Guru Kate: The bubble of truth

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What actually happens to gum when you swallow it?

Swallowing gum always makes me recall the panic associated with it. For most, it is a conscious decision when there are no other options. Like when there are no trash cans around and panic sets in that you need to get this gum out of your mouth NOW.

Then, you swallow it. And immediately regret it, because you have absolutely no clue what your stomach will make of this foreign object that obviously was only eaten in desperation; it was never meant to be swallowed in the first place.

To see if this panic is fact or fiction, let’s take a look at the main ingredients in gum today: synthetic rubber, softeners and flavors (usually a balance between natural and artificial).

First off, I think it is only humorously moral (the need to share jokes) to disclose the following information: when I started research on synthetic rubber and digestion, the first four scientific articles that appeared focused on slaughterhouses, tanneries and something called “piggery wastes”.

Turns out these articles don’t even contain the full phrase “synthetic rubber”, but it’s nice to freak people out with initial search results sometimes. Thanks, search-engines-that-are-supposed-to-know-what-we’re-searching-for-before-even-we-know-what-we’re-searching-for.

Back on track now, it turns out that your body treats synthetic rubber as an indigestible, because it is an indigestible. What else do you eat that is indigestible, you ask? Fiber. Yep. Helps the bowels. But these fibers are more malleable and actually critical to digestive and heart health.

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Synthetic rubber – not so much. It doesn’t do anything for you (except induce that panicky feeling), and, like excessive fiber, can clog you up if you eat too much. Unfortunate. Just don’t make a habit of swallowing gum. Simple as that.

While we’re on the road to getting chewing gum its reputation back, chewing gum has been shown to speed up movement of gastric juices through intertwining intestines. Keep that in mind, dieters. Oh yeah, one more thing: it can help with those pesky hunger feelings.

In a study published in 2011, it was found that chewing sweetened gum actually decreased subjects’ snack intake by 10% and made them feel less hungry. Sweet!