What would happen if you didn’t poop for 40 days?

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In England, a 24 year old man is currently refusing to defecate, allegedly to conceal drugs. Or at least, to avoid them from being expelled from his body. He will have gone 43 days without evacuating his bowels -a veritable eternity. But in concrete terms, how would your body react to such an abstinence?

So what happens when you refuse to poop? According to gastro-enterologist Ian Lustbader from the University of New York, and as you may expect, nothing good will come of it! As he says, “birds must fly, fish must swim, and the colon has to poop”. In general, people suffering from chronic constipation desperately want to defecate. You may be familiar with this experience yourself. But voluntarily holding in your stools for long periods is relatively rare.

If you eat a normal diet but do not evacuate your stools, the colon becomes distended, in a condition known as megacolon. The colon can become so large that it can extend up to the rib cage. The excrement hardens and becomes compact. Stools are generally composed of 75% water and a kind of mixture of bacteria, protein, undigested food, non-food waste, dead cells, fat, salt and mucus. The large quantity of water allows for this mixture to move through the body and to be evacuated via the rectum. But if you do not defecate, your body re-absorbs all the water. An abnormal accumulation of dehydrated matter forms in the colon, which is very difficult to pass. Severe abdominal pains follow as well as extreme irritability. In the case of the man in England, “refusing to eat considerably slows down his need to defecate”, explains the doctor, “but it is only a temporary solution: malnutrition will end up becoming a problem”. 

Although it appears that the man swallowed drugs, the packaging could rupture and cause the drugs to seep into his system. This could lead to overdose. “In one way, if the quantity of drugs is small, the body could potentially absorb them, and the man could successfully hide the evidence -as long at the authorities don’t test his urine”. 

The man was awaiting his seventh hearing on Friday 2nd March. “We’ll see who wins”, said the doctor –“the system or the colon”.