You might want to put down that bubble tea -- or at least slow down to a reasonable amount. Those delicious, chewy balls found in the popular Taiwanese tea drink are not as easily digestible as you may think.
A 14-year-old girl in China's Zhejiang province was hospitalized after hundreds of the cooked tapioca balls were found in her stomach. The teen initially complained to her parents that she was having intense stomach pain and hadn’t moved her bowels in five days. When her parents brought her to the doctor, scans revealed her entire digestive system was clogged with the pearls, according to The Sun.
Dr. Zhang Louwei treated the girl with laxatives and she was sent home, but Zhang doubts that just one cup of bubble tea caused the problem. "She must be hiding the true number of pearl milk tea she had," he told The Sun. "So many undigested tapioca balls can't all be from just one cup. She must've had quite a few over a short period." Zhang suspected the girl was lying about the true number of cups of tea she drank for fear of being punished. Exactly how many cups are we talking about, Doc?
Do we need to swear off bubble tea, one of our few joys in life? Not entirely, say doctors. Though the starchy balls are hard to digest, they will pass through those with regular digestive systems. If you gun a whole bunch in one day, however, the works may get gummed up a bit and you might want to switch to kale and Ex-Lax smoothies instead.
Dr. Ryan Marino, an emergency physician at UPMC in Pittsburgh, Penn., told TODAY that though the Chinese case was unusual, it's a reminder to keep a varied diet. "If there is anything to be taken away here it is taking things with a grain of salt and enjoying things in moderation,” he explained.
So go ahead and enjoy your occasional cup of bubble tea because it's delicious. But don’t forget to stay hydrated and get your roughage, too.