Pharyngula

Gum disintegration syndrome

Here’s a weird and trivial phenomenon to consider: gum disintegration syndrome.

I’m not much of a gum-chewer, and never have been…but I remember gum from when I was a kid, and you could chew and chew and maintain a flavorless wad for a long time. Recently, I thought I’d try gum as an appetite suppressant, and I got some of the sugarless stuff. To my surprise, I’d chew on it for a few minutes, and shortly I’d feel it losing its texture and getting runny, and then it would dissolve into small fragments that I’d just swallow. I thought it was those dang cheap confectionery companies, that the formulas for gum base had changed since I was a kid, or maybe it was the sugarless kind that was just different. I tried a couple of different brands—same result. I would have abandoned it there and chalked it up to yet another example of the evils of creeping capitalism and Things Were Better in the Good Old Days, but I mentioned it to my wife, who thought I was nuts. She’s been dipping into my gum, and noticed no difference—it lasts as long as she wants to chew it.

Weird. My wife sent me this Straight Dope article on it, but it’s not very helpful. There’s some speculation that it’s a result of secretions during arousal (unlikely in my case; I can be reading, or driving the car, and it happens…unless perhaps I have a remarkable libido) or temperature (I tried taking the gum out every once in a while to cool, but no difference, it still breaks down. Besides, my body temperature isn’t unusual enough that my doctor has noticed.) At this point it’s simply a mystery. Maybe I’ve acquired some novel new digestive enzymes, but I don’t think I’ve been in any teleporter accidents—if I graduate from dissolving Wrigley’s to novel ways of eating donuts, I’ll let you know.

I’m not concerned about it*—maybe it’s just as well this is a vice I won’t be pursuing—but now I’m curious. Anyone else have the power to reduce gum to soup? Does it only happen in moments of passion? Details!

*Although…if everyone gets a mutant superpower in their life, and mine is the ability to digest gum instead of acquiring laser eyeballs or telepathy or super-regeneration, I’m going to feel ripped off.

Comments

  1. #1 Ichthyic
    October 30, 2006

    God, I hope you’re just talking about eating them.

    you should be even clearer, after that “artistic squid” post, and substitute “ingest” for eat.

    on the topic, though. I’ve never heard of this before.

    my best guess is your better half (or your progeny) are having a bit of fun with you.

  2. #2 Emily
    February 15, 2009

    Wow, Ive always wondered this, because it happens to me just about every time I chew gum. I thought I was the only one and everyone thought I was crazy. I would really love to know why. I thought maybe it was the way I chewed it.. who knows.

  3. #3 Scott
    April 8, 2009

    This happens to me a LOT. Every time I ask someone, “ever had chewing gum dissolve in your mouth?” they act like they’ve never heard of such madness, and usually have no interest in hearing about it, leaving me to wonder what the question must sound like to a person who’s never had it happen. I’ve begun to believe I have a high acid content in my mouth or something. I do like squid, but it’s been a while. (Surume! Good with Japanese beer!)
    I had to swallow two consecutive pieces of gum at a rock concert last night cuz I was squished among a crowd of metalheads (no, preevs, that did not turn me on), didn’t want to leave because I was waiting for one of my favorite bands to play and didn’t want to give up my square foot of floor space, so I had nowhere to spit out the orange goo.
    Well, thanks to everybody on this thread for letting me know I’m not the only one. Maybe we should form a coalition. Or a rabid demolition crew that gnaws at the corners of old buildings. We’d be cheaper than dynamite.

  4. #4 Ben
    May 16, 2009

    I have the same problem, but it’s generally only when I’m not chewing the gum fast enough or “chewing” it with my tongue.

  5. #5 Ben
    May 16, 2009

    Oh — You don’t happen to be able to gleek, too? Perhaps we are Reptilians! :o

  6. #6 mbert
    May 1, 2010

    This happened to me yesterday. Interestingly, I had been chewing a stick of Juicy Fruit for about an hour and a half. My jaw was a little tired, so I took a break from chewing and just held it in the side of my mouth for a while. Within a minute, it started disintegrating.

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