Can milk produce plastic in the stomach?

Short version
Is it possible for milk to form a plastic-like substance in the human stomach? Maybe casein?

Long version
Czarcasm’s thread looking for an iced coffee maker, (link), has reminded me of something…

Where I live, iced coffee is the most popular drink in town. The big brand is made of reconstituted milk, lots of sugar, and coffee.

A guy I used to work with told me the following story -
He drank about 6 of these coffees a day for nearly 4 years. That’s about 3.6 litres, or just under a gallon, a day. I have no problem believing that - I have got up to 3 litres a day myself. It’s a very addictive drink.
Anyway, he started getting stomach cramps, and one day they got so bad he passed out. An ambulance was called, he was taken to the hospital, x-rayed, and they pumped his stomach out. He swears the doc told him that the milk had solidified into hard lumps, ‘like plastic’, in his stomach. He was told to cut back to one iced coffee a day, and has had no more stomach problems.

At the time I just laughed, called it bull, and forgot about it. Years later, I was reading something that mentioned a plastic that could be produced from milk - casein. That made me wonder about my co-workers story. Could he have been telling the truth?

Does anyone know if it’s possible for milk to react in the stomach and start forming lumps of plastic? Has anyone here had this happen to them?

i don’t think this story will stick no matter how you paint it.


Not plastic exactly, but milk protein can coagulate in the intestines of babies.
(Incidentally, what are the odds on this question coming up? I just had cause to look at the Wiki page on bezoars not 48 hours ago, and that passage stuck in my head. Now there’s a GQ question about it!)

My first though upon reading this, and I could be totally wrong, is that your friend wouldn’t be told to cut back on iced coffees, but to stop drinking them altogether if he had a legit medical emergency that involved his stomach being pumped and an ambulance ride.
But now reading the posts, it might make sense. You’ll note that the most common way for someone to get a Lactobezoar is from baby formula and the iced coffee in the OP is made with reconstituted (dried) milk. Doesn’t seem too far fetched anymore.

Hmmm…I’m a little gobsmacked. I guess I shouldn’t have laughed at his story.

Thanks for the link from the ninja jz78817 and Colophon.

I guess I have to agree with Joey P - it doesn’t seem too far fetched. I’ll have to concede that it’s possible.

I guess there’s an apology I need to make at some point.

On a vaguely related note, I remember being admonished by a Swiss friend of a friend for drinking cold beer when eating cheese fondue, because it would make the melted cheese solidify into a big mass in my stomach. I was pretty sceptical (after all, you can eat unmelted cheese without this happening), but he assured me it is accepted Swiss wisdom.

I didn’t suffer gruyeroenteritis, anyway.

Just because there’s a real condition that superficially resembles this in lay language - but really is unrelated in any way: chemically, physiologically, incident population, cause, etc. - does not make the urban legend any more real.

Laugh and call it bull. That’s what it is.

Also, beer cheese soup.

Casein is the protein in milk. Like most other proteins it is entirely digestible. Indeed, it is in in milk precisely in order to be digested and thus supply nutrition to an infant. It is possible to make a form of plastic out of casein, but you do so by treating it with formaldehyde. If you have formaldehyde in your stomach you have bigger problems than you will ever get by drinking any amount of coffee or milk.

Lacobezoar is an extremely rare problem, that occurs in infants, probably because their digestive system is underdeveloped. There have only been 96 reported cases ever.

Elmer’s School Glue was invented by Borden, and was the first non-food product the company ever marketed. Although is now made today from PVA (a petroleum byproduct), it used to be made out of milk. I do not know how this process worked. So maybe there is some set of circumstances by which you could get milk to turn into some sort of polymer in vivo; I don’t know.

There are no such circumstances. It’s nonsense.

I am thinking that his symptoms were due to the lack of phosphoric acid in his blood.
Problem: run out of phosphoric acid in his blood,

Symptom 1 : stomach cramps due to inability to push the coagulated milk solids out of his stomach. (body wasn’t producing stomach acid, due to the problem with blood pH.)

Symptom 2: passed out due to blood chemistry problems (short of phosphoric acid to buffer the pH , pH changed! )

Symptom 3: perhaps he was constipated quite badly ? full intestines ? Thats reason the milk solids were stuck in the stomach ?

Treatment: 1 Remove milk from stomach , and AFTERWARD, 2. a dose of phosphoric acid (Used as food acid … you can consume this with no burning.)

The pumping of the stomach is to allow the Phosphoric acid to be consumed, Not really to remove this imaginary milk turned to solid (like oil to plastic.)
Permanent cure: cut down the milk intake. His body will then be able to maintain the phosphoric acid in his blood, which in turn acts as a buffer and keeps the blood at the correct pH … O

Isilder, I challenge you to provide a medical-grade cite that would back up anything - anything - you said you that post.

Or he could increase his intake of Diet Coke, to up his phosphoric acid levels.

Nonsense. Blood, like nearly all other bodily fluids, is highly buffered in order to maintain its pH in a very narrow range. If it varied by more than a minute fraction you would be dead. Anyway, it has little to do with stomach acid, and anyway, it is enzymes that play the major role in digesting mil protein, not the acid.

And as I already pointed out, milk bezoars are extremely rare, and occur only in infants with undeveloped digestive systems.

Furthermore, I myself (and many other people) drink far more milk per day than this person could conceivably have been getting from his coffee. I probably drink more milk than is good for me, but it has never given me digestive problems. If anything, the reverse: when I do have a mildly upset stomach, I find milk often helps it.

What do the Swiss know about cheese? Their accepted wisdom is riddled with holes.

I would posit two more likely scenarios. Both are actually due to the high intake of caffeine rather than the milk.

The first possibility is that he could have gone to the ER with pain which was due to a tachyarrhythmia (rapid heart rate). With a fast heart rate, the cardiac output actually decreases while the heart muscle increases its work. The two effects together cause a relative ischemia (lack of blood supply sufficient to bring enough oxygen to the muscle). Often ischemia (angina) can cause pain where most would identify their stomach.

I have seen this often in the ER in otherwise healthy young adults who take as little as a single energy drink.

But, that would not explain the need to pump his stomach.

The other explanation is one from a case I theoretically saw years ago.

A man in his 30s had overdosed on mail order diet pills. He arrived by ambulance vomiting and actively seizing. He was stabilized by drugs, intubation with ventilator and then transferred to the University Hospital. During that procedure, a tube was placed in his stomach to keep it empty.

I only got one follow up report.

The diet pills turned out to be caffeine. And due to the large dose of caffeine, his small intestines had gone into a spasm causing an obstruction. Once this was realized, he underwent surgery to remove a portion of his small intestine that contained a large mass of pill remnants.

In the case of the man described in the initial message, I would suspect that his symptoms were most likely from an ileus (paralysis of the intestine) or obstruction (blockage) of the intestine due to the caffeine.

One final thought. Those who stop drinking caffeine suddenly can also have heart problems.

One of my trainers told me that his wife had a habit of drinking a half case of caffeinated sodas a day.

When she stopped suddenly, she ended up in the ICU over the weekend with uncontrolled tachyarrhythmia.

So, wean off the caffeine gradually.

My Swiss Friend told me that you had to drink a shot of Kirschwasser halfway through a fondue dinner to avoid stomach cramps. He called it the “coup de milieu” (middle shot, I guess).