Daily Archives: October 30, 2012

Be Careful What You Eat

People eat some fairly odd things. There’s even a medical term for some of these foreign-substance ingestions: Pica. Some people eat their own hair (hair pica) and rarely this leads to hair ball formation–just like your cat. People eat coins, starch, paint flecks, and even dirt. In the South there is a long tradition of chalk pica and clay pica (the eating of the red clay dirt that is so common in that region). The belief, passed down generation to generation, is that the red clay offers minerals that the body needs. It doesn’t. In truth, the clay can bind iron and remove it from the body and lead to iron deficiency anemia.



In two odd cases the ingestion of foreign substances has lead to serious health consequences and even death.

Apparently a new fad is to drink cocktails that contain Liquid Nitrogen (N). Sounds delicious I know but the problem is that Liquid N hovers between -196 degrees F. (its boiling point–the temp at which it converts to its gaseous form) and -346 degrees F. (its freezing point–the temp at which it becomes solid). This can literally freeze the stomach and lead to tissue death.

This is what happened to Gaby Scanlon. She ingested the drink as part of her 18th birthday celebration at a local bar only to end up in the hospital with her stomach surgically removed after it perforated. Not the best of birthdays, I imagine, and definitely not what she expected. Her story should be a cautionary tale for others.

Then there is 32-year-old Edward Archbold. He entered a “roach and worm” eating contest run by a local pet store. The grand prize? A python. Afterwards he became ill (you think?), vomited, and died.

It is unclear what exactly killed him. Was it a toxin in the roaches and worms? Was it a rip or rupture of the esophagus from his vomiting? Tearing of the esophagus with vomiting is called Mallory-Weiss Syndrome while esophageal rupture in this circumstance is termed Boerhaave’s Syndrome. Hopefully the medical examiner’s determination will sort this out.

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