Bezoares : the stones with ‘powers’

Bezoares : the stones with ‘powers’

Bezoars are authentic balls that form in the stomach produced by ingested non-digestible materials. For years it has been believed in its healing power, something we analyze carefully.

“Last night, in the operating room, they operated on an emergency girl and removed a ball of hair, the size of a fist, from the stomach!” Commented two nurses with a stupor face while changing shifts. But we should not be surprised. This accumulation of non-digestible materials in the digestive system has been known for many centuries and is called Bezoar.

When any non-digestible material is ingested, such as hair (trichobezoar), vegetables with cellulose (phytobezoar) – humans, contrary to ruminants, we are not able to digest it -, plastic, some medications (pharmacobezoar), stones, etc. ., is retained in the digestive system and progressively is coated with materials such as calcium or magnesium, forming authentic balls or balls that can even be beautiful to look at, have become known as “human pearls.” This type of disease does not only occur in humans, it is well known to cat owners, who frequently vomit hairballs, they have also been found in the stomachs of deer and other ruminants.

Historically, this disorder has been known, according to the oldest records, of Greece and Mesopotamia, since about 1000 years BC Since this time, both for its aesthetic appearance, and its supposed healing power, especially against poisons, they have been collected as amulets This ‘hobby’ of collecting bezoars has passed through the centuries. Alfonso X the Wise ordered the Arabic work The Book of Picatrix to be translated into Spanish, in which it was described in detail how to make talismans with bezoar stones. Cardinal Richelieu in 1661 spoke of them in a letter saying they helped her overcome a disease. The Habsburg princes used them to treat melancholy and Queen Elizabeth I of England had one, particularly beautiful, that adorned one of her crowns. To such an extent comes the interest that recently one of them has been auctioned at Christie’s. They have also been the subject of cinema and literature. In Harry Potter by JK Rowling, one of them is used as a cure for poisoning.

As we can imagine, there is no scientific evidence of the healing power of these elements. They have not even demonstrated efficacy when it comes to absorbing poisons such as arsenic, something that to some extent might seem logical. As for the magical and supernatural power, let everyone think what they want, but in that field, they have been very successful.

The symptoms

From a medical point of view, having a bezoar can be a very serious problem. It fundamentally affects young women. It is often associated with mental retardation or psychiatric problems. The symptoms are very generic, nausea vomiting, abdominal pain, etc. In thin people, they can be felt in the abdomen. To diagnose them, today, a CT scan and a digestive endoscopy are usually performed, where they are seen. They are more frequent in the stomach but can affect other parts of the digestive system. Bezoars can cause serious disorders such as perforations, intestinal hemorrhages or occlusion symptoms.

Your treatment

As for the treatment, it will depend on the circumstances. In those asymptomatic, you can try a conservative treatment with ‘cellulase’, which is a substance that digests the cellulose of phytobezoars, compounds of undigested vegetables. Also by endoscopy, you can try to fragment and then extract the remains. In case of a serious complication such as those described above, surgery will be necessary. Logically it will be advisable to treat the cause, so that it is not repeated, through psychological or psychiatric therapies if necessary.

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