Do you swallow your gum? White House press secretary swallows 2 packs daily - Is this safe?

Digestive Health

By pH health care professionals

It’s no secret that we have a new president at the helm who has made quite a few changes and announcements since taking office. If you’ve been watching along, by now you may be familiar with the White House’s new press secretary Sean Spicer. Amidst all the headlines, a quirky fact has re-emerged about Mr. Spicer: He chews and swallows two and a half packs of cinnamon Orbit gum by noon! It makes you wonder …

Is swallowing gum bad for your health?

According to the marketing and communications manager for Orbit’s parent company, Wrigley, it’s not a problem. “If gum is swallowed, it doesn’t stick around in your stomach, but simply passes through your system after a few days like other roughage,” Michelle Green said in a statement to TODAY.

The American Chemical Society agrees, explaining in a video, that your body can’t break down the rubber polymer in gum, but that it can still pass through (just like how your body may not be able to break down parts of corn!).

However, sugar-free gums like Orbit typically contain the sweetener xylitol, which may have a laxative effect in some people when consumed at high levels, the International Chewing Gum Association explains.

But what about other items we “aren’t supposed to swallow”?

The good news is 80 percent of foreign objects swallowed pass without any symptoms once they clear the esophagus (in your throat). Most of the emergencies arise when hard or sharp objects get stuck in the esophagus, requiring a doctor to intervene and remove the object.

Foreign body ingestion,” as doctors call it, or simply swallowing something that isn’t meant to be swallowed, is especially common among children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. That’s because young children explore their environment by putting things in their mouths. Typical ingestions include buttons, coins, toy parts, pins, screws, batteries and even sharp objects like razor blades.

Adults are more likely to have issues with swallowing large or hard food parts, like fish bones, which can get stuck in your throat. There are also adults with psychiatric conditions who may swallow foreign objects frequently, drug traffickers who swallow packs of drugs to hide them and prisoners who swallow various items to hide them.

What are some items that can be dangerous when swallowed?

  • Disc batteries. Disc batteries that are swallowed and get stuck can erode the esophagus and lead to life-threatening inflammation deep in the chest (mediastinitis). This is an emergency situation and can be life-threatening. If the battery reaches the stomach, your doctor may want to observe you for a couple of days. If it has passed the stomach, your doctor may want you to be on the lookout for any signs of injury such as abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.

  • Larger items. Objects that are larger than 2.5 cm, such as coins, may have difficulty getting through the pylorus, a strong muscle between the stomach and small intestine. Your doctor may want to keep you under observation. Large food particles and fish bones can get stuck on their way down your throat and may need to be removed. And of course, longer items (over 6 cm) such as toothbrushes or eating utensils will likely need to be removed, as they likely cannot pass through the stomach.

  • Medical drugs. Any kind of drug overdose or mixing of pills can be life-threatening. This can happen in tandem with mental health conditions or among the elderly who may get confused.

  • Corrosive liquids. If you have swallowed any kind of chemical or liquid that you are unsure about, err on the side of caution and contact a poison center immediately to get counseling and direction for further evaluation. You can call the Poison Help Line 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222.

  • Illicit drugs. Drug traffickers who swallow illicit drugs in plastic bags are taking a serious gamble with their lives. If just one of the bags leaks for any reason, this commonly leads to drug overdose, life-threatening complications and even death.

  • Magnets. Swallowing more than one magnet or other metallic particles is a concern since they can attach to each other and even trap bowel loops or gastrointestinal tissue between them. They need to be removed quickly.

Generally, if there are no symptoms, and the size, shape and location of the foreign object are identified, you may just need to be monitored, and the issue will resolve itself in most cases. However, medical consultation is strongly advised.

Surgical interventions are not commonly needed. However, it is important to seek counseling and treatment by a health care professional whenever you or a child in your care has swallowed something that shouldn’t be swallowed. Also, keep in mind that a young child may not give an accurate answer as to what he or she swallowed. You may want to check what the child was playing with. Look for any open medications or bottles of liquid. Check what toys were being used. If you are concerned or just not sure, call a poison control center or go to the emergency room.

Be proactive!

So while swallowing gum isn’t the end of the world, we certainly wouldn’t recommend it. There are many objects that can cause significant harm in your body if swallowed. If you have swallowed any kind of foreign object that may get stuck or cause harm, seek medical attention right away. Don’t chance it!

Now, here’s something that goes down smoothly! Check out our latest blog on gelato and why you may want to opt for that over ice cream and swallowing gum.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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