I’m a gastroenterologist – this is why you shouldn’t swallow chewing gum

  • Gastroenterologist Dr Sara Mesilhy says swallowed chewing can form a mass
  • It can block your digestive tract and cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain 

Many people will have grown up being told to never swallow chewing gum for fear of it sitting in your stomach for seven years.

But while this is a ‘common myth’, the warning against swallowing gum should be heeded, an expert has claimed.

Gastroenterologist Dr Sara Mesilhy says your gut cannot digest chewing gum due to its main ingredient, gum base, being made of synthetic rubber. 

She says it travels through your body intact and can cause a blockage in your digestive system, resulting in nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Gum base is what gives chewing gum its ‘chew’, according to the International Chewing Gum Association (ICGA). 

It is made up of a combination of waxes, softeners and non-toxic and safe-to-consume polymers (string of molecules). 

‘The gum base is made up of synthetic rubber, which is not digested by the human body. Instead, the gum base travels through the digestive system intact,’ Dr Mesilhy said. 

She claims that because the stomach is not designed to break down the gum base, it can take longer for the gum to be processed.

‘The idea that gum stays in your body for years is a common myth,’ she added. 

‘In reality, the chewing gum will eventually pass out of your system like any other food, but it might take a bit longer.’

But she warns that ‘gulping down’ large amounts of gum, or several small bits in a short time period, can form a mass which blocks your digestive tract.

Your digestive tract is the organs that food and liquids travel through when they are swallowed, digested and absorbed, before they leave the body as faeces. 

This blockage can disrupt this process and cause uncomfortable digestive problems.

However this is rare.

Dr Mesilhy claims gum can also be a choking hazard and cause ‘serious respiratory issues’ if accidentally inhaled.

But the ICGA says swallowing gum presents no greater risk than any other food. 


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