Will You Regret Swallowing That Chewing Gum?

Old Wives' Tale: Gum will take 7 years to digest

"Don't swallow your chewing gum because it'll take seven years to digest!"

Everyone heard it at least once as a kid, yet no one seems to know exactly where, when, or how the rumor started in the first place. What is certain, though, is that the tale has been around for several generations and shows no signs of fading away anytime soon.

Digesting Chewing Gum

As you probably already know, the human digestive system is specifically designed to break down, utilize, and/or dispose of pretty much anything we can manage to chew up and subsequently swallow. Chewing gum is made up of just a few different ingredients, all but one of which your stomach acids and enzymes will process without a second thought. The lone holdout component, the gum base, is what makes chewing gum…well, chewy. Yes, technically it's not "digestible," as it won't break down entirely, but your body will soon identify it as nutritionally useless and expel it as it would any other digestive byproduct.

How bad is swallowing gum?

For the record, any problems associated with swallowing chewing gum are generally caused by - what else - overindulgence. A few cases of chewing gum fouling up the plumbing have indeed been documented in children, but again, it was because they swallowed so much of it over a period of years - not solely because of swallowing gum in the first place.

So, regardless of its origins, like many urban legends there is a speck of truth behind the saying, but not quite enough to make it an actual fact.