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Can You Really Bust A Gut From Eating Too
Much At Once
Although extremely rare, some people actually
have ruptured their stomachs after eating
too much, and, perhaps not surprisingly, many
did not survive.
When a stomach ruptures, the billions of bacteria
that normally live inside the gut flow out
into the abdominal cavity where they thrive.
The infection that ensues causes acute abdominal
pain, a tensing of the belly muscles, fever,
nausea, bloating and vomiting. Without treatment
with antibiotics, cleaning of the cavity and
repair of the stomach, the person dies.
So why wouldn’t the person just vomit if
things got too uncomfortable? As Dr. Rachel
Vreeman explains, the individuals often have
“unusual eating habits to an extent that
their bodies’ reflexes no longer respond
as they normally do. Their bodies’ reflexes
have been ignored or abused for so long that
they no longer vomit at the appropriate time.
And then once the stomach gets to this extremely
distended point, the stomach muscles are too
stretched out to be strong enough to vomit
the food out.”
In one early case, in 1941, a 51-year-old
woman blew out her belly with a “soda bicarbonate
[think Alka Seltzer] after cocktails and a
heavy dinner.”[1] That meal included meatballs,
tomatoes, cheese, bread, potatoes, macaroni,
pie and whiskey. At least one commentator
noted that the “gas from the fizz . . . apparently
stretched the stomach to its breaking point.”
A similar thing happened to a 71-year-old
woman in 1955.
In 1963, a 40-year-old New York woman, who
had lost 16 pounds in the two months prior
to bursting by strictly following a 1,000
calorie per day diet, suddenly became ill
after eating a corned beef sandwich. The small
meal caused her to experience severe nausea,
but she was unable to vomit, and she began
feeling a sense of impending doom. Overnight
she got worse, and by the next morning, she
was not in her right mind and in severe belly
She was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital,
but initial x-rays did not show a rupture,
so she was treated for over a week with intravenous
fluids and suctioning of her stomach. After
11 days, her condition had worsened, and they
finally opened her up and discovered a long
rip, that appeared to have been there for
quite a while. The operation was a success
and within a month, she was discharged.
Seeming to afflict women more than men, in
1985 The Lancet reported the death of a 23-year-old
fashion model from a ruptured stomach. During
her last meal (which they were able to catalogue
during the autopsy), the young woman ate a
half-pound steak, one pound of liver, two
pounds of kidney, two eggs, one cauliflower,
10 peaches, four pears, four bananas, two
apples, two glasses of milk, two slices of
bread and two pounds each of grapes, plums
and carrots.
It should also come as no surprise that bursting
stomachs appears to be more common among bulimia
sufferers. The Weekly World News reported
in 1994 that an autopsy revealed that a 19-year-old
model Anne-Marie Boules, in a four- to five-
hour period, gorged on 20 pounds of food that
consisted of an entire fried chicken, a dozen
chicken wings, appetizers, fruit cocktails,
two pints of beer, two large roast beefs,
three baked potatoes, a head of cauliflower
with cheese sauce, a loaf of garlic bread,
8 cookies and a gallon of ice cream before
her stomach ruptured. Prior to her binge,
the 5’9″ 110lb. model had kept her figure
trim by eating only fruits and vegetables,
but during her last meal, she is said to have
inhaled the food so quickly, she apparently
swallowed much of it without even chewing.
Her rupture was sufficiently severe that she
died from internal hemorrhaging within about
20 minutes.
One of the reason bulimics are more prone
to rupture is that shriveled stomachs are
more susceptible to tearing. In fact, at least
four former POWs after World War II ruptured
their bellies after eating relatively modest
meals. One of these ingested, over an entire
day, only a quart of coffee, a few potatoes,
a half pound of bread and two quarts of soup.
On that note, not all ruptures are caused
by overeating – at least not directly. In
2011, a 25-year-old woman from Coventry who
had a gastric band (the band is placed around
the stomach and tightened to aid with weight
loss) nearly died when the band slipped, causing
a wound that turned septic. For the first
couple of months, she suffered from heartburn,
vomiting and difficulty swallowing, but eventually
the pain became unbearable. At the hospital,
her surgeons described her burst belly as
“like a jigsaw,” but she received a transplant
and survived.

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