Swallowing gum clogs -- Urban Legend?

By acidosmosis
Jul 7, 2004
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  1. I dont normally chew gum, but I was chewing on a pack today and I was thinking about how ever since I can remember when I was young I've swallowed probably almost all of the gum I ever chewed.

    Once I heard about a case where a doctor looked at a patient and a large lump of gum collected in his stomach. Sounds like rubbish, but is it?

    I'm just curious if anyone knows for sure. Just one of those brain farts I was wondering about :p.

    I've looked at several webpages out of boredom on this subject and some say it is an urban legend, or a myth... and others give accounts of "real life" doctor visits.

  2. MYOB

    MYOB TS Rookie Posts: 492

    Urban myth, perpetuated by parents who don't want their kids to eat chewing gum.
  3. StormBringer

    StormBringer TS Rookie Posts: 2,244

    I remember doing an experiment in biology class in HS using some chewed gum and some "stomach acids" the acids were a combination of hydrochloric and some other things found in the stomach, it took a little less than two weeks for the acids to break down the gum, which is far less than the myths I've heard, which is around seven years. I'm sure the accuracy of our experiment was probably a little off, since our acid was likely a little stronger or weaker than actuall stomach acids, but still...

    I would also think that it would be likely that the gum would pass through the bowels if it took more than a day to break down, just like other things that the system can't break down such as; large seeds, bones, coins, etc... Our experiment didn't account for this, since it was just sitting in a beaker.
  4. acidosmosis

    acidosmosis TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 1,350

    I've heard (in movies at least) that stomach acid is powerful enough to eat through skin pretty quickly. I don't know if that is true or not. If you've seen the movie "Inner Space" with Martin whateverislastnameis (comedian) a few guys are shrunk and end up inside his body and navigate by a miniturized "submarine" type vessel and one ends up getting out and the stomach acid eats him to the bone.

    Hehe.. always made me wonder if stomach acid was that potent.
  5. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,573   +65

    It's pretty strong, but I doubt it is going to eat flesh away on contact. I mean... It's in your stomach 24x7. ;)

    Of course,your body maintains a thick layer of mucus which protects the lining of the stomach, but that's only going to do so well. :)
  6. acidosmosis

    acidosmosis TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 1,350

    Well from what I have heard, the stomach is a lot more protected inside than you think. If a hole were to form in your stomach causing a leak, you would be in deep trouble and you most likely would not live because your insides would be burned severely and/or eaten away by stomach acid.
  7. Nodsu

    Nodsu TS Rookie Posts: 5,837   +6

  8. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,573   +65

    For those of you too lazy to read the link:
  9. ---agissi---

    ---agissi--- TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,977   +15

    Acid about stomach acid, :)D), its very powerful stuff, hence when you throw up, your throat is burned. You can feel it for quite awhile. It eats through some of the lining in your throat :)

    Also, for those cool chicks that decide to throw up after they eat every meal, it starts to eat away their teeth, and they can go green and start to decay very very rapidly.

    But I've thrown up just stomach acid alone before, and toutching it didnt eat through my skin.
  10. BrownPaper

    BrownPaper TS Rookie Posts: 407

    Your stomach continues to create new cells all the time. A lot faster than other types of cells because they die pretty fast (stomach acid). At least this is what my Biology professor said.
  11. SornyPanafonic

    SornyPanafonic TS Rookie Posts: 129

    yeah stomach acid is some strong stuff, thats why our stomachs are coated (i forgot with what) so the acid doesnt eat through and kill us. as for the gum, i doubt it, i used to swallow my gum too just cuz i thought it as food and never felt the need to throw it away (unlike now). maybe the kid ate an incredible amount of gum that slowed down the breaking down process in his stomach.
  12. smtkr

    smtkr TS Rookie Posts: 131

    My brother swallowed a balloon when he was a baby. It came out a few days later. There's no reason to think gum is any different.

    Additionally, have you ever chewed a piece of gum until it breaks down? I have. It may have to do with the type of gum I chew, since not every piece of gum I have breaks down, but it has happened. I have no doubt the stomach can do more than saliva.
  13. acidosmosis

    acidosmosis TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 1,350

    Well I believe saliva has some sort of acidic propertys to it also. Maybe not "acidic" but something which causes a break down of substances.
  14. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,573   +65

    Enzymes... Lots of them.

    Which can actually be far more effective than most acids at breaking down food, but not carelessly destroy everything else :).
  15. Spike

    Spike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,168

    Stomach acid. Nasty stuff!

    A healthy stomach has a normal fasting pH (acidity level) between l and 2 (

    That's some pretty strong stuff! It's basically Hydrochloric acid, but also contains any number of fast acting and powerful enzymes. One thing it can't digest very well though is cellulose (aka, dietry fibre) which is pretty much what your left with after the taste has gone from your chewing gum, hence the myth, and it's also the reason human beings can't digest grass.
  16. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,573   +65

    There goes my favorite snack. :(
  17. BrownPaper

    BrownPaper TS Rookie Posts: 407

    Maybe that is the reason why cows have something like six stomachs.

    Rick, are we talking about the same type of grass? ;)

    Lol just kidding.

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