Eating a gram of wax would likely cause some minor digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. The wax would probably pass through your system undigested within a day or two. While not toxic, wax has no nutritional value and consuming large amounts could potentially cause an intestinal blockage.
What is Wax?
Wax refers to a class of chemical compounds that are solid at room temperature but melt at fairly low temperatures. There are many different types of waxes that come from various sources:
- Beeswax – Produced by honey bees to build honeycomb cells
- Paraffin wax – Derived from petroleum
- Carnauba wax – Extracted from palm tree leaves
- Candelilla wax – Made from a shrub native to Mexico and the southwest US
- Lanolin – Secured from wool grease
- Ceresin – Manufactured from ozokerite, a mineral wax
Waxes are composed of long-chain fatty acids known as wax esters. Their chemical structure makes them malleable solids at room temperature. The melting point varies depending on the specific wax, ranging from about 120-200°F (49-93°C).
Wax has a wide array of applications and uses:
- Crayons, colored pencils
- Furniture polish
- Chewing gum
- Ski wax
- Cheese coatings
- Wax paper
- Shoe polish
- Automotive polish
Overall, waxes are hydrophobic, moldable solids that are nontoxic and stable. Their properties make them extremely useful in many commercial and industrial contexts.
Digestibility of Wax
Wax is not digestible or bioavailable when consumed orally. The human gastrointestinal system lacks the enzymes needed to metabolize or break down wax esters. As a result, wax passes through the GI tract undigested.
There are a few reasons wax cannot be digested by the human digestive system:
- Long-chain structure – Wax esters have long hydrocarbon chains that cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes.
- Water insolubility – Waxes do not dissolve in water, making them harder to digest.
- Solid state – The solid form makes wax more resistant to digestion.
- Lack of emulsifiers – Bile salts and phospholipids that emulsify fats are not as effective on wax esters.
While chewing wax or consuming small amounts will simply pass through you, eating larger quantities can potentially pose issues. If enough accumulates in the gastrointestinal tract, an intestinal obstruction or blockage is possible. This would cause symptoms like:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Inability to pass gas or stool
An intestinal obstruction is a serious medical condition that often requires hospitalization. But in most cases, eating wax does not provide any nutrition and will simply pass through the digestive system unchanged.
What Happens When You Eat Wax?
Let’s take a look at what would likely happen if you ate a gram of wax, which is about the amount found in a small candle or crayon:
Mouth and Throat
- Wax has a smooth, odd texture unlike food. It may feel strange and unappetizing to chew.
- You’ll immediately notice wax is difficult to swallow and feels thick in your throat.
- It won’t provide any taste.
- A gram is a relatively small amount so it should pass through your mouth and throat relatively easily.
- After being swallowed, the wax enters the stomach.
- It does not undergo digestion here since your stomach acids and enzymes have no effect on wax esters.
- The wax is largely insoluble and indigestible.
- You may feel some nausea, discomfort or fullness from the foreign presence in your stomach.
- The wax moves from the stomach to the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed.
- Since it cannot be absorbed into the bloodstream, the wax passes unchanged through the small intestine.
- It enters the large intestine and colon but continues to resist breakdown by bacteria and enzymes.
- By this point you’ll likely experience abdominal cramping, gas, bloating and possibly loose stools or diarrhea as it passes through.
- Finally, the wax is excreted through a bowel movement largely intact in its original form.
- A gram of wax is a small enough amount that it should pass through and exit the body without issue.
- Repeatedly consuming larger amounts could lead to bowel obstructions needing medical attention.
In most cases, wax will pass through the GI tract in under 24-48 hours without causing major problems. But it provides zero nutritional value and may provoke some temporary digestion troubles.
Is Eating Wax Dangerous?
Ingesting wax is generally not considered toxic or poisonous because it is resistant to the digestive system and is excreted fully intact. However, there are a few health considerations to keep in mind:
- Choking hazard – Large pieces of wax could pose a choking risk. Chew thoroughly before swallowing.
- Intestinal blockage – Significant amounts may obstruct intestines, requiring medical treatment.
- Allergic reaction – Some people may have undiscovered allergies or sensitivities.
- Contaminants – Candles, crayons and some waxes contain other chemicals like dyes, scents and pigments.
Be aware that some people groups should not consume wax due to higher risks:
- Young children – More prone to choking and blockages.
- Elderly – Increased digestive issues and weakened immune response.
- Those with prior intestinal issues – Higher likelihood of obstructions.
- Pregnant women – Potential developmental effects for baby.
Overall, swallowing small to moderate amounts of wax is not typically hazardous. But it provides no nutrition, may cause stomach upset, and should be avoided in some cases.
How Long Does Wax Stay in Your System?
Wax passes through the gastrointestinal tract relatively quickly and is excreted in under 2 days in most cases. A few factors influence the transit time:
- Amount consumed – Large quantities slow down the passage.
- Diet – Fiber speeds up transit while constipation slows it down.
- Physical activity – Exercise and movement helps digestion.
- Hydration – Adequate water intake prevents constipation.
- Medications – Some drugs or supplements affect motility.
- Intestinal health – GI conditions can delay wax passing.
On average, here is how long wax takes to go through each stage of digestion:
- Mouth: seconds to minutes
- Stomach: 30 mins to 2 hours
- Small intestine: 2 to 4 hours
- Large intestine: 10 to 30 hours
- Rectum: up to 1 to 2 days
Most people will excrete a small amount of wax within 1 to 2 days with no issues. Signs it has fully passed include no more symptoms of abdominal discomfort, nausea or changes to stool. See a doctor if symptoms persist more than 2 days.
Tips for Consuming Wax Safely
Again, it’s not recommended to purposefully eat wax. But if you plan to consume a small amount, follow these tips to minimize risks:
- Pick an odorless, unpigmented food-grade wax made for consumption.
- Go for soft wax that is easy to chew into small pieces before swallowing.
- Drink plenty of fluids to aid digestion and passage.
- Chew thoroughly and do not swallow large chunks whole.
- Never give wax to children to eat due to choking hazards.
- Avoid wax if you have a history of intestinal blockages or bowel issues.
- Introduce only small amounts at first to check for possible allergies.
- Increase fiber intake from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes when consuming wax to prevent constipation.
- Stop eating wax and seek medical help if you experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain, blockage or bleeding.
Consuming a small amount of pure, odorless, non-pigmented food-grade wax is less likely to provoke issues. But wax has no nutritional value and should not become a regular part of your diet.
Can you digest wax?
No, wax cannot be properly digested by the human digestive system. The body lacks the enzymes and processes needed to break down wax esters. So wax passes through your system undigested.
Is it bad to eat wax?
Swallowing wax is generally not toxic or harmful in small amounts. But it can cause nausea, stomach upset, intestinal blockages and provides no nutritional value. Eating wax regularly is not recommended.
What happens if you eat candle wax?
Candle wax will pass through your digestive system mostly unchanged and be excreted. However, some types of candle wax contain dyes, scents and other chemicals that may provoke a negative reaction. Pure paraffin or beeswax candles are less likely to cause issues.
Can eating wax cause constipation?
Yes, wax consumption could lead to constipation if enough accumulates in the intestines. Wax is indigestible and can cause blockages. Stay hydrated and maintain fiber intake to help wax pass through the colon if consumed.
Is petroleum jelly wax safe to eat?
Petroleum jelly like Vaseline is derived from wax and oil. A small amount may pass through the system safely. But it’s not designed for consumption and repeatedly eating petroleum jelly is not recommended.
The Bottom Line
Eating a gram of wax would likely cause some temporary nausea, stomach upset, and possibly laxative effects as it passes undigested through your system. While generally not toxic, wax provides no nutritional value and larger amounts could pose an intestinal obstruction risk in some people. Repeatedly consuming wax is unnecessary and could provoke adverse effects. Unless you have a specific medical need and your doctor agrees, it’s best to avoid ingesting wax.