How Do You Live Without a Stomach?

Posted on 2021/12/08 by Laparoscopic Surgical Center of New York

There are a number of different organs that we can live without. However, many people are surprised to learn that you can live without a stomach. However, with a little help, the body is able to adapt to bypass the stomach’s main function – which is to store and break down food ready to pass it to the intestines. Here’s what you need to know about how you can live without a stomach.

Reasons for Stomach Removal

There are a few different reasons why someone may undergo a gastrectomy (stomach removal surgery). They include:

  • As part of weight loss surgery for life-threatening obesity

  • Stomach cancer

  • Severe stomach ulcers

  • Removal of non-cancerous tumors

Your surgeon will be able to explain why they are recommending you to have a gastrectomy and what you can expect from the procedure.

Digestion Without a Stomach

To be able to understand how you live without a stomach, you first need to understand how the digestive system usually works when you do have one.

The normal order of the digestive system is quite simple. The food that you consume passes through the esophagus and into your stomach, where it is stored and broken down so that nutrients can be absorbed, before being passed into the small intestine. Here, nutrients continue to be absorbed and waste products pass into the large intestine ready for excretion.

Removing the stomach from the equation simply shortens the digestive process. This means that the esophagus is connected directly to the intestine, via the duodenum. This enables the pancreatic and bile ducts to continue to drain directly into the duodenum, breaking down foods so that the nutrients can continue to be absorbed.

Living Without a Stomach

So, what is life actually like without a stomach? Can you eat normally? What should you expect?

Unsurprisingly, it can take people some time to adjust to living without a stomach. For the first few weeks following your gastrectomy, patients are usually fed intravenously which gives their body and organ systems time to heal and recover from the surgery. For this reason, most patients who undergo a gastrectomy should expect to have to stay in hospital for at least two weeks after their surgery. You will also be closely monitored to make sure that there are no leaks in the digestive process since these could be life-threatening.

After the removal of your stomach, your digestive processes will not be as efficient. For this reason, most patients are recommended to eat much smaller meals more frequently to prevent them from becoming hungry, or from overloading their digestive system with a big meal. Your surgeon will be able to advise you which foods you can eat and when you should introduce them back into your diet. Some people experience a problem known as ‘dumping’, which occurs when the body rapidly deposits food from the esophagus into the small intestine, causing cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

It's not uncommon for people to suffer from nutritional deficiencies following a gastrectomy. This is because the procedure can affect how well you can absorb different nutrients. For this reason, you will almost certainly be prescribed some supplements which you should take exactly as directed.

You will probably notice fairly rapid weight loss in the days and weeks following your surgery and this is completely normal. If you have any concerns about your weight loss, don’t hesitate to speak to your surgical team.



If you would like more information about living without a stomach, visit the Laparoscopic Surgical Center of New York in New York, New York. Call (212) 879-6677 to schedule an appointment today.

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