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What happens when one swallows gum?

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Almost everyone swallowed chewing gum, but few children needed a doctor because of it. You may have heard that swallowed gum stays in your stomach for 7 years. Not true.

Although your stomach can’t break down chewing gum the same way it breaks down other foods, your digestive system can move it through normal bowel movements. In other words, it comes out the other side when you have a toilet (poo).

When is swallowing gum a problem?
Swallowing too much gum, or too many small pieces of gum in a short period of time, can block the digestive tract in rare cases. Clogging is more likely when the gums are swallowed by foreign objects, such as coins, or when they are swallowed by indigestible objects such as sunflower seeds.

Small children are more likely to be affected, as they cannot understand that gum is chewed, not swallowed.

But aside from these strange occurrences, swallowing a piece of gum once in a while is harmless.

What exactly happens to the gum?
Chewing gum is made of natural or synthetic materials (resin gum), preservatives, flavors and sweeteners. The body can absorb sweeteners, like sugar, and you can add a lot of calories if you chew a lot of sugary gum.

But the human digestive tract cannot digest gum resin. It is moved through the digestive tract by the normal pumping (peristaltic) actions of the intestine. A trip to the gum ends with a trip to the bathroom.

Are some children too young to chew gum?
Children should not chew gum until they understand the importance of not swallowing it. By the age of 5, most children will understand that gum is different from candy and should not be swallowed.

So if you have younger siblings, don’t give them gum until they are older and your mom or dad tells you it’s okay.

Should children chew gum?
Too much of anything can be a problem. Chewing gum is hard on the teeth, and too much sugar-free gum can cause cavities. Sugar-free gum sweetened with sorbitol can also be problematic because it can cause diarrhea. All kinds of cinnamon-flavored gummies can irritate the oral mucosa. They can be hot and spicy in the mouth, as you know.

A good rule of gum would be to stick to sugar-free gum and take no more than one or two a day. And when you’re done, don’t swallow. Throw it away instead!

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