Is the myth you heard about gum staying in your stomach for seven years real?
You probably grew up believing things that just aren’t true. Like, if you swallowed a watermelon seed you’d grow a watermelon in your belly. Or if you swam after eating you’d drown. Or if you swallowed gum, it would stay in your stomach for seven years.
Now as an adult, you can probably attest to a watermelon never growing inside of you and never drowning in a pool after a few slices of pizza for lunch. But what about gum? That one is less obvious. For all you know, you could have dozens of pieces of gum in your tummy.
The American Chemical Society has released a step-by-step video that shows what actually happens when you swallow a piece of gum. The age-old question about whether gum from so long ago could still be clinging on to your intestines in finally answered.
To make sure everyone understands the basics, the video goes over the normal digestion of food, which is broken down into three basic parts.
First there’s mechanical processing, where your tongue and teeth work together to break down the food into tiny bits before your stomach and intestinal muscles churn it up.
Second, enzymes found in your saliva, stomach juices and intestines “kick chemical reactions into high gear” to break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins into nutrients your body can use.
The third is gastric acid — a combination of hydrochloric acid and salts which dissolves chewed food into a slurry so your intestines can handle it. Everything that’s left gets flushed (down the toilet).
Gum is so resistant to being broken down in your digestive system because it’s made up of butyl rubber — the stuff that prevents gum from falling apart in your mouth. The gum is resistant to your enzymes and acids in your stomach.
While gum doesn’t get completely broken down in your stomach, your body will eliminate whatever it can’t absorb a few days after the gum is swallowed. The same goes for other foods like apples, milk, sweetcorn, pasta and grains. Because bodies are magic.
So is there still gum floating around your insides from the playground circa 1994? No. But possibly circa two days ago.
And no, you won’t grow a gum bush in your stomach either.