The Wrong Way To Collect Coins: In Your Stomach

By Josh Bloom — Nov 27, 2017
Coin collecting is a nice, peaceful, and generally-safe activity. But not when you swallow them. Throw in a few razor blades and an iron shackle and it gets a bit riskier. But is it as risky as a Chipotle meal?   
You'd be better off swallowing this. And it's lighter

Don't ever make the mistake of thinking that you've heard it all. Because every now and then something like this will come up to prove you wrong. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the metric system, 7 kilograms is 15.4 pounds. That's a lot. Here is a partial list of various items that weigh about 15 pounds:

  • A large bowling ball
  • One dachshund
  • Two cats
  • A gallon of paint
  • One-tenth of an octopus
  • Nineteen cans of soup

OK. You get it. That's a lot of stuff to have in your stomach. Aside from a trip to Chipotle, I can hardly think of a surer way to guarantee that you will be looking at some big-time gastrointestinal distress. And Maksud Khan, a resident of the city of Satna, which is in central India, had just that. Khan went to the hospital complaining of stomach pain. Doctors first suspected a stomach bug but were quite surprised when they found this instead:

The contents of Maksud Khan's stomach included 263 coins,100 nails, razors one iron shackle, and various other metal and stone objects. Amazingly, he suffered no serious harm. Photo: SWNS

"The patient was complaining of stomach pains, so we thought of getting an endoscopy done. We were shocked to discover coins, nails, and nut-bolts in his stomach...[w]e come across such a case for the first time in our career."

Maksud Khan's surgeon quoted in Zee News

Why would Khan do something like this? His relatives said that Khan had been depressed in recent years. Perhaps he felt he was iron deficient or took the phrase "a steady diet of heavy metal" too literally. This was not an isolated event. Last year surgeons removed 28 knives, some as long as seven inches, from the stomach of another Indian man, who was near death. 

There is another possible explanation: pica, an eating disorder in which people (and animals) consume non-food items. According to Psychology Today, hospital admission for pica nearly doubled from 1999-2009.

"Pica gets its name from the Latin word for magpie. Magpies eat just about anything, but humans who eat nonfoods are choosier. The compulsion usually focuses on a single item. Doctors have operated on people whose intestines were blocked with nuts, bolts, or screws. People who regularly consume twigs, newsprint, or bathroom deodorizers are not as rare as you might guess."

Psychology Today, September 12, 2011

Sometimes pica can make "sense." Children eat lead paint — this may be because a number of lead salts are sweet (1). People sometimes chew on ice (pagophagia). According to the Mayo Clinic, this may be a sign of iron deficiency, but it could just as well be a behavioral issue. Or they like ice. Some other pica substances include hair, clay, and urine. The rest you don't want to know. 

I'm not sure what the lesson is here. Perhaps victims of pica need to be pickier. Just like Chipotle customers. 

Eeny, meeny...  Photo: mikebrandlyauctioneer



(1) Romans used to use lead salts as an artificial sweetener. And people complain about aspartame. 



Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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