By Francesca L. Kritz
Consult Your Doctor
One night a few summers ago, when my 18-month-old daughter's mosquito bites
were making her itchy, cranky, and sleepless, I went to a 24-hour pharmacy to
buy antihistamine. It wasn't until I got home that I read the package
instructions: for children under 6, consult physician. By then it was after
10:00 p.m., and I didn't want to bother her doctor. So I guessed and gave Dina
a teaspoonful. As it turns out, the amount was right, but that...
"It is true that most of the components of bubblegum are not found in
nature," says Robynne Chutkan, MD, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor
of medicine at Georgetown University. "And as such we don’t have the enzymes to
break them down. But eventually gum does get through the intestine and into the
colon, where it is mixed with stool and then excreted."
How long is "eventually?" According to Chutkan, gum -- like kernels of corn
-- may come out one day, two days, or even three days after being swallowed,
but the time lapse is fairly quick: "It’s always within days, not weeks and
certainly not years."
Chewing gum has greater dangers: It can cause a young child to choke; the
sugar can promote tooth decay; and no one knows exactly how the chemicals in
such processed foods affect the body in the long term. "In general, the less
exposure you have to artificial ingredients, the better," Chutkan says. "Our
bodies just weren’t made to digest them."