What Really Happens When You Swallow Chewing Gum

If you've ever accidentally swallowed a piece of chewing gum, you may have been told that it could take seven years to digest — but this is simply not true. While gum is indigestible, it will not stay in your stomach for years at a time. Instead, it will pass through your digestive system around 40 hours later (via Healthline).

"In all the upper endoscopies I have done in both children and adults, I have yet to see a wad of gum lying around in the stomach," gastroenterologist Dr. Nancy McGreal told Duke Health.

Made out of gum base, chewing gum cannot be broken down by the acids in your stomach. This means that even though it will pass through your intestines, it will not be digested like the rest of the food that you eat. In other words, a swallowed piece of gum will remain mostly intact when it passes through your gastrointestinal tract.

Is it safe to swallow gum?

Although it is not recommended, it is not harmful to swallow a piece of gum every now and then. However, repeatedly swallowing gum in a short period of time could lead to a digestive obstruction (via The Healthy). Swallowing other indigestible items, alongside gum, will only increase the chances that a blockage will form. In most cases, digestive blockages will cause vomiting, constipation, and stomach pain.

A study published in Pediatrics found that three children developed either an intestinal or esophageal obstruction after swallowing five to seven pieces of gum every day. The best way to avoid this from happening is to simply not swallow any gum at all. If you're worried about your children, it might be a good idea to avoid giving them gum altogether, or at least until they're old enough to understand the consequences of swallowing too much gum in a short period of time.