Remember what your mom told you about swallowing chewing gum?
The human body can do some incredible things, but unfortunately, sometimes its abilities are undermined. A perfect example of this is the age-old myth that if you swallow chewing gum it’ll stay in your body for seven years. “This is about as scientifically true as swallowing watermelon seeds will make you grow a watermelon in your stomach,” says Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics.
While it’s not true that chewing gum will stay in your body for seven years, it is true that the synthetic portion of it isn’t digestible. But that doesn’t mean that the synthetic portions are just going to sit around for years—gum rarely stays in your body for more than a week. This is because the stomach periodically empties its contents into the small intestine, so if you swallowed gum it would then move to the colon, and finally pass in the stool, according to u.osu.edu. (Check out these surprising things your farts can reveal about your health.)
With that being said, “Some components of gum, such as sweeteners, are actually digested,” writes Fabian Ortega for yalescientific.org. However, frequently swallowing wads of chewing gum won’t do your body any favours.
“Repeatedly swallowing gum can lead to a bezoar, a small mass of indigestible material that can potentially lead to a bowel obstruction,” says Edwin McDonald, a gastroenterologist at the University of Chicago and Associate Director of Adult Nutrition.
So can you occasionally swallow chewing gum and be OK? Yes. Should you? Probably not. “It would be wise to avoid making this a habit,” Ortega writes for yalescientific.org. “In order to avoid a potentially sticky situation, it is good practice to spit out your chewing gum.”
Now that you know what really happens after you swallow chewing gum, here are some other myths about food that have officially been busted.
Strange but true: Check out these 9 Surprising Health Benefits of Chewing Gum!
Originally published as This Is What Really Happens When You Swallow Chewing Gum on ReadersDigest.com.