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Stomach

The stomach is a dilated, muscular hollow organ that lies between the esophagus and the small intestine in the part of the alimentary canal. The stomach is not the only organ that helps in digestion but the role that it plays in digestion is very important. It churns food into a consistency that will enable the small intestine to digest the food better. While not all classes of food are digested in the stomach, the protein content of food is digested to some extent in the stomach. The stomach releases an enzyme called pepsin that acts upon the protein part of food. Food is broken down into small particles in the mouth and then moves through the esophagus to the stomach. The lining of the stomach secretes hydrochloric acids and enzymes that roughly break down the saliva laden food so that it can continue on its journey through the digestive system. Muscle tissues or rugae line the stomach walls. They contract periodically which enhances digestion. This process by which the stomach muscles contract and secrete acid and enzymes is called peristalsis. Peristalsis enables the food to mix easily with the acid and enzymes. At the opening of the stomach and the small intestine is an aperture called the pyrolic spincter which allows for the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine where it is digested properly.

Facts of Organ

The stomach is our first line of defense

The stomach is the first line of defense for our immune system. It contains hydrochloric acid, which helps to kill off microbes that may be present in food.

You cannot contract the stomach

It is a wrong assumption that we can reduce the stomach’s size size by going on a diet. The truth is that once we reach adulthood, our stomach remains at a fixed size throughout unless one opts for surgery to make it smaller.

Stomach size remains the same

Contrary to popular notion, the stomach size remains the same irrespective of the weight of a person. So a thin person is going to a same size stomach as that of a larger person.

You can live without a stomach

People can live without a stomach if it has been removed in case of illness disease.

When you blush the stomach also turns red

When we blush, the lining of our stomach also turns red.

Stomach acid is extremely corrosive

The stomach acid is highly corrosive enough to eat through metals and bones. Our stomach produces around 3 liters of acid (the same acid used to remove rust from iron) every day. The stomach produces a substance called mucus which prevents the stomach acids from eating up its own walls. The acids in the stomach kill the pathogens entering the stomach via food.

Stomach regenerates its lining every 4 to 5 days

Due to the strong corrosive nature of stomach’s acids, the stomach lining regenerates itself every 4 to 5 days. Else, the stomach will not be able to survive the constant onslaught by HCL which is capable of dissolving metals.

Stomach rumblings are caused due to peristalsis

The rumblings that we hear in the stomach are caused due to peristalsis. This is more noticeable when the stomach is empty.

Functions of Organ

 Digests food

The chief function of the stomach is to carry out the digestion of food. The muscles contract and relax periodically resulting in the physical digestion of food. Chemical digestion of food occurs when enzymes present in the stomach act upon the food. These enzymes are secreted by glands present in the stomach walls. But not all categories of food are digested in the stomach. The protein component of our food is broken down in the stomach. The stomach glands secrete an enzyme called pepsin which is responsible for protein breakdown. To function well, pepsin needs an acidic medium and it is for this reason that HCL or hydrochloric acid is produced in the stomach to help maintain an acidic environment.

Kills pathogens:

The acids present in stomach serve a very important function – that of killing pathogens. Many harmful microbes make their way into our body along with the food we consume putting us at a health risk. But these microbes are not able to do much as the stomach acids neutralize the microbes that might have entered our body.

Anatomy

Anatomical Features:

The stomach can be divided into four distinct parts. These are the

Cardia

The cardia is the first section of the stomach which provides an opening for food to travel from the esophagus to the stomach. The cardia sphincter, a valve like muscle allows the movement of food from the esophagus to the stomach. The gastric juices comprising of enzymes and acids are made in the cardia.

Fundus

The fundus is that part of the stomach where undigested food and gases formed from the chemical digestion of food are stored.

Corpus

The corpus is the largest of the four parts that constitute the stomach. It is where the maximum digestion of food takes place.

Pylorus

The pylorus is connected to the duodenum or the beginning of the small intestine. The food from the stomach move into the small intestine via the pyloric canal.

Stomach wall

The stomach walls by peristaltic motion help in the movement of food forward. The walls of the stomach comprise of four layers and beginning from the innermost layer is named as mucosa, sub-mucosa, muscularis externa and the serosa. The innermost layer or the mucosa consists of gastric glands that secrete digestive juices. The sub-mucosa layer helps the mucosa move in a flexible fashion during peristaltic motion.

Food Tips

Quinoa

Quinoa is a gluten free option for a healthy stomach. It is a complete protein, as it contains all the eight essential amino acids. It is also rich in magnesium, lysine, copper, iron, zinc, manganese and phosphorous and low in sodium. Quinoa helps us to feel full for longer stretches of time thus preventing over-eating which is the cause of many stomach problems.

Nuts, Seeds, Nut Butters

Seeds and nuts like almonds, peanuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and macadamia nuts are wonderful sources of protein, fiber and anti-inflammatory fats. Nut butters made from these are also great options. However, since nuts are high in calories they need to be consumed in moderation.

Lean Protein

Foods such as fish, seafood, eggs, chicken, tofu and lean cuts of pork are naturally rich in lean protein and thus do not cause digestion problems. Foods with high concentration of saturated fats can cause inflammation in the stomach, hence always opt for lean protein sources of food.

Papaya

Papaya is rich in the enzyme papain and chymopapain which are digestive enzymes and hence good for digestion. They have used traditionally to treat an upset stomach, ulcers and diarrhea. The enzyme apain is most effective in breaking down the protein in meat thus speeding up the digestion of food. Papain can also break down other proteins like casein in milk and gluten in wheat that are the cause of many digestive problems.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is an excellent treatment option for treating gas and stomach pain. An upset tummy can sometimes result due to an imbalance of acid content in the stomach. Apple cider vinegar alkalizes bodily pH and helps the body deal with the problem. 

Rice

Rice and other starchy foods like oats and potatoes coat the inner lining of the stomach wall providing a soothing effect and helping with overall digestion. Rice doesn’t cause heartburn and doesn’t stay in the stomach for a long time hence good for the stomach.

Ginger

Ginger helps digest fatty foods and hence makes the stomach’s job easier. Ginger also provides relief from the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

Aloe juice

Aloe juice provides a protective coating to the inner lining of the stomach and provides relief from tummy aches and heartburn. Aloe Vera juice is a good detoxifier and helps rid the body of toxins.

Bananas

Bananas have been used since ages to soothe an upset tummy. They contain potassium which is needed especially if you have been dehydrated as a result of diarrhea or vomiting.

 Fennel

Fennel possesses anti-gas qualities which is the reason why it is offered at the end of an Indian meal. It also helps to flush out toxins from the system.

 Apples

Apples, besides being high in insoluble fiber, are rich in pectin and other enzymes that break down the toxins and help rid the body of harmful substances. Apples also treat heartburn symptoms. The phosphorous present in apples help in the better assimilation of nutrients. The anti-inflammatory compounds present in apples help reduce inflammation.

Avocado

Avocadoes are rich in fiber, oils, potassium and other stomach-friendly nutrients which keep things moving in the stomach. People with sluggish digestion should include avocadoes as part of their daily diet.

Lifestyle Tips

 Beat stress:

Stress and worry has a negative impact on the digestion process. It’s because stress can upset the delicate process of digestion. While stress in some people slows down the digestion process and causes pain, bloating and constipation, in others it speeds up the process causing diarrhea. Stress also worsens digestive conditions like IBS and peptic ulcers.

Stop smoking:

Smoking increases the chance of acid reflux as it weakens the muscle that controls the lower end of the gullet. This allows the stomach acid to travel back in the wrong direction causing heartburn. Heartburn, in turn can aggravate other inflammatory diseases of the stomach. Smoking can also cause stomach cancer.

Stop drinking

Binge drinking has the potential to increase acid production in the stomach leading to heartburn and other digestive disorders. Therefore, one should drink in moderation to avoid suffering from various gastrointestinal problems.

Eat properly to enhance digestion

Eating properly is another important step for a good digestion. Gulping down food can make the stomach’s task difficult as then the stomach has to break down larger pieces of food particles. Eating slowly and chewing one’s food well can enhance digestion.

 Eat on time

Eating regularly and maintaining a schedule is good for the stomach. Having meals every day around the same time can help one maintain their stomach in good health. It is also advisable not to skip meals but have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Lose excess weight:

When a person is overweight, the tummy fat puts extra pressure on the stomach and might cause heartburn and other related problems. Plus obesity is linked to a number of diseases such as HERD, hemorrhoids and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, losing those extra pounds is a good idea as they are going to protect you from a lot of diseases in the future.

Stay hydrated

Drinking lots of water is good for the digestive system. Water dissolves food in the digestive system and helps in their easier passage through the stomach.

Exercise regularly

Exercising regularly allows the food to move quickly through the digestive system thus leading to a healthier stomach. Further, regular exercise helps a person to keep their weight under control which is good for the stomach and the body as a whole.

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