Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mythos: Swallowing Gum

I bet everyone reading this has heard that age-old adage: “Don’t swallow your gum! It will stay in your _______ (select: stomach/digestive tract/system/body) for seven years!” Maybe it was when a teacher walked by and you had to swallow it for fear of repercussion or maybe it was that time when you were dared to swallow it by a myth-believing friend—in any case, the statement is entirely false. Here’s why…

Normally, food takes anywhere from 4-12 hours to be digested (this is referring to stomach and small intestine only…large intestine can take up to 72 hours extra). The big gap in time is because of the content of the food and how long that takes to digest. Overall, food spends a surprisingly long time inside of you (don’t try and find the food you ate at dinner in your stool later…I beg you…it’s uncalled for and nasty—if it’s brown, flush it down!). The rubbery part of gum can’t be digested, but that doesn’t mean that it can't pass through you’re digestive system. It’ll eventually find its way out. Dr. Milov, a pediatric gastroenterologist (digestive system doctor) from the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Orlando, Florida, says that he has found gum inside kids that might be about a week or so old more or less. Rest assured, though, that it won’t be in there for seven years. You still shouldn’t swallow it, as it has no nutritive value.

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