How long will a ball of gum stay in your stomach?

Matthew Alice:

My four-year-old has just mastered the art of chewing gum. He can eat a whole pack in ten minutes. I don't think swallowing five pieces of Bubble Yum will hurt him, but it makes me wonder, how long will that ball of gum stay in his stomach? Do I wait days, weeks, months to buy him his next pack? I don't want him to reach gum saturation.

-- Paul, La Mesa

More like the kid's mastered the art of swallowing gum; chewing doesn't seem to have much to do with it. This gum jones might not be something we'll want to put on his résumé when he applies to a prestige kindergarten. But digestionwise, gum shouldn't be any worse than dirt or cardboard or other stuff that four-year-olds eat. Depends on how fast the tyke generally digests things, but a lump of gum likely will be broken into its constituent parts and out of his stomach within 24 hours. Fats hang out longest, carbs exit fastest. Gum is mostly carbs. And now that gum is an official food group in your family, I hope Mom's working on some good recipes. Doublemint Gumbo, Bazooka Bolognese, Kung Pao Chiclets....

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