You heard the tale when you were a kid. No, not “you were the worse mistake I ever made,” but rather that it would take seven years to digest gum you swallowed. But is it true? Well, no. But it can be rather bad.
The first step of digestion is your saliva. I’m sure you’ve noticed anytime you’ve eaten anything it becomes softer as soon as you start chewing it. That’s because your saliva is already starting to break it down. Imagine how painful it would be to swallow something like a hard pretzel if you didn’t soften it up first. But gum can’t break down like that, other wise you wouldn’t be able to keep chewing it. Of course if you’ve ever tried chewing that piece of gum that came with baseball cards in the 80s you’ve probably still got the scars inside your cheeks from trying to chew that. It’s how the Joker really got those scars, big baseball fan in the 70s. He opened a lot of packs of Upper Deck to try and find that Carl Yasztremski with the big sideburns.
If you accidentally swallow a piece of gum don’t fret too much. Your stomach is good at getting rid of things that don’t belong there (unless you are Rod Stewart at a gay bar full of sailors). Sooner or later your body will push it out. In a lot less than seven years too.
But don’t just start swallowing tons of gum though. If you keep doing it, that’s when you get in trouble.
A 1988 story from Pediatrics Magazine is full of horror stories of kids that tried to digest too much gum. One involves a four year old who swallowed five plus pieces of gum a day for over two years. He finally wound up in a hospital, where he had to have a “large taffy like substance” surgically removed from his body.
Another story involves a 1 and half year old who also had a gum swallowing habit. To make things more interesting she decided to chase the gum with a couple of coins one day. Gum plus coins resulted in a horrible blockage. The hospital had to use a special “Coin-in-body retrieval system”. I don’t know what that is, but I’d like to picture a giant magnet.
In my opinion if you kid barely has any teeth, they probably shouldn’t be chewing gum. In one case a child would purposely swallow gum and say it was an accident so her parents would giver her another piece.
So, the moral of the story. Don’t things you aren’t suppose too and don’t expect kids to be not be stupid.