What Happens If You Swallow an Olive Pit?

February 14, 2024

Olives are a staple of cocktail party spreads and a common pre-dinner snack at Spanish tapas restaurants. Soaking in citrusy olive oil, they're a tasty treat. But what happens if you accidentally swallow one of the pits?

Unlike other fruit pits, olive pits aren't poisonous. However, they're not entirely harmless, either. They have some chemical compounds that are harmful to humans and animals, but they don't contain the cyanide that makes the pits of certain other fruits downright deadly. Birds and other wild creatures have been eating whole olives for centuries without falling ill.

If you didn't masticate the olive correctly and swallowed it whole, the pit would probably travel through your throat (properly speaking, your esophagus) and stomach and then into your colon. Unless your teeth cracked and broke the pit, you probably wouldn't feel anything as it went on its way, though. A phenomenon called peristalsis moves solids and liquids through your gastrointestinal tract like an undulating conveyor belt, massaging them as they move along.

If the pit made it all the way to your rectum, it'd be stuck there and might cause some irritation as it tried to break apart. And, if it got stuck on something like your penis, it might tear through the delicate tissue lining your rectum and cause some pain, bleeding, and possibly damage. A few reports of this have been in the news, but it's a very rare event. The best advice is to learn how to masticate your food properly.


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