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What Happens When You Swallow Gum Accidentally?

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We've all been there: After accidentally swallowing some Dubble Bubble or Orbit, we find ourselves questioning what's become of the chewy delight. It certainly doesn't help that folklore predicts that swallowed gum stays in our stomachs for a whopping seven years. So what happens when you swallow gum? Does it really make a home in your tummy for years on end? Or does it pass through like regular food and drink? The good news is that in most cases of swallowed gum, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

What happens when you swallow gum?

Your body can't digest gum in the same way as it can digest food and beverages, but your digestive system can move it along through normal intestinal activity, according to KidsHealth from the Nemours Foundation. That means the swallowed gum skips the step of being broken down and instead simply moves through the digestive tract by the normal pushing actions of your gut. And as you can probably guess, the gum also leaves your body in the normal way — during a trip to the restroom.

How long does gum stay in your stomach?

The idea that gum stays in your stomach for seven years is definitely false, according to The Yale Scientific. Although gum does tend to move a bit more slowly through your digestive tract than food or drinks — especially because it remains so intact — it follows the same path down the stomach, into the intestines, and out of the body. Don't think it's setting up camp in the middle of your belly; it's highly unlikely that gum is staying in your body for more than seven days, much less seven years. Not such a "sticky" situation after all!

Is swallowing gum bad for you?

Even though chewing gum is not designed to be ingested, it usually isn't harmful to people if it is swallowed occasionally, according to gastroenterology consultant Michael F. Picco, MD, at the Mayo Clinic. However, it is worth noting that in rare cases, large amounts of swallowed gum combined with constipation have caused blocked intestines in children. So while the occasional swallowing of gum should be OK, frequent swallowing should not be encouraged — especially for young kids. 

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