The Myth behind Swallowing Gum

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A lot of people believe that if a piece of gum is swallowed, it will remain in the digestive system for seven years! I myself believed this to be true until I did some research on it recently. I always thought that seven years was a really long time, but I figured gum was just made of something that takes a really long time to digest. However, ediatric gastroenterologist David Milov said if the myth were true, "that would mean that every single person who ever swallowed gum within the last seven years would have evidence of the gum in the digestive tract, but colonoscopies and capsule endoscopy procedures turn up no such evidence. " This demonstrates one of the principles of scientific thinking-falsifiability. In this case, there is a myth and science clearly proves that it is a myth.

Most myths do usually contain some truth though. In this case, it is true that gum is made of highly indigestible materials. The Food and Drug Administration says gum "may be composed of any number of natural or synthetic elastomers, or rubberlike materials, as well as plasticizing softeners, resins and preservative antioxidizing agents." Milov says that gum "is pretty immune to the digestive process..." So, if that is the case, where does the gum go if it does not stay in the stomach? Well the gum usually takes longer to go through the digestive system than most food, but it will eventually make the whole journey, as Milov outs it "... eventually the normal housekeeping waves in the digestive tract will sort of push it through, and it will come out pretty unmolested." Perhaps one benefit of the myth is that it discourages people from swallowing gum, because although it does not stay in you're the digestive system for seven years, it can have negative consequences, especially if it is done often.


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This page contains a single entry by weixx252 published on October 9, 2011 6:45 PM.

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