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In The Family
Does Chewing Gum Really Stay in Your Stomach For Years?

Your parents had this a little off, but they had the right idea.

“If you swallow chewing gum, it’ll stay in your stomach for seven years,” our parents told us. “It’ll clog up your digestion!” That last part has some truth to it; there have been cases of young children getting blocked bowels from swallowing entirely too much gum. But even then, the blockage is in their intestines, not their stomach.

Chewing gum—which these days is a synthetic rubber with thermal properties similar to natural latex sap—can’t be digested by our stomach acids and enzymes. But it doesn’t stick around in our guts, either. Like insoluble fiber, gum passes through your digestive system in a day or two. Swallowing it isn’t harmful; it’s just not entirely pleasant either.

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Max Falkowitz

Max Falkowitz is a food and travel writer for The New York Times, Saveur, GQ, New York magazine’s Grub Street, and other outlets. He’s also the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook with Helen You.