Living without intestines.

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Did you jump back to the first line to read that sentence again? Well, join the club. At first, it seemed absurd to me as well, but what I read about it later definitely blew my mind.

Benjamin Zander once said, “ absurd human beings are and how magnificent.”

Indeed the above quote is true. Science tells us that all organs in the human body are essential for survival. Science also tells us that it is possible for humans to live without an intestine. On the surface level, this may seem contradictory but here are the facts that underlie this theory.

The human body is made up of a large intestine and a small intestine. These along with the esophagus and stomach make up the digestive system. The large intestine is responsible for absorption and re-absorption of water from digested food and waste materials. The small intestine on the other hand, is responsible for breaking down food and absorption of elements into the body.

While it is true that a human can live without an intestine, this generally refers only to the large intestine. The small intestine is the most important part of the digestive system. Without the small intestine, it would be impossible for one to absorb their daily dose of nutrition from the food they eat. In such cases, extracorporeal methods of nutrition may have to be employed. This is called Total Parenteral Nutrition.

Why would one be required to live without an intestine though?

The answer is simple. In some cases, the intestine fails and may have to be removed or replace. In other cases, the digestive tract as a whole does not work properly. Most medical cases that involve removal of the intestine are due to ulcerative colon or colon cancer. Only the large intestine may be removed.

The medical technique employed to remove the colon is called colectomy.

Like every other surgery this one too has its complications and side effectives. Colectomy uses a laproscope that is inserted into the patient via an incision on the abdomen. This may lead to irritation, infections and scar formation.

Side effects of undergoing colectomy include the following:

  1. Rapid loss of weight post procedure.
  2. Frequent need to empty the bowel.
  3. Build up of excess gas in the body.

Apart from the said effects, one can function quite normally even in the absence of the large intestine and this treatment option is a much preferred one by doctors. Most patients who have undergone such surgeries have shared their experience on online portals and have also stated that although there are a few precautions to be followed, they have recovered successfully after the operation and are able to get back to their original diets.

A man who has been living without his intestines for around four and a half years claims that he feels healthier post operation than he did before diagnosis.

In some extreme cases, the intestine may also be replaced. Such transplant methods involve replacing a damaged intestine with another healthy intestine from a patient. These operations are however not always successful and are avoided as much as possible.

The body definitely does work and employ self repair in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?

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