As the name implies, chewing gum was meant to be, well, chewed. But people forgo that simple instruction since its frowned upon in formal settings, choosing to swallow their gum instead.
It may be worth being labelled rude, however, as the trade-off of swallowing gum isn’t worth it in regards to health.
We all know the urban myth of gum sticking to your stomach or intestines for years when swallowed, though Alaska-based family medicine physician Dr. John Cullen confirms it’s nothing more than a fable.
You don’t truly digest the gym however – it will come out eventually, naturally, and virtually intact via bowel movements.
Seeing gum stuck in an adult is rare, though for small kids who swallow gum regularly, it can lead to an amalgamation resulting in a bezoar – a mass of gum that can get stuck in the intestines and rectum. And the only way to get it out is – you guessed it – going to the doctor and getting it removed. Manually.
“The only way that chewing gum could stay for seven years [as the myth goes] is if there was a vast amount of it, and even then symptoms such as constipation would mean it’s probably discovered soon,” reports the BBC.
Pediatrics have been publishing reports of gum-swallowing cases since as early as 1998.
“Two patients, each toddlers, received gum on a daily basis and their means of discarding the gum (swallowing) was well known to the families and was a source of levity,” one study’s authors wrote at the time.
“Each child presented with intractable, medically refractory constipation that required manual stool removal. Interestingly, the disimpaction procedure is characteristically a ‘taffy-pull.'”
Swallowing the odd piece of gum isn’t terrible, but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t become a habit.
“The problems that people get into with gum are exceedingly rare but it is important especially for small kids to spit the gum out, to understand that they have to do that,” Cullen says.
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