What really happens if you swallow chewing gum by mistake: And, no, it doesn't stay in your stomach for seven years

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UPDATED:

15:00 GMT, 10 September 2012

It is an urban myth that terrifies young children.

Swallow a piece of chewing gum and it will take seven years to pass through your gut before it is digested. Or so they say.

An even hoarier tale has it that swallowed gum can wrap itself around your heart.

But what does happen if you should accidentally eat a stick of gum

Indigestible: But the gut just keeps moving chewing gum along until it makes it all the way through the intestines and come out the other end

Indigestible: But the gut just keeps moving chewing gum along until it makes it all the way through the intestines and come out the other end

Chewing gum is made out of gum base, sweeteners, colouring and flavouring.

The gum base is pretty indigestible – it is a mixture of elastomers, resins, fats, emulsifiers and waxes.

Most of the time, your stomach really cannot break down the gum the way it would other foods.

However, your digestive system has another way to deal with things you swallow. After all, we eat lots of things that we are unable to fully digest.

The gut just keeps moving them along until they make it all the way through the intestines and come out the other end.

So gum usually ends up in your lavatory one to two days later. Even though gum is sticky, it is usually no match for the power of your gut.

The system can still get gummed up though.

Swallowing a huge wad of gum or swallowing many small pieces of gum in a short time can cause a blockage within the digestive system – most often in children, who have a smaller-diameter digestive tract than adults – but this is extremely rare.