How Long Does It Take To Digest Gum (And Why)?

Exact Answer: Maximum Seven Days

The human body has all the necessary organs for daily function. One of the most imminent functions is Digestion. Almost everything that humans eat is digestible. However, there are still exceptions to that.

One thing that is considered to be extremely difficult to digest is gum. Chewing gum as the name suggests is for chewing and not for swallowing. However, there can be cases when an individual can swallow chewing gum by mistake. In that case, it will take several days to be flushed out of the human system.

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How Long Does It Take To Digest Gum?

Gum or chewing gum cannot be digested. But that does not mean that it will stay in the body forever. There are many myths concerning that chewing gum can take years to be digested. However, the fact remains that even when the gum is not digestible, it will still be moved out of the human body via bowel movement in a few days.

The main ingredient in the making of the gum is the “gum base.” The gum base is rubbery in texture. It is because it is derived from the latex sap of the sapodilla tree. Since it is made from latex, it will not be digested in the human body like other edible items. Several things are added to the latex sap, like sweeteners or flavors. It is to improve the taste and texture of the gum. 

Once the gum is swallowed, the body’s digestive system will break down the added things and digest them. The remaining part that is the latex gum is slowly moved out of the digestive system and out of the body forever through excretion. The process through which the swallowed gum will be flushed out of the body takes a maximum of seven days on average.

However, the time taken to excrete out the gum can increase if the quantity of the swallowed gum is more. Besides taking more time, it can cause other health problems related to the intestines.

Quantity of gum swallowedThe time it takes to flush out gum
Small quantityFive to seven days
Huge quantityTen to twelve days

Why Does It Take So Long To Digest Gum?

To digest anything, the process begins in the mouth itself. In the mouth, the food is first chewed up and reaches the small intestine where the food particles break down when they get in contact with acids in the stomach and small intestine. 

When it comes to gum, other ingredients like the flavors and sweeteners get broken down by the acids and then digested. However, the laxative gum is not digestible even with the acids. Thus, it moves through the intestines, and in a few days, it is completely flushed out of the body.

Besides this, there are other reasons also behind the time it takes for the gum to get out of the body, and they are as follow:

  • The main reason for the time frame is the quantity of gum that is consumed. If the quantity is small, the chances are that it will pass through the body in about a maximum of seven days. However, if the quantity of gum that is consumed and swallowed is more, then it will take considerably more time for it to be flushed out of the body.
  • Some gums in the market are made from different soluble materials that can be semi-digestible. Semi-digestible gum can get digested faster than gum that consists of laxative gum as a base. 

Conclusion

Gum is not digestible, and hence people usually don’t swallow it. Swallowing it once or twice will not lead to problems. However, if the gum is swallowed more often, then it can cause blockages in the intestine that will lead to problems in the long term. The issues can become severe if no medical help is taken. It can also lead to death in some cases if the symptoms are neglected.

The problems mostly happen in small children that tend to swallow chewing gum. Also, since their digestive system is weak, it can lead to major digestive problems that can sometimes be fatal too. 

References

  1. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF01072704.pdf
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0090429510008976
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