Swallowed Chewing Gum Side Effects

Swallowed Chewing Gum Side Effects? What are the side effects of a swallowed chewing gum? Does it get stuck in your gut or does it get digested and eventually come out like other ordinary food? Does swallowed chewing gum expand and balloon in the stomach? And is there truth to reports that it takes seven years to digest a swallowed chewing gum?

Well, those of you who asked the above questions because you happen to swallow a chewing gum will be happy to know that a) it does not get stuck in your gut, b) it does not expand and balloon inside your tummy, and c) it does not take seven years for you to digest the gum.

More from Dr. Michael F. Picco of the Mayo Clinic:

Although chewing gum is designed to be chewed and not swallowed, it generally isn’t harmful if swallowed. Folklore suggests that swallowed gum sits in your stomach for seven years before it can be digested. But this isn’t true. If you swallow gum, it’s true that your body can’t digest it. But the gum doesn’t stay in your stomach. It moves relatively intact through your digestive system and is excreted in your stool.

Now just because swallowed chewing gum is generally harmless does not give you the license to keep swallowing ’em because this could really lead to a very serious health problem. Let us take for instance the three separate cases reported by the journal Pediatrics back in 1998 (via bbc.com):

One was a four-year-old boy who had been suffering from constipation for two years. He found it so hard to go to the toilet that his parents began offering chewing gum as an incentive to try. He ate between five and seven pieces a day and always swallowed them, rather than spitting them out. After four days of fibre supplements, oils and enemas had no effect, doctors sedated him and removed a “taffy-like” mass (referring to its similarity to chewy, toffee-like sweets from the US) from his rectum consisting chiefly of gum.

And here’s another case of too much swallowed chewing gum:

A 4¼-year-old girl was referred because of encopresis, constipation, and barium enema findings that showed megarectum. The early life, medical, and family histories were noncontributory. The physical examination revealed a palpable firm mass in the left lower quadrant, soiled undergarment, and firm stool in the rectal vault. Phosphosoda enema, fiber supplements, mineral oil, and behavior modification were ineffective. Manual disimpaction occurred 7 days later with conscious sedation. On this occasion, the fecal mass was unmistakably chewing gum, because it contained multiple spheres of chewed gum congealed into a multicolored rectal mass.

And, lastly:

The third child was just 18-months-old. Doctors found four coins stuck together with a “peculiar sticky wax-like substance” in her stomach. It turned out that she regularly ate chewing gum, and, it appears, small coins

So in conclusion, swallowed chewing gum is generally harmless but if you swallow too much of the gum, you will end up in trouble like the three kids above.

More about what happens to swallowed chewing gum in this video:

Sources for Swallowed Chewing Gum Side Effects:
The Mayo Clinic