- Gastrointestinal perforation is the medical term for an exploded stomach
- The average stomach holds roughly one liter’s worth of food but can stretch a bit
- READ MORE: Athletes reveal the junk foods that keep them going during a race
If ever there was a time to use the phrase, ‘I’ve eaten so much I might explode,’ it’s Thanksgiving.
The average American consumes somewhere between 3000 and 4000 calories every year at their Thanksgiving meal – around twice as much as the daily recommended limit.
For most people, the worst that can happen is your pants are a little tight. But do some eat such gigantic amounts that their stomachs actually explode?
The answer is yes – or at least, it is definitely possible, according to experts.
The average American consumes somewhere between 3000 and 4000 calories every year at their Thanksgiving meal – around twice as much as the daily recommended limit
The medical term for an exploded stomach is gastrointestinal perforation, which happens when the stomach gets too full and ruptures.
A hole is formed, which releases the stomach contents into the abdominal cavity, which can lead to infections, including deadly sepsis.
The average stomach holds roughly one liter’s worth of food, but it can stretch to hold slightly more than 128floz at its maximum capacity (the equivalent of the largest bottle of milk).
For context: One large pack of potato and leek soup (which is essentially liquidized potato) weighs 32floz.
Courtney Kalamar, a dietitian at Piedmont Henry Hospital, said: ‘The exact amount varies person to person. But the average adult stomach holds about one liter of food (about four cups).
‘Since the stomach is highly elastic, it is capable of holding as much as three to four liters (or 16 cups) at one time.’
Ms Kalamar explained: ‘It takes your brain 20 minutes to register satiety and fullness.
‘For some, by the time their brain registers that they are full, they have already eaten well beyond the amount needed to feel satisfied and instead feel stuffed.’
However, ‘explode’ is not a very accurate depiction, Theresa Strong, director of research programs at the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research, told Newsweek.
The contents of the stomach would not burst like a water balloon.
Instead the wall of the stomach extends to the point where it splits.
Ms Strong said: ‘The imagery that comes to mind is quite sensational and not accurate – the stomach wall stretches to the point where there is necrosis and/or rupture.’
The Foundation for Prader-Willi Research advocates for people with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder where individuals have a dysfunctional hypothalamus – the part of the brain that regulates things like appetite – meaning they have a constant, insatiable hunger.
Prader-Willi sufferers will not have an instinct to vomit when overeating as the average human body would.
Nevertheless, gastrointestinal perforation from overeating is uncommon, Mary Roach, science writer and the author of Gulp, told Business Insider
Even if you stuff yourself silly this Thanksgiving, it’s wildly unlikely that you’ll suffer from gastrointestinal perforation, otherwise known as an exploded stomach
This is because most people’s gag reflex would kick in when the organ is full, she explained.
However, people with binge-eating disorder, bulimia or other eating disorders might have manipulated their body’s natural cues for hunger, fullness and vomiting that they are no longer effective.
Their stomach muscles may also be too weak to be capable of vomiting, or their stomach could have shrunk so much that it could burst with less food.
A 17-year-old boy with Prader-Willi died on Christmas Eve in 2015 by rupturing his stomach overeating at his family’s annual party, The New York Times Magazine reported.
And in 2003, ‘excessive overeating’ was named as the cause of a 49-year-old man’s stomach rupturing, which led to his death.