For five days, a 14-year-old teenager who lives in Zhejiang, China was suffering from stomach aches and was unable to eat. On May 28, her parents rushed her to the hospital after complaining that she was constipated. A CT scan revealed that the girl’s abdomen has around 100 “unusual spherical shadows.”
Live Science reported that the doctors confirmed that the unusual shadows were undigested bubble tea pearls. The Taiwanese tea-based drink was made from tapioca starch which contains tea of some kind, milk, and sugar. However, the teen claimed that she didn’t consume that much bubble tea pearls. The doctors insisted that she would have needed to consume much more than one bubble tea to cause her symptoms.
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According to Dr. Lina Felipez, a pediatric gastroenterologist, tapioca balls wouldn't cause significant constipation. However, if it is consumed in a larger portion, these could "for sure" cause constipation. The tapioca balls contain an additive called guar gum which may have played a role in causing the girl digestive issues. High doses of this additive can cause a blockage of the esophagus and intestines.
Unilad, a British Internet media company, and website owned by LADbible Group, reported that the doctors who are treating her suspected she might be hiding the truth from her parents. “The little girl may be afraid of her parents saying her, but concealing her medical history – so many undigested ‘pearls’ are not accumulated like a cup of milk tea, it should be caused by drinking for a while,” Dr. Zhang Louzhen said.
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The doctors also found that there are certain ingredients in the bubble tea that would not appear in the CT scan. These can’t show up in CT scans because they do not block the type of radiation used in X-rays. Dr. Felipez stated that it is possible that another type of additive used in China was causing the tapioca balls to show up on the CT. However, they weren’t able to identify what it was.