This is what really happens to your body when you swallow gum

This is what really happens to your body when you swallow gum

"Don't go out in just a jacket, you'll catch a cold!"

"Eat your breakfast, it makes you big and strong!"

"Don't eat that pasta, it's been out for three days!"

For most of my childhood, my ears were filled and often ringing with my mother's admonitions. I was not a very obedient child (I'm still a very difficult adult), and looking back, I very likely drove that poor woman insane. But I'm sure your own childhoods are filled with similar warnings based on our mothers' old wives tales, and one thing we're always told about is how to properly dispose of gum.

When you're a child and you first get to sample chewing gum, the likelihood is that you swallowed it - that's what you did with all the stuff you put into your mouth before, why would it be anything different this time around? But when I did so, my mother told me off, saying that gum would stay in my system for seven years, and that "strange things" might happen to me were I to swallow gum again. I didn't.

For most of that week, I barely slept.

But with the hindsight and moderate emotional scarring that comes part and parcel with becoming an adult, you might begin to question the idea that gum, so harmless in your mouth, was so harmful when it made its way to the next stage of its digestive journey. There must have been many scientists similarly broken by their early gum experiences, because we have quite a few studies that go into what happens when you swallow gum.

First off, let's try to make sense of the rumour that gum would stay in your body for seven years, ostensibly clogging up your digestive pipes and making your insides all gummy. Although that's obviously untrue, the BBC does say that gum isn't digestible by our body - not by the enzymes in our saliva, not by the acids and enzymes in our stomachs.

Luckily, our very clever digestive system ensures that gum doesn't hang around for every long in its indigestible state; instead, it just pushes it out whole along with the rest of your faeces, meaning it's about as safe to eat as a small coin - there's no nutritional value in it, sure, but it won't stick around long enough to do any kind of lasting damage. Usually.

That being said, there are some ways that swallowing gum could leave you in significantly worse shape. It could get stuck in your digestive tract, leaving parts of you blocked. Keep in mind, it usually takes a lot of gum to do that, but my childhood self was dumb enough to try and finish an entire pack of gum in one giant glob of choking hazard, so don't rule it out.

So long story short; when it comes to swallowing gum and the perils it causes, you're better off going with science than your mother's admonitions. But she's totally right on the eating the moldy pasta thing. Seriously, don't find that out the hard way.