What happens if you swallow gum? Does it cause intestinal problems? –
Almost everyone has swallowed a piece of gum at some point. But very few people
ever have problems because of it.
Chewing gum is made up of the gum itself (called the gum base), preservatives,
flavorings, and sweeteners. The human body cannot digest the gum base. But swallowed
gum does not stay in the stomach or cause intestinal problems. That's because our
bodies move most materials that can't be digested (like gum) through the digestive
system and out of our bodies in a bowel movement (poop).
In rare cases, swallowing a large mass of gum, or many small pieces of gum over
a short period of time, can block the digestive
tract. Blockages are more likely to happen when gum is swallowed along with other
indigestible things (like sunflower seed shells).
Although people cannot digest the gum base, they can digest the things that have
been added to chewing gum, such as sweeteners or even medicines (think of the nicotine
gum used by people trying to quit smoking). The body absorbs these just through the
act of chewing. So that's one way chewing gum can affect a person's health: When someone
chews a lot of sugary gum, the calories can add up.