From a biological perspective, the human body is a complex piece of machinery. It is incredibly resilient, able to survive without significant portions of vital organs. For instance, people suffering from certain neurological disorders have had half of their brain surgically removed, only to recover and lead a relatively healthy life. However, the stomach is where a significant stage of digestion occurs, so can you live without your stomach?
Why is Stomach Important?
The stomach is a vital organ, and it helps with digestion by producing various acids and enzymes that break down food. The stomach also hosts a variety of gut microbiota such as Lactobacillus, which are quite beneficial to human health. Hence, the stomach is a vital organ, and it would be difficult to survive for long without it.
However, in 2012, a British woman had her stomach surgically removed after she had ingested a cocktail infused with liquid nitrogen. Witnesses reported smoke billowing from her mouth and nose, which signalled that the woman’s stomach was being burnt by the liquid nitrogen. With a boiling point of -195°C, liquid nitrogen is extremely cold. Consequently, it becomes hazardous as it can inflict frost bites and cryo-burns on exposed tissue.
Besides injury, diseases such as cancer can also prompt surgical intervention. Mutation of the gene CDH1 can significantly increase the risk for a type of cancer called Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer. Moreover, once it sets in, it would be a death sentence. So the only way to reduce the risk is to have the stomach removed.
In such cases, a process called gastrectomy is performed, where the stomach is surgically removed, and the food pipe is reattached to the intestines, essentially functioning as the new stomach. Though it is one of the more “non-essential” human body parts, living without a stomach can have its own set of challenges. For instance, the stomach serves as a reserve, regulating the amount of food entering the intestine. However, when the stomach is removed, it can cause a condition called the Dumping syndrome, which almost always results in painful cramps.
The individual also has to eat the right kind of food, because without a stomach, breaking down food becomes difficult. In conclusion, it is possible to live a relatively healthy life without the need for a stomach.
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