www.whyville.net Mar 10, 2013 Weekly Issue

Senior Times Writer

Gum: The Not So Long Life

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I'm sure you've been nagged by parents and other adult figures on the atrocious outcomes of swallowing gum. The warning may have been accompanied by gruesome tales of stomach-pumping or constipation, as certain outcomes, in some cases. Can a sweet-tasting, chewy delight, cause such damage on the body?

Our digestive system has a remarkable efficiency. And it has the capability of absorbing/excreting what we consume in a matter of hours, and days at most. The zenith of "days" certainly cannot be compared to the time span of "seven years".

Gum has four basic components: flavorings, sweeteners, softeners, and the gum resin. The first three components are hardly a match for our digestive system, while the resin is a tad tricky. This base is made up of lab-made chemicals that give gum it's chewy texture, and it was built with the intention of resisting saliva.

If you did manage to swallow the gum, intentionally or not, it goes through the digestive tract just as any other food particle would. However, the difference between gum and another food, is that the gum will end up having to come out as a bowel movement, since it contains no nutrients to be absorbed. Thus ruining any probable idea that it could remain inside your stomach.

This is not to say that swallowing gum has no risk of damage. Just like with many other aspects in life, too much is a bad thing. If you happen to swallow a large wad of gum, or consistently swallow small piece in little bouts of time, you are increasing the chance of blockage in your digestive tract. This blocking becomes even more of a possibility when you've swallowed gum prior/after swallowing an un-edible object. This has been shown in cases where a child ate sunflower seeds and they embedded themselves into the wad of gum, blocking the GI tract.

Personally, what I found to be more frightening then the myth itself was that some pediatricians and gastroenterologists (doctors who specialize in the intestines and stomach) went along with it at the time it became popular, and even promoted it! Instead of emphasizing gruesome encounters of swallowing gum, we should instead educate children on why it's important to chew gum. I would've appreciated my parents telling me that swallowing gum would block my way of eating a LOT more than it growing itself into a tree and entangling all my organs.

Author's Note: Sources: http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/gum-seven-years.htm


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