This Is What Really Happens to Your Body When You Swallow Gum

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You’ve probably heard the age-old story that if you swallow bubble gum, it’ll be stuck in your stomach for up to seven years. (And if that wasn’t enough to scare you into spitting it into the trash can every time, then we’re not sure what else would.) But what is the real science behind swallowing chewing gum once the flavor runs out?

Here’s what we know thanks to a new video from Reactions, a chemistry-focused YouTube channel: Gum is made from a rubber base, which is made from polymers. More specifically, chewing gum is made from butyl rubber and also contains carbs, oils, and alcohols — all of which enzymes in your saliva can start to break down. However, there is no enzyme to break down the rubber polymers in gum. That means when you swallow a wad of gum, it’s not getting broken down by your chewing or your swallowing; it will stay together in one lump as it travels to your stomach.

Here’s where the old wives’ tale started: Your stomach acids also can’t break down the rubber that gum is made from. But the story falls apart after that, because there’s still no way it stays in your stomach for years and years. Remember that we eat other foods our bodies can only partly break down (like corn) without having an issue passing them through our digestive tracks. The same story applies to that wad of gum you decided to swallow instead of spit out. Instead of taking years to digest, it’ll only take a day or two.

Source: Delish