of gum really stay in your stomach for seven years? Is that one piece of Bubblicious that you swallowed in middle school still sitting in there? Gum swallowing myths were all the rage when we were little and chances are you believed what you had heard. Or maybe still do. 

beer, tea
Emma Delaney

Well, I'm here to set the record straight. No, gum does not stubbornly live inside your stomach for seven years. Sorry to burst that bubble (pun intended). In short, there are three basic components of digestion. The first is the mechanical process where you process your food when you first ingest it (aka chewing).  

The second process focuses on enzymes or proteins that help break down that food. Finally, the third process involves acids, which dissolve what is left in your body into something that can comfortably pass through your intestines.

Gum passes through those three basic processes just like any other food. However, the big difference is that it doesn't get digested. Gum just isn't designed to be smoothly digested by your body like regular food because it contains either a natural or synthetic rubber base.

coffee, tea, chocolate, cream
Katherine Baker

Most likely, you've noticed that gum is unaffected by the constant crushing of your teeth. This means that when it does move through your digestive tract it moves in one giant wad instead of lots of little pieces.  

While the enzymes and acids in your stomach can break down carbs, oils, and proteins, they are no match for the rubber base in gum. Essentially, it doesn't dissolve and a part of your gum survives all the way through your digestive system despite attempts to break it down.


nick.amoscato on Flickr

But so do other things you eat, such as corn or sunflower seeds, which can make it all the way through your digestive system intact. Despite the fact that gum doesn't dissolve completely, it will still make its way out of you, just in one whole piece (if you catch my drift).

Experts still advise against swallowing gum, but for a different reason. Chewing gum has no nutritional value so there is no purpose to swallow it. Put it on the Pike Place Gum Wall instead. 

Happy chewing!