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What Really Happens When You Swallow Gum, According to a Doctor

Most people have been fed a raft of urban legends about all the bad things that happen when you swallow gum. I should have a chewing gum tree the size of a sequoia inside of me by now, according to such stories.
11/05/2015 11:56am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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Credit: Shuttershock

Most people have been fed a raft of urban legends about all the bad things that happen when you swallow gum. I should have a chewing gum tree the size of a sequoia inside of me by now, according to such stories.

To finally get to the bottom of some of the myths about what happens when your gum winds up going all the way down your piehole, we enlisted the help of Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, a gastroenterologist and clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. She graciously tolerated -- and even dispelled! -- all of our misconceptions about gum.

Myth: Gum cannot be digested
Truth: "It's hard to to say, because everything is different based on its chemical makeup. And every body is obviously different. The more processed things are, the more difficult it is to digest. The less natural, the longer it takes to digest."

Myth: Sugarless gum is harder on your digestive system
Truth: "No, it doesn't really make a difference from that standpoint. Gum in general is not a natural form. When exactly it gets digested is hard to say, because I don't think anyone has taken a deep look to see the pieces of gum in your stool."

Myth: Gum stays in your stomach for seven years
Truth: "It's a good urban myth type of thing, seven years is always a good number to pick up, I guess. But no, it's not a static number. If you swallowed a piece of gum when you were 7, it's not still going to be stuck in there somewhere."

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Credit: Shuttershock

Myth: A chewing gum tree will absolutely grow inside of you
Truth: [Laughter, followed by more laughter] (We took that as a hard no.)

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