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.

What Is the Shelf Life of Donated Eyes?

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iStock.com/Pedro_Turrini

Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

I can only answer for cornea and eye donation.

The FDA does all oversight (no pun intended) of organ disposition.

The main organs—heart, liver, pancreas, lungs, etc.—are transplanted within hours. They are just not viable if they are not being perfused constantly.

The other tissues—like bone, skin, tendons, etc.—do not need to be transplanted immediately. But I am not sure on the regulations of when they need to be transplanted.

With the eyes, there are four tissues that can be recovered.

We recover whole eyes for research and education purposes. These usually go much faster, but we can hold them up to a year.

Conjunctiva can also be recovered; conjunctiva is a clear covering over most of the eye (it is what gets irritated when you have pink eye). I have been working as a recovery tech for five years, and our office has not had a request for "conj" in all that time. I believe it is mostly used for research, but I could be wrong.

Sclera is the white area of your eye. It is fairly thick and flexible. If you have ever touched a reptile egg, that is what it reminds me of. We recover sclera for transplant. They use it for several things, but mainly to patch punctures. Similar to if you pop the inner tube of your bike and repair it. Sclera can also be used to repair ear drums. We can hold on to this for up to a year.

The main thing we recover is corneas. In the U.S., we must transplant these within seven days of recovery. (Recovery is usually within hours of death, but we can push it up to 20 hours after if needed.) Sometimes we have more corneas than we need, and then they are shipped overseas and transplanted up to 14 days after recovery. There is no real different outcome with the later transplant time, but the FDA in the U.S. made the rules. (You can sign up to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor here.)

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Why Are There No Snakes in Ireland?

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iStock

Legend tells of St. Patrick using the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea. It’s an impressive image, but there’s no way it could have happened.

There never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica: the Emerald Isle is, well, an island.

Eightofnine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that time was an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, pouring even more cold water into the now-impassable expanse between Ireland and its neighbors.

Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, managed to make it across—as did a single reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

The country’s serpent-free reputation has, somewhat perversely, turned snake ownership into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. As of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild—a small miracle in itself.

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