What Really Happens When You Swallow Your Gum?

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iStock

People have been chewing gum in one form or another since the Stone Age, and for just as long, we’ve been spitting it out. But is all that expectorating really necessary? What happens to our bodies when we swallow gum? As with so many physiological processes, it’s complicated—as you can see in the video below from the American Chemical Society.

Gum is a funny thing. We chew it like food, and with added sugars and flavoring it tastes like food. But it isn’t food, and it never has been. It’s not even candy, since candy gets swallowed. It’s just gum. The first gums were made of stretchy and sticky natural tars. Then we moved on to tree sap, like that of the rubber tree, and today most gums are made with synthetic rubber. But all these ingredients, natural and synthetic, have something in common: we can’t digest them. Our bodies do not make any chemicals that can break down the polymers that make gum what it is.

So no, we can’t digest it. But that doesn’t mean it stays in our bodies. As lumps of mushed-up food are pushed through your digestive tract, your body breaks much of it down and takes out the nutrients it needs. The stuff that’s left over—including gum—will typically just be pooped out.

Does that mean it’s safe to swallow your gum? Yes and no. Accidentally gulping down a single piece shouldn’t do any harm to an adult’s body. But swallowing lots of gum can cause blockages in the digestive tract, especially in children, who are both smaller and way more likely to swallow their gum. This can lead to serious, painful constipation, sometimes requiring a doctor’s help. One case study described the removal of a toddler's gum blockage as “taffy-pulling.”

Let that be a warning.

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Cyber Monday has arrived, and with it comes some amazing deals. This sale is the one to watch if you are looking to get low prices on the latest Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, video games, Instant Pots, or 4K TVs. Even if you already took advantage of sales during Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday still has plenty to offer, especially on Amazon. We've compiled some the best deals out there on tech, computers, and kitchen appliances so you don't have to waste your time browsing.

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Amazon

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home and Kitchen

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What Is a Scuttlebutt, and Why Do We Like to Hear It?

Photo by Courtney Nuss on Unsplash

Casual conversation is home to a variety of prompts. You might ask someone how they’re doing, what’s new, or if they’ve done anything interesting recently. Sometimes, you can ask them what the scuttlebutt is. “What’s the scuttlebutt?” you’d say, for example, and then they’d reply with the solicited scuttlebutt.

We can easily infer that scuttlebutt is a slang term for information or maybe even gossip. But what exactly is scuttlebutt, and why did it become associated with idle water cooler talk?

According to Merriam-Webster, a scuttlebutt referred to a cask on sailing ships in the 1800s that contained drinking water for those on board. It was later used as the name of the drinking fountain found on a ship or in a Naval installation. The cask was known as a butt, while scuttle was taken from the French word escoutilles and means hatch or hole. A scuttlebutt was therefore a hatch in the cask.

Because sailors usually received orders from shouting supervisors, talking amongst themselves was discouraged. Since sailors could congregate around the fountain, it became a place to finally catch up and exchange gossip, making scuttlebutt synonymous with casual conversation. The scuttlebutt was really the only place to do it.

Nautical technology made the scuttlebutt obsolete, but the term endured, becoming a catch-all word for unfounded rumors.

The next time someone asks you what the scuttlebutt is, now you can tell them.

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