You can live a relatively normal life without specific organs. These organs include the gall bladder, spleen, tonsils, appendix, kidney, adenoids, and one of your lungs. Did you know that you can live without a stomach?
It is a reality for many stomach cancer survivors. With a bit of help, the body can adapt to bypass the main functions of the stomach. These functions include storing food and breaking it down to pass it to the intestines.
The Digestion Process
Food is an essential part of life, but many people do not appreciate their stomachs enough. The standard digestion process involves the movement of food from the esophagus into the stomach. Then, the food passes into the intestines for further digestion, nutrient absorption, and eventual excretion.
What Is Gastrectomy?
When you develop stomach cancer, your doctor may recommend a gastrectomy, which is the partial or total removal of the stomach. A partial gastrectomy involves the removal of a portion of the stomach, usually the lower half. The surgeon then connects the small intestine to the remaining stomach section.
Total gastrectomy removes the whole stomach and connects the esophagus to the small intestine. This procedure leaves you with a working digestive system that will allow you to eat, swallow, and digest food differently.
Reasons for Stomach Removal
The thought of not having a stomach is very scary. After all, the stomach seems integral to consuming the food you need to live. So, how is it possible to live without it, and why would anyone undergo a gastrectomy? Some of the reasons to undergo this procedure include:
Severe stomach ulcers
To remove noncancerous tumors
As part of a procedure for life-threatening obesity
Your surgeon will explain why he/she recommends a gastrectomy and what to expect from the procedure.
How Does Digestion Work Without a Stomach?
Removing the stomach from the digestion equation shortens the process. Essentially, the esophagus connects directly to the small intestine through the duodenum. That allows the bile and pancreatic ducts to continue draining into the duodenum to break down food to allow for nutrient absorption.
Living Without a Stomach
It takes some time to adjust to life without a stomach. Patients usually feed intravenously for the first few weeks following the procedure to give the organ systems and body time to heal and recover. So, patients typically remain in the hospital for at least two weeks after surgery. The surgical team closely monitors them to ensure no life-threatening leaks in the digestive process.
After a total gastrectomy, the digestive processes are not as efficient. Doctors recommend consuming smaller meals more frequently to prevent hunger and avoid overloading the digestive system. The surgeon will recommend the foods one can eat and when to introduce them back into one’s diet.
It is possible to live without a stomach, but you may experience some nutritional deficiencies. After all, it will affect how well you can digest certain foods and absorb different nutrients. Your doctor will almost certainly prescribe some supplements to address this problem.
For more on laparoscopic surgery, visit the Laparoscopic Surgical Center of New York at our New York, New York office. Call (212) 879-6677 to schedule an appointment today.