You woke up today with a gut feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It turns out it wasn’t just a gut feeling. It was a feeling of extreme pain in your gut. Because it doubled in size overnight. How would this affect your digestion? Which foods would you want to avoid? And why could this feel similar to being pregnant?
Your intestines are surprisingly long. They can be nearly four times the length of a person’s body. And they’re the final part of a much bigger system. Your digestive system. It starts at your mouth and goes all the way to your anus, breaking down food as it passes through your esophagus, stomach and intestines.
There are other key components along the way, like your liver and gallbladder. Everything has the purpose of helping you absorb all the nutrients needed for energy, growth and cell repair. But if your perfectly working system drastically changed overnight, what kind of new diet would you need to try out?
If your gut doubled in size as a result of spontaneous intestinal growth (Peter, as an aside) not an official term, by the way, you would definitely need to eat more salad. Not because you would start to absorb more nutrients, although that would likely happen. But because high fiber foods increase bowel movement to help pass stool.
As your intestines got longer, they would also become very looped and knotted, making it difficult for stool to move. You would be in so much pain you likely wouldn’t be able to move either. Some people already suffer from a condition known as tortuous colon. These people have an abnormally long colon, with more looping and twisting.
Some of the symptoms are bloating, constipation and fecal impaction, which happens when stool stays in the rectum. And complications include hemorrhoids, anal fissures and even rectal prolapse. That’s when the intestine sticks out of the anus. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt. But things wouldn’t have to get so far before you start to feel some serious discomfort.
With your intestines doubling in length almost instantaneously, your body wouldn’t have time to adapt to the new space requirements. The extra baggage in your abdomen could feel a bit like pregnancy, putting a lot of pressure on your internal organs. In the best-case scenario, you would suffer from chronic heartburn or indigestion.
It’s more likely it will be like you just put your abs through the most intense workout possible. Except these aches won’t be going away. It’s not surprising, considering you would now be carrying almost 7 kg (15 lb) of intestines. When you double the length of your body’s largest internal organ, you can expect to see a little bulge in the belly.
If you’re a meat lover, you might want to consider embracing the vegetarian life. Just to keep the pipes cleared, if you know what I mean. Unless you want to see what would happen if you stopped eating for a month.
- “Your Digestive System & How It Works | NIDDK”. 2022. niddk.nih.gov.
- “Do Humans Have GI Lengths Similar To That Of Carnivorous Animals Like Lions? Not Quite. – The Diet Wars”. Kevin. 2019. thedietwars.com.
- “What’s the Length of Your Small and Large Intestines?”. 2022. healthline.com.
- “Redundant Colon”. 2022. healthline.com.
- “How Organs Move During Pregnancy To Make Room For A Baby”. Colleen de Bellefonds. 2021. whattoexpect.com.