Science, Nature and Tech

Does Chewing Gum Stay in Your Body for 7 Years?

We continue our #FactOrFable series, and ask the question… Does chewing gum stay in your body for 7 years?

It seems that humans have been chewing indigestible substances for a long time, with evidence discovered that people did this as far back as the Mesolithic period (roughly 11,000 to 5,000 years ago). The belief that swallowed gum will remain in your body for 7 years probably hasn’t been around for that long but it’s certainly an enduring story.

It probably arises from the fact that chewing gum is largely indigestible, which means that your body can’t break it down. Originally made from tree sap, these days synthetic substances are generally used to make gum, with each manufacturer having their own recipe. Some kinds of gum are even derived from butyl rubber, the material that tyre inner tubes are made from! Sweeteners and flavourings are added and it’s these which can easily be digested, leaving behind the indigestible gum.

As with everything else edible that the body can’t make use of, the gum will make its way down the digestive tract and be expelled. Although a large quantity of gum might get stuck, this would cause problems far sooner than 7 years. In fact there have been several cases where children regularly swallowed a lot of chewing gum and had to have surgery to remove it from their bodies. But swallowing the occasional piece won’t do any harm, and it certainly won’t stay in your body for more than a few days!

 

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By the way, did you know that chewing gum isn’t biodegradable … this means that it is a major litter problem because it’s impossible to get rid of!

It is also dangerous to animals and birds – not only when swallowed. This video shows why you should always dispose of chewing gum safely, by wrapping in paper and throwing in the bin.

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Sam

Sam has worked as a forensic scientist as well as for the British government, and has degrees in both archaeology and osteoarchaeology. She has 2 children, is passionate about science, reading, history and music, and loves dyeing her hair bright colours!

Sam blogs about all kinds of science at www.samanthagouldson.com.
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