You Can Swallow Your Gum, It’s Fine

Oh calm down

Young beautiful girl while enjoying sweet gum
Chew and Swallow

You’re walking down the street. About 10-15 minutes prior, you had popped a piece of gum in your mouth. It has now lost its flavor, it’s not chewing as well as it did when you started, and your jaw is tired. That means it’s time to spit out your gum. But oh no, there’s no trash can anywhere for some reason. What is a girl to do? Is she to spit her gum onto the street, surely setting up a trap for someone else to have a horrible day when they inevitably step in it? Is she to keep the piece of rapidly hardening gum in her mouth until she can find a trash can? The real answer is this: She can swallow the gum, it’s fine.

Apparently this is a contentious opinion. When the topic of swallowing your gum came up in Gawker’s Slack yesterday, the majority of staffers expressed disgust at the very thought of it. Only three of us were courageous enough to say that it is a perfectly fine thing to do from time to time.

“It's not okay. It's called chewing gum, not swallowing gum,” said Brandy Jensen. Maybe they call it chewing gum in Canada, but where I’m from (America) no one has called it chewing gum since the Great Depression. It’s just gum, and sometimes you can swallow it if you have no other options.

Kelly Conaboy searched the depths of her mind to even imagine a scenario in which she would swallow her gum. “I guess if you're kidnapped and your kidnappers put tape over your mouth and you have gum in there and you want to eliminate the possibility of choking on it, then swallowing your gum is fine,” she said. “In all other situations it is for psychopaths.” Or, if you’re sitting in a park with your friends and don’t want to either get up and find a trash can or spit it into a little piece of paper that you have to keep track of in order to not be a litterbug. If that’s called being a psychopath then I don’t want to be sane.

I wanted to get the advice of some actual professionals, because what do these losers know anyway? According to a Mayo Clinic blog post titled “Swallowing gum: Is it harmful,” it is fine. “Although chewing gum is designed to be chewed and not swallowed, it generally isn't harmful if swallowed,” the prestigious medical center wrote. “On very rare occasions, large amounts of swallowed gum combined with constipation have blocked intestines in children.” Well thankfully I am not swallowing large amounts of gum, nor am I a child. I would guess that I swallow my gum about three or four times a year. It’s not a habit, it’s just something I find myself having to do every now and then.

In order to get into the spirit of this post, I am chewing a piece of gum right now. It’s a piece of peppermint Orbit, one of my preferred flavors. Over the course of writing, it has lost it’s minty taste and it is starting to feel like a chore to chew it instead of like a sweet, delicious pleasure. If I were not in my home (where I have a trash can handy) and there was no place to discard it, I would swallow it at this moment without a second thought. In the middle of a museum? Swallowed. Watching a gripping movie in the theater? Swallowed. On a long drive in someone else’s car? Swallowed. It isn’t gross — it’s just a thing that must be done sometimes.

I will conclude by printing, in full and with his own emphasis, Gawker designer Jack Koloskus’s answer when asked about his thoughts on swallowing gum. He puts it better than I ever could.

“Everyone is saying ‘oooh it's groooss’ but how does that make any sense. It's already IN your MOUTH. And you're chewing it. At what spatial threshold in your body does gum become gross? If you were to chew any other food for like 15 minutes straight and then spit it out THAT would be gross. But for whatever reason that’s just expected for this one weird food item. Imagine being like ‘oh you chewed that birthday cake for 15 minutes and you didn't spit it out?? disgusting.’ Freaks. Don't get me wrong i don't go out of my way to swallow gum, I try to spit it out if a trash can is around, but I can't stand to see innocent people made into pariahs for doing the right thing. In fact it's much more gross to just spit your sticky mouth substance all over various sidewalks as you will inevitably end up doing because it’s not like there's always a trash can near you, so inconsiderate. To my coworkers I say, keep your bodily fluids to yourselves.”

And there you have it.