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Here's what happens to your stomach when you eat too much

Is it possible we could explode from overeating? There’s a teeny tiny chance. Yikes.

Image: turkey via Shutterstock

AFTER CHRISTMAS DINNER today, many of us will claim that our stomachs feel like they’re about to burst. But can we really die from eating too much?

It’s nearly impossible for the stomach to explode from overeating says Mary Roach, the author of Gulp.

The average stomach typically contains around 1 litre, or four cups, of food. Your stomach has an upper limit before it tries to send that food back up. The stomach can handle around a gallon, or nearly 4 litres of food before you will throw up as a gag reflex, Roach said.

This response to overindulging in food or drink is true for most of the population. There are some cases, however, where people have managed to ignore their natural gag reflex and keep eating, causing their stomachs to rupture. (In 2003, “excessive over-eating” was reported as the cause of a 49-year-old man’s stomach rupturing).

“Most cases of rupture seem to occur when a person has attempted to stuff their stomach with about five litres of food or fluid,” according to NBC News. These people may have a history of disordered eating and have become accustomed to their stomach muscles stretching beyond their normal limits. Their brains also ignore signals telling them to stop eating.

When your stomach is filled with too much stuff and you don’t vomit, all of that mass gets pushed up against the stomach’s walls and can lead to it rupturing.

You can learn more about digestion and what happens after food enters the mouth in this video.

- Dina Spector

Column: Here’s why Christmas dinner is so important>
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