I really mean it when I tell people I cannot make any food.
September 12, 2010 8:38 PM   Subscribe

How sick am I going to be if I accidentally drank part of a smoothie that included wood?

I make smoothies out of frozen fruit that comes in packages that I keep closed in the freezer using mini clothespins. Tonight, as I dumped the remainder of the blackberries into the blender, the mini clothespin must have fallen in. I did not realize this until I started drinking the smoothie and there were weird, gross, fibrous chunks in it. I swallowed a few of them, assuming they were particularly tough pieces of frozen berries. I was mystified and disgusted when, however, I found the metal spring, which is when I realized what I'd done (you'd think I would have realized when the blender made weird clunking noises, but I do use ice in these and I'd put more ice in than usual). I stopped drinking the smoothie. It's been an hour or so. My stomach feels weird. I am not sure if is because I drank wood and now I have a stomach splinter, or if I am just terrifying myself with the idea. Any experience or opinions with this?
posted by millipede to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's fibre. Unless they're big enough to cause physical discomfort on the way out, you'll be fine. You probably eat wood all the time in the form of various stems or cinnamon bark. Wood isn't poison. It probably wasn't so clean, but you'll live.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:42 PM on September 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am gonna guess that this is exactly the sort of question that will liven up your local poison control center's slow Sunday night. For the location in your profile, that's 1-800-222-1222.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:42 PM on September 12, 2010 [7 favorites]

I am not your doctor, but I think you'll be just fine. There's a guy in the guiness book of world records who ate a bike, among other things. I'm sure you don't want to go around eating wood all the time, but if it were me, I wouldn't be too worried.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:42 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing you'll be ok. Those chunks didn't sound like they were very large. Wood isn't toxic and any splinters aren't going to stay sharp for long in your acidic stomach.
posted by storybored at 8:43 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry, link to the article here.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:43 PM on September 12, 2010

SpacemanStix, I love that man who ate a bike. I also love Tarrare. However, I figured they were outliers. I mean, most people who attempt to eat a bike get very sick.
posted by millipede at 8:44 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Any experience or opinions with this?" Sorry, that made me smile. It's pretty unlikely that anyone has any experience with this, exactly anyway.

However, my pup eats wood, sticks, acorns, you name it, hasn't killed her yet.

I suspect that the feeling you're experiencing is your anxiety.

glad you didn't ingest the spring, this might be a whole different answer.

As they say, all things will pass.
posted by HuronBob at 8:44 PM on September 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wood is food. No worries.
posted by dfriedman at 8:45 PM on September 12, 2010

my opinion somewhat based in experience: brew yourself up some strong peppermint tea, swallow a tablespoonfull of quality oil (olive, sesame, etc), drink a couple of glasses of water heavily infused with fresh lemon juice, grab a spoonful of psyllium husk powder mixed with juice....anything to speed the process. you are not going to be able to tell right now what will happen, so grease your system and relax for now.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:46 PM on September 12, 2010

It depends on the wood. Some wood, mostly pressure-treated stuff, is toxic. Most isn't.
posted by smorange at 8:46 PM on September 12, 2010

Believe it or not, I have experience with this. I was making a smoothie that refused to blend. While the blender was running, I smooshed the ingredients down with a wooden spoon and the spoon got caught in the blade. A largish chunk of the spoon chipped off and blended into my smoothie. I drank it and lived.
posted by Kicky at 8:53 PM on September 12, 2010 [17 favorites]

I am not a doctor or a lumberjack, but I have some experience with, er, chewing on things I'm not supposed to. Are your clothespins made of what seems like raw, untreated wood? Or are they shiny and tough, like can you make an impression with a fingernail or not? Probably they're just plain wood, but if they're particularly fancy or something, you might have ingested some toxic chemicals. If they came in a package that you still have around, it might say something like "food-safe" on it, in which case you're probably good to go. Luckily, even if it was varnished or coated in something other than wax, you wouldn't have eaten enough of it to really hurt you, unless you're particularly small (like, smaller than an average 10 year old kid) or have a compromised digestive system already. You won't get "stomach splinters" because your stomach acid is a meeeeeeean mofo. It can soften up and break down a little fibrous material, no problem. We ingest poisonous things in small quantities constantly, and are pretty much fine.

You're just feeling the anxiety right now, most likely. If you think it will make you feel better, call poison control or a doctor, but I suggest some peppermint tea and a bran muffin with a distracting movie.
posted by Mizu at 9:23 PM on September 12, 2010

As an avid toothpick chewer, I can tell you you'll be fine.
posted by chairface at 9:30 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wood is cellulose. You won't digest it and will simply poop it out. No problem.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 9:40 PM on September 12, 2010

Problems caused by ingesting wood are not unheard of, so don't ignore any real gastrointestinal symptoms ("my stomach feels weird" is not much of a symptom, particularly if you're a worrier). On the other hand, if you blended this enough to pulverize ice you beat the shit out of that wood, in liquid no less, so it is probably more correct that you ingested soggy wood pulp as opposed to, say, a hard wood splinter like a toothpick, and the acid hellbroth in your stomach made short work of any structural integrity left in it. I agree with the basic advice to try not to dwell on it and worry, and if you subsequently feel fine, the overwhelming likelihood is that you are fine.
posted by nanojath at 9:43 PM on September 12, 2010

I have a bad habit of putting wooden things in my mouth and chewing on them and I've eaten clothespin on several occasions without any ill effects.
posted by tallus at 10:31 PM on September 12, 2010

I don't think it even matters what the peg was made of, you're going to be fine. Given that you didn't even really notice that you were swallowing bits of wood, it must have been broken into quite small bits, so it'll probably come out the other end without note. Your upset stomach is almost certainly psychosomatic.
posted by The Monkey at 10:43 PM on September 12, 2010

When I was in fifth grade, there was this school camping trip that I really didn't want to go to. I forced myself to swallow a small piece of wood from inside the terrarium that housed my pet chameleon, thinking that would make me get sick. But my plan failed; I didn't get sick at all.

I'm pretty sure my stomach didn't hurt after I swallowed the wood though.
posted by overglow at 11:05 PM on September 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

Totally came in to say that my mom and I both did what Kicky did and lived.
posted by NoraReed at 1:04 AM on September 13, 2010

We've probably all done this in the sense that some commercial breads contain wood pulp.
posted by applemeat at 5:58 AM on September 13, 2010

Believe it or not, I have experience with this
Me too. I used fudgesicles and scraped the ice cream off the wooden sticks with a knife to make milkshakes with this great new liquor de cajeta con tequila that my daughter brought back from Mexico. While sipping it, I came up with a half-inch splinter in my mouth - I must have cut one of the sticks. I stood there and debated whether to throw the whole batch out and/or tell my daughter, but decided to just ignore it. We're both still alive and healthy.
posted by CathyG at 6:50 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

For the record, some woods ARE naturally toxic. Black walnut, for example, is so toxic that just growing one can kill many plants anywhere near its roots, and the wood makes animals sick if chipped and used for bedding. (Don't eat black walnut wood.) All of a cherry tree except the actual fruit flesh contains cyanide: the cherry pit, the leaves, and also the wood.

That said, if I accidentally ate some unknown wood, I'd be more worried about it passing properly than whether it was poisonous, since the poisonous woods are not really common and aren't usually used casually for making household items. If the chunks are small and not splintery, then it's probably just an extra dose of fiber in your daily diet.
posted by galadriel at 6:58 AM on September 13, 2010

Believe it or not, I have experience with this. I was making a smoothie that refused to blend. While the blender was running, I smooshed the ingredients down with a wooden spoon and the spoon got caught in the blade. A largish chunk of the spoon chipped off and blended into my smoothie. I drank it and lived.

I have done exactly this. It was not the best-tasting smoothie of my life, but it wasn't all that bad, either. (And nothing untoward happened to me after drinking, um, the whole thing.)
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:16 AM on September 13, 2010

I used to eat wooden items all the time when I was a kid -- I would compulsively chew up popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, etc. and I would inevitably end up physically ingesting and consuming about half of it before I realized what I was doing. I never got sick from eating wood (or paper, which is probably way more toxic given all the bleaching/dyeing steps), so I'm joining the "you'll probably be fine" bandwagon.
posted by kataclysm at 7:22 AM on September 13, 2010

I, too, have experience with this, due to a housemate making pesto, including part of a wooden spoon, and not telling us until too late. This was years ago and as far as I know there were no ill effects.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:07 AM on September 13, 2010

For some reason, when I was in first grade I loved the taste of those big green pencils they gave us to write with; I would chew one down to a nub in about a week, much to my teacher's chagrin. It is debatable whether or not I turned out OK, but whichever is the case, eating wood had nothing to do with it.

On the other hand, there are unusual situations such as diverticulitis where non-digestible items like wood (or peppercorns or tomato seeds or popcorn hulls or...) might cause a problem, but it is pretty unlikely and you should know enough to get checked out for severe abdominal pain or other symptoms even if you haven't eaten anything unusual.
posted by TedW at 8:09 AM on September 13, 2010

I've eaten plenty of paper accidentally, and been fine. Paper is made of wood! I bet you'll be okay.
posted by Eshkol at 10:14 AM on September 13, 2010

I did exactly what Kicky did and I too survived. (Unfortunately, I have done this more than once...)
posted by thatone at 3:11 PM on September 13, 2010

Some cultures make moonshine out of tree bark :-D
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 9:14 AM on July 14, 2011

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