Many of us have been there. Life is, for once, taking you on a sweet and untroubled passage through the “Valley of the Shadow of Death”, as the Good Book says.
It’s a languid afternoon, you’re with your favouritest person in the world, chowing down on a delectable salad filled with all sorts of mouth-watering delicacies when you suddenly realize you’ve swallowed an olive pit.
In a moment, life transforms from a Sunnydale paradise story into a dark and gloomy Rocky Horror Real-Life Show. You wonder if your days on this planet are about to come to a remarkable but appalling end.
You picture your picture finally making the news at six showing you lying in a hospital bed with an olive tree growing out of your abdomen like a Triffid’s agricultural cousin.
What Happens If You Swallow An Olive Pit?
If you swallow an olive pit it won’t cause any harm and the olive will exit the body in the stool.
An Olive Pit’s Journey Through a Human
How an Olive Pit Might Enter a Human Body
An olive pit begins its human exploration through the mouth unless we’re dealing with an eccentric adult or a curious child, in which case the pit might enter the human body through the nose.
I leave it to the reader to imagine other orifices through which enterprising individuals might entertain a pit, but as these ingresses will not result in the pit traveling through the gut, I think we can return our attention to less exotic and fabulous ingestions.
Many of us have formed the habit of masticating properly–and here, I really must thank my grandmother of blessed memory for insisting that I chew my food properly. We cannot stand the idea of swallowing anything that isn’t semi-liquid.
As such, folks like us do not get to swallow olive pits because we first discover the pit as a tooth-threatening hard object that instinct has us spit out instantly.
Those of you who don’t chew your food properly, well, you sort of get what you deserve, don’t you? 😉 Saliva contains enzymes that perform the first stage of digestion, so proper chewing allows time for the mouthful of food to begin to breakdown as teeth mash everything into a pulp.
However, because the shell of an olive husk is hard and, in some cases, sharp, you might be unlucky enough to crack a tooth, which ought to bring the pit’s sojourn to a sudden halt.
That said, it wouldn’t be much of an article if we stopped here, so let’s assume that you didn’t masticate, or at least not well enough, so you swallowed the pit just as you realized it was in your mouth. What happens next?
Well, a small flap closes over your windpipe to stop you from killing yourself by choking to death, and the pit continues on its merry way.
An Olive Pit in Your Craw
Some olive pits are sharp but not as sharp as a fishbone, and in any case, way too small to stick your craw. Most people won’t feel anything as the pit wends through your throat (properly speaking, your esophagus).
Many might imagine they can feel something because the human mind is terrific at conjuring up phantom feelings when it thinks it can get away with them.
An action called “peristalsis” moves the pit and whatever else might be accompanying it through the esophagus towards your stomach. This peristalsis is interesting in itself.
Your gastrointestinal walls act like an undulating conveyor belt, massaging solids and liquids in one direction. Imagine how a caterpillar creeps along, and you’ll have a good mental picture of what peristalsis looks like, although what a caterpillar is actually doing is different.
Olive Pit, Say Hello to My Little Friend, My Stomach
Just as the epiglottis (that small flap I mentioned earlier) is like a guardian that lets food into your throat, a ring of muscles called the oesophageal sphincter relaxes to let the food continue into your stomach. (When this sphincter fails, you get acid reflux, which you know, if you’ve ever had it, is really cotton pickin’ unpleasant.)
Now in your stomach, the olive pit shows its toughness by saying “yar boo and sucks to you” to all the digestive juices we humans can muster. Compared to the digestive acids of spotted hyenas which can dissolve bone, our piddly digestive fluids fail to trouble olive pits significantly.
In the stomach, liquids, food paste (if you chewed your food correctly), and digestive juices all get churned and thoroughly mixed around by your stomach muscles to produce something called “chyme“.
The peristaltic action of your stomach eventually feeds the chyme into the intestines.
The Olive Pit Starts Heading Out of Your Body
The action of the small intestine on an olive pit
The small intestine is where your body mixes chyme with more digestive fluids from the intestine itself, your pancreas, and liver. This is also where the magic finally happens, and your body, at last, gets to absorb the nutrients and water it needs from the chyme.
Stuff your body thinks is strictly pants is passed on by peristalsis to the large intestine. Naturally, the olive pit was always of zero use to your body, so it is also passed to the large intestine.
The action of the large intestine on an olive pit
Your large intestine takes old or dead cells from your gastrointestinal tract (basically everything from your esophagus to here), undigested foods, waste fluids, and water absorbed from your body to turn this processed chyme into stool (you know, the smelly stuff).
The olive pit is part of the “undigested foods” I mentioned, so it too gets passed by peristalsis into the final chamber, your rectum.
The Olive Pit and the End of the Line
All things, good or bad, eventually come to an end, and at last, the olive pit’s safari through your body comes to its end, literally, at your rectum, where, literally, sh*t happens.
If you accidentally ate just the one olive pit, the odds are that the pit will be fully ensconced by other matter, and your anus isn’t even going to be aware that your olive passenger has disembarked the “Good Ship Me”.
On the other hand, if you ingested several of these pits and they’ve made it all the way through to your rectum, then some of them might be on the stool’s surface.
Since these pits are hard and sharp, they will tear into the delicate tissue lining your rectum, causing pain and possibly some bleeding, teaching you, perhaps, a valuable lesson in chewing your food properly and not eating unusual items if you don’t have to, especially in large numbers or quantities!
Afterword: What Happens If You Swallow An Olive Pit?
Although the olive pit husks are hard and sharp, unless eaten on their own on an empty stomach (meaning the stomach of a person who has not eaten any food in over four hours), olive pits won’t cause you any harm. Olive pits exit the body in stool, generally surrounded by bits of other waste and undigested foods. Healthy children and adults do not have to worry if they have accidentally swallowed an olive pit.
Fortunately, human stomachs and intestines don’t make good media for growing trees or other vegetation. Therefore, we generally have little to worry about if we accidentally ingest plant or tree seeds unless said seeds are poisonous to us, which is a whole other level of palaver.
There might be the odd person with particular health problems that make eating olive pits unwise, but most of us will not suffer any adverse effects.
Frequently Asked Questions to What Happens if You Swallow An Olive Pit?
Are Olives Good For You?
Olives are rich in antioxidants and contain loads of vitamin E. They can be part of a healthy diet in moderation.
What Happens if You Swallow An Olive Pit?
In otherwise healthy children and adults, accidentally swallowing an olive pit will not cause much harm. They will most likely exit the body unnoticed through stool. The risks are greater on an empty stomach, and if a big number is accidentally ingested.
Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)
Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.