Does gum really take seven years to digest?

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Short answer: No

Maybe you couldn’t find a nearby trashcan, or perhaps you were enjoying the taste just a little too much. Whatever the case, you did what most of us have done at one point or another: You swallowed your chewing gum. And if one old wives’ tale is true, that gum will be with you, in your digestive system, for the next seven years, wreaking who knows what kind of havoc.

Thankfully the legend is false.

As gastroenterologist Dr. Rodger Liddle of the Duke University School of Medicine explained to Scientific American: “Nothing would reside that long unless it was so large it couldn’t get out of the stomach or it was trapped in the intestine.”

Chewing gum passes through the digestive system like any other food. Your body is able to break down some of the gum’s components, such as sweeteners and oil derivatives, but the gum’s rubber or latex base gets churned out in a matter of days.

However, this doesn’t mean you should start swallowing your chewing gum regularly — in several reported cases, doctors had to remove taffylike wads of gum from children’s bowels. Swallowing a lot of chewing gum in a relatively short amount of time, it seems, can cause the pieces to accumulate and stuff up the digestive tract, causing constipation.

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