What Happens When You Swallow Gum?

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Chewing gum is perhaps one of the best to-go snack items to help you refresh your mouth and taste something sweet. However, quite a few people swallow gum rather than simply chewing and throwing it off. Chewing gum is difficult to swallow in the first place as it can get stuck in the throat. However, some people do manage to get it down in their stomach. In certain cases, it could be hazardous to human health. Keep reading to find out more about the outcomes of swallowing gum.

What Happens When You Swallow Gum?

In simplest terms, swallowing a small piece of gum does not cause any medical issues to worry about [1]. Our body cannot digest gum but it will still pass through our digestive system and come out in the form of stool just like regular food does [1]. The main reason why gum is not digestible is that it has been made out of synthetic chicle and similar resilient substances such as tree resin which is entirely non-nutritive [2]. Chicle is a milky latex extracted from Mesoamerican trees and Sapodilla trees. It is used to make chewing gums.

However, this does not mean that swallowing gum is entirely safe. One needs to understand the fact that if you swallow gum in higher quantities, it can block your intestines which can create a major medical issue in the digestive system requiring surgery for removal [1].

People who swallow large amounts of gum will start to feel abdominal pain and in serious cases, it could even lead to abrupt psychological behavior due to blockage of the digestive system. It can also lead to constipation and other related digestive issues [2]. As large amounts of gum pass down the body, they stick to the intestinal walls making it impossible for food to pass through. Upon eating more food, the blockage gets worse causing severe pain and potentially harming the intestines as well [4].

A guy putting gum in his mouth

In addition to that, swallowing gum can sometimes also lead to blockage in the throat [4]. This is because some people are unable to swallow it properly. According to a few studies, this problem occurs more in children as compared to adults. The main reason is that they do not have large throats to swallow gum. In worst cases, children could even choke on swallowing gum [3]. For this reason, expert medical practitioners advise against the consumption of gum particularly in children [4].

Some people will just vomit out a swallowed piece of gum as the body cannot digest it. On a lighter aspect, swallowing gum in routine just adds up to the calories that you consume. As children tend to chew gum for prolonged periods, it can also cause them cavities and different types of teeth problems. Sugar-free gum is a good alternative but still not advisable for children.

How Many People Swallow Gum?

There are different numbers when it comes to swallowing gum. A segmentation Study by Gum Droppers showed that 55% of people agreed that they have swallowed gum at least once and had no issues with it [5]. The study also showed that for every 10 pieces of gum chewed, 0.71 are swallowed by an average American [5].

Fun Fact – An old food myth suggests that swallowed gum stays inside the stomach for 7 years before being digested. However, this is not true at all because gum cannot be digested by the human body.

What to Do If You Swallow Gum? 

In case it is a small piece of gum, just carry out your everyday work like it is. However, if you have swallowed larger quantities of gum, you need to instantly report to a hospital for quick action. The more you delay it, the more the problem will aggravate. Depending upon the medical condition you are facing, the doctor will advise you on a specific surgery to help you with it.

If you don’t visit the hospital after prolonged abdominal pain, it could result in rupturing of the gastrointestinal tract, as advised by dietitian Beth Czerwony [2]. This can further lead to a series of medical issues in your body [2].

Keep in mind that in the case of choking, you should be taking immediate steps to help the affected person. One of the most important things is to do the “abdominal thrust” which requires you to stand behind the person and hold him by his stomach while you give him a hard jerk ahead. Rub their back and give back blows as well. Check out the following picture for reference.

A woman choking with a man giving her an abdominal thrust

Tips to Avoid Children Swallowing Gum

Swallowing gum is a major problem in children but not in adults. There are certain tips to follow to ensure your children don’t swallow gum.

  • Ask them every now and then to throw off the gum they have been chewing. Teach them to not chew one gum for over 15 minutes.
  • Keep a special eye out on children when they are going to sleep. Ask them especially at night time if they are having any chewing gum or candy in their mouth. A good habit that can help with this is to ask the children to brush regularly before they sleep.

Conclusion

We can simply conclude that swallowing gum is not healthy in any way and can cause numerous health hazards as well. Although it does not cause any problems in smaller quantities, studies have shown numerous potential hazards of swallowing gum directly, as highlighted above. Therefore, one should always avoid swallowing gum for a better and healthy life.

References

  1. Healthline, 2020. Swallowed gum: What happens if you swallow gum? Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/swallowed-gum [Accessed September 2, 2022].
  2. Cleveland Clinic, 2022. What really happens when you swallow gum. Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-when-you-swallow-gum/ [Accessed September 2, 2022].
  3. Mayo Clinic, 2020. Swallowing gum: Is it harmful? Mayo Clinic. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/digestive-system/expert-answers/faq-20058446 [Accessed September 2, 2022].
  4. Verywell Health, 2022. The worst that can happen when you swallow gum. Verywell Health. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-happens-if-you-swallow-gum-4153985 [Accessed September 2, 2022].
  5. Gum Droppers Segmentation Study, Gum droppers segmentation study – stage 3 quantitative debrief – IHS, Inc. Available at: https://products.ihs.com/Ohsis-SEO/727048.html [Accessed September 2, 2022].

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