Wednesday, May 26, 2010

7 years to digest a piece of gum?

When we were children, our parents used to warn us not to swallow our gum. Why? Because they insisted it would stay in your system for 7 years because gum is indigestible. We all believed this, and tried our best to follow this warning, for fear of swallowing something that could not be digested! It turns out there is actually no medical evidence to back up this famous rumor, and that most people are misinterpreting the meaning of the term “indigestible.”

Although gum can’t technically be digested, that doesn’t mean it cannot pass through the digestive system like everything else a person swallows. Since gum can be made up of any number of natural or synthetic elastomers (rubber-like materials), it is essentially “immune to the digestive process,” and the body is not able to do much with the rubbery substance (except maybe break down some of the sugars). It passes through the body like everything else, but simply stays in the form that it came down in (it’s a little bit gross but it’s the truth)! It may take a little longer than other foods, but eventually the natural digestive process takes care of it.

The origin of the folklore is unknown, even despite extensive research to find its beginning. What is astounding is that although the origin of this rumor is unknown, it is still universally recognized; perhaps most people don’t feel the need to know the sources of such entertaining ideas. It seems to me that it is human nature to embrace ideas that bring a sense of mystery, much like the 7 years theory does. Where does the gum go? Does it get stuck? Can it be a potential health hazard? It becomes a mystery in itself, and I think people are really attracted to that. People have chewed gum for centuries (going all the way back to chewing on the resin of trees!) and the 7 years theory has most definitely survived a long road of speculation.



  1. It may not be true but the rumor probably keeps alot of children from swallowing their gum for fear of it staying there forever. Or it could do the opposite and children will think it is "cool" to have gum stay in your stomach.

  2. I remember getting yelled at by my teacher when after being asked if I was chewing gum I swallowed it. I was in 4th grade and ever since then ill never take that chance just because one I got yelled at and two because I still don't want to take that chance either! I do think its probably best though that we still don't swallow gum anyway, maybe this rumor should remain to scare children a little?