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There is a common saying in my place: If you eat your skin, hair or nails, it will be deposited in the cecal (Vermiform) appendix, and can cause appendicitis. (This is mostly told to children to discuourge them from eating their own.)

Is there any reality in this statement? In the case of hair and nails they are dead cells, but what is the issue with skin? Skin is normally living and the cells are active.

So is there any problem digesting ones own skin?

Do nails, skin and hair must be trapped in Vermiform appendix?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by AliceD, Bez, WYSIWYG, Chris, ddiez Dec 12 '14 at 1:38

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Hint: Keratin. Usual proteases in our gut cannot digest keratin. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Dec 11 '14 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ This is something that Proteinase K can do - hence the name "k". $\endgroup$ – Chris Dec 11 '14 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ Most questions in SE are placed "on hold", I think there are straight forward answers exist to this question. Can someone enlighten me, for what reason this question is put on hold ? $\endgroup$ – Jayachandran Dec 12 '14 at 3:52
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Skin is safe to chew, and digestible. Fingernails are not digestible, so really shouldn't be swallowed if avoidable. In the medical literature, there are at least 225 cases of foreign bodies in the appendix. They include:

  • a metal drill bit that was ingested unintentionally 3 months earlier
  • pins (81 cases)
  • lead shot (81 cases)
  • seeds (34 cases)
  • bones (16 cases)
  • eggshell
  • glass
  • teeth
  • nails (hair causes problems with bezoar formation)
  • a die (dice)
  • the clinical end of a thermometer.

Most (71%) patients were symptomatic, typically with intermittent abdominal pain for months or years. Pins were most likely to elicit symptoms (93% of cases).

So it seems there is some truth to this nugget of folk wisdom.

The above were found over many, many years. Since most cases are asymptomatic, it's likely there are many cases that never come to light, but not remarkably so (lots of appendices are removed and examined every year!).

Foreign Bodies in the Appendix

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  • $\begingroup$ What about digestion of skin, WYSIWYG commented that Keratin is indigestible. $\endgroup$ – Jayachandran Dec 12 '14 at 2:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Jvrek - please see the first line. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Dec 12 '14 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ Wow, it's really kept here for years! How do they send the little cameras to the digestive track so they get out? $\endgroup$ – Probably Jan 13 '16 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ I would have put bezoars in big flashing letters at the top of the answer, as the number 1 reason not to do it... ugh. $\endgroup$ – AMR Jan 14 '16 at 2:51

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