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How Digestible Is Pepper?

Where does black pepper go after you swallow it? I was told that it sat in the bottom of your stomach until you died. Is this true?

Your question — like all questions received at Ochef — is special to us. We have been cherishing it and thank you for taking the time to write. But where in heaven's name do these ideas come from? (You are not, however, the first to have asked this question. We've just been cherishing the other peoples' questions longer than yours.)

Actually, pepper was used as a medicine in parts of Asia centuries ago, and it is still considered to be an aid to digestion nowadays — certainly not an indigestible substance itself.

Imagine if a person consumed an average of one sixty-fourth of a teaspoon of pepper every day (that is to say, not very much pepper each day). At the end of 20 years, he or she would have 2-1/2 cups of pepper sitting at the bottom of his or her stomach. By the end of 37 years, the average person's stomach would be full of pepper. The questionable good news, though, is that the average person's stomach can expand to hold four times its normal volume (which explains how we can eat way too much at Thanksgiving and at mediocre buffets in Florida), so that theoretically we could eat one sixty-fourth of a teaspoon of black pepper every day for 148 years before our stomachs burst. If pepper were not digestible. Which it is.

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