There are different organs that you depend on for survival. Without them, you can die. However, it can be surprising to learn that it is possible to live without a stomach. Your body can bypass your stomach’s functions, such as storing and breaking down the food you eat before passing it to your intestines.
Living without a stomach is a daily reality for some people who have survived stomach or gastric cancer. You can also have your stomach removed if your obesity is life-threatening or if you have severe stomach ulcers. Removal of noncancerous tumors can also guarantee stomach removal. Gastrectomy surgery has made this possible for many people.
What Is Gastrectomy?
Gastrectomy is a surgical procedure for removing the stomach. A partial gastrectomy involves the removal of a part, often the lower half of the stomach. Your surgeon then connects your small intestines to the remaining stomach.
Total gastrectomy happens based on where you have a tumor growing. Your surgeon will remove your stomach and connect your esophagus to your small intestine—leaving you with a functional digestive system that can still allow you to swallow, eat, and digest food.
What Happens After Stomach Removal?
After your surgery, you will have to adapt to changes. How you eat and digest food will be completely different. Ideally, follow your doctor’s instructions for eating. Doing so will help your body absorb the nutrients to keep you healthy. Your desire to eat and enjoy your meals will return with time.
How Do You Eat Without a Stomach?
Handling regular food portions may not be possible without a stomach. You may not feel hungry. However, even without hunger, eating is ideal as nutrition plays a significant role in keeping you healthy.
You will eat small food portions frequently—at least six to eight meals every day. Your nutritionist or doctor will also advise you to stay upright for a while after every meal. If you struggle with eating, your specialist can adjust your diet.
Some patients tend to experience dumping syndrome. After partial or complete stomach removal, the food they swallow passes into their intestines quickly. It then causes problems with sweating, flushing, diarrhea, and nausea. Fortunately, some treatments can help relieve these symptoms.
Patients need to take small bites of their food and chew it thoroughly. Doing so is crucial as the stomach is no longer there to grind and break down the food they eat.
Maintaining or Promoting Weight Gain
You can return to your daily activities when you consume enough calories over time. Your specialists will advise you to eat low-sugar, nutritious, high-calorie foods. Your priority should be feeding your body calories. Although your food portions will be small, ensure they have very high calories.
Living With No Stomach
Adjusting to living with no stomach may take you some time. After your surgery, you may have to feed intravenously for a couple of weeks. Doing so will give your body and its internal system time to recover and heal from the procedure.
Hence, you may have to stay in the hospital for at least two weeks post-surgery. Your doctors will need to monitor you to avoid life-threatening occurrences like leaks in your digestive system.
It is possible to suffer from a nutritional deficiency after your surgery. The treatment can affect your nutrient absorption ability. Thus, you may find yourself taking different supplements prescribed by your doctor. If you have concerns, speak to your specialist for help or clarification.
For more on living without a stomach, call the Laparoscopic Surgical Center of New York at (212) 879-6677 to reach our office in New York, New York.