First things first: If you’ve just swallowed a stick of gum, don’t panic. While swallowing gum is certainly not recommended, it doesn’t take years to digest either (contrary to popular belief). In fact, research on chewing gum deems the habit to be essentially value-neutral. Chewing it can be a distraction or help to promote focus. It can fend off food cravings or create them. Gum has virtually no caloric impact, however, it isn’t made to be digested. While gum isn’t technically food, it’s consumed at a remarkable rate of about 100,000 tons per year.
But is it bad to swallow? Here’s everything you need to know about swallowing gum.
Is It Bad to Swallow Gum?
Simply put, swallowing gum isn’t good, but it isn’t really harmful either. A common myth is that gum will stay in your system (undigested) for up to seven years. Fortunately, like most folk wisdom, there’s no scientific evidence to support the claim. In fact, chewing gum typically makes its way through the digestive system (intact) in no more than a few days.
While swallowing gum is no reason to fret, it’s well worth looking at whether gum (either chewed or swallowed) has a negative impact on health. According to nutritionist Tiffany Lester, MD, “Chewing gum often contains sugar alcohols like xylitol, which can be disruptive to our intestinal lining. Common symptoms of sugar alcohols include excessive gas, belching, and even diarrhea. In addition, the process of constantly chewing activates our salivary glands and the digestive process. It tricks our body into thinking that we are about to eat, which can lead to excess food consumption and, eventually, obesity.”
It goes without saying that the effects of chewing gum may be exacerbated if gum is swallowed. This may be an especially noteworthy concern for those who already suffer from intestinal and digestive issues. As Jules Miller, founder of supplement innovator The a Co., notes, “I was a real gum addict in my early office days, particularly when I was stressed. I once went through four packets before a client pitch. I’m convinced that it contributed toward my big IBS flare-up. Giving it up completely (alongside avoiding sparkling water, processed foods, and adding probiotics to my diet) drastically improved my digestive system and left me IBS-free.”
If you’re a regular gum chewer, it may be valuable to promote your digestive health with a probiotic supplement. The good thing about these capsules? They’re actually made to be swallowed.
Now that you know about swallowing gum, find out if eating ice is bad for your health.