The Science of Sean Spicer’s Compulsive Gum Swallowing Habit

We wanted a second opinion about Spicer's gum consumption habit (he said he chews and swallows more than two packs a day), so we talked to a doctor about it.

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Jan 23 2017, 10:55pm

Image: Left: Cindy Funk/Flickr/CC-by-2.0 Right: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Grown man and new White House press secretary Sean Spicer chews an insane amount of gum every day and swallows it whole. His preferred flavor is cinnamon Orbit (made by the Wrigley Company).

"Two and a half packs by noon," Spicer told The Washington Post in an old article. "I talked to my doctor about it, he said it's no problem." This revelation actually came in August 2016 in the midst of the Trump presidential campaign, back when Spicer was still the Republican party's chief strategist and spokesperson, but it gained new currency this week on Twitter as Spicer began his duties as Press Secretary.

We at Motherboard wanted a second opinion about Spicer's gum consumption habit, so we talked to a doctor about it.

Dr. Daniel Motola, a Manhattan-based gastroenterologist, agrees it's probably not a big deal, as long as Spicer doesn't have any side effects from his habit.

Several components in gum can be digested. Those that can't be are either fermented in the colon, or come out in the stool. "It's probably not completely digestible," Motola said in a phone call with Motherboard. "The theoretical risk in eating large amounts of gum is that it could create an intestinal blockage."

"The theoretical risk in eating large amounts of gum is that it could create an intestinal blockage."

"Chewing gum is even thought to have good effects for the teeth and salivation," Motola added.

So three main things can happen when you swallow gum: First, as your stomach enzymes try to break it down, the sugars and other ingredients can get digested. Then, those that don't get digested may ferment. Fermentation might cause bloating or gas, but otherwise can feel pretty innocuous. Finally, components like the rubbery parts might just end up in the stool—which Motola compares to loose pieces of corn, for instance.

"Overall it's not something that's too worrisome," said Motola. "Spicer himself has probably not had any issues from it, so he tolerates it. If a patient of mine wanted to do that and they were tolerating it well, I'd say that's your choice, it's up to you what you want to eat."

So there you have it. Chew on, Mr. Spicer.

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