What Is in Chewing Gum?

Chemical Composition of Gum

Modern chewing gum is made from synthetic rubber.
Modern chewing gum is made from synthetic rubber. Colin Anderson, Getty Images

Question: What Is in Chewing Gum?

Answer: Originally, chewing gum was made from the latex sap of the sapodilla tree (native to Central America). This sap was called chicle. Other natural gum bases may be used, such as sorva and jelutong. Sometimes beeswax or paraffin wax is used as a gum base. After World War II, chemists learned to make synthetic rubber, which came to replace most natural rubber in chewing gum (e.g., polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate). The last U.S. manufacturer to use chicle is Glee Gum.

In addition to the gum base, chewing gum contains sweeteners, flavorings, and softeners. Softeners are ingredients such as glycerin or vegetable oil that are used to blend the other ingredients and help prevent the gum from becoming hard or stiff.

Neither natural nor synthetic latex are readily degraded by the digestive system. However, if you swallow your gum it will almost certainly be excreted, usually in pretty much the same condition as when you swallowed it. However, frequent gum swallowing may contribute to the formation of a bezoar or enterolith, which is a sort of intestinal stone.