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How Long Does It Take A Body To Decompose (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 1 To 6 Days

Life begins at birth and ends at death. There are various reasons why death occurs. Some people die naturally, while some undergo health problems that lead to death. Some people meet with accidents, which can be horrible. Whatever the cause of death may be, the dead must be prepared before they are buried, burnt or whatever the process might be that they believe should be done so that they reach the afterlife peacefully. Not many believe in the afterlife, but the dead must be disposed of respectfully.

Though it can sound morbid, the ways of death and what happens after it must be understood and known. Nobody knows what exactly happens after death, but there is one thing everybody knows about, the process of decomposition of the body. Some people preserve the body, while some just bury or burn the body after the person dies, which is preceded by a funeral. When the body is burnt, only ashes remain, but when a body is buried, it starts to decompose. During decomposition, all the tissues in the body break down.

Some people preserve the body by embalming them, though post-mortem decay of muscle and tissue is called the decomposition of the body. Normally, if the body is not preserved well, the decomposition process starts in about a day and can last for more than a month.

How Long Does It Take A Body To Decompose?

StagesTime (post-mortem)
Rigor mortis (stiffening of muscles)3 hours
Decomposing of internal organs24 to 72 hours
The body begins to liquefy1 month

The rate at which the body decomposes depends on various factors, like the temperature at which the body is left or buried, the weather, oxygen and pH levels, moisture, cause of death, the position of the body, and much more. Decomposition happens when the body is not embalmed, and embalming is a custom in many countries which helps the family to preserve the body for funerals and wakes. It is done purely for cosmetic purposes, although in some countries, it is prohibited to preserve people who died from a contagious disease or a serious illness.

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Whatever the cause of death might be, there are four stages involved in the entire process of decomposition, and according to scientists, the decomposition of the body starts about five minutes after the person dies. The four stages include autolysis, bloating, active decay, and finally skeletonization. Autolysis is the process which is also called self-digestion, begins immediately after death. When the respiration system shuts down, the blood circulation stops, and hence the body doesn’t get oxygen and there is no way for the body to excrete the waste.

This leads to the formation of excess carbon dioxide, which turns the body acidic and causes the membranes of the body to rupture, which releases the enzymes that eat the cells in the body.

Why Does A Body Take That Long To Decompose?

Rigor mortis happens at this phase and small blisters start forming on the internal organs, and also on the skin. The first layer of the skin starts loosening up and the leaked enzymes start producing gases that cause discoloration of the skin. Since there is the formation of gas, the body bloats and can start doubling in size, and an unpleasant odor will be produced. After that, fluids are released from the orifices, which indicates the start of active decay, and here the body starts liquifying.

Every tissue in the body starts decomposing, and the body loses most of its mass at this stage. Finally, skeletonization happens, where the loss of inorganic and organic components, along with the decomposition of the bones begins, as there is no skin or flesh left on the body.

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To conclude, it takes about 24 to 72 hours for the internal organs to decompose, and in 3 to 5 days, the body will start bloating. Foam-containing blood will start leaking from the nose and mouth, and after 8 to 10 days, the body will start turning from green to red, as the blood starts decomposing. The organs in the abdomen start accumulating gas, and after about 2 to 3 weeks, the teeth and nails start falling.

The body will start liquifying in a month after the death, and that is when the body is almost decomposed. Once the body liquefies, there will be only bones and skeleton left, which too, will soon start to decompose.


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