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The Stomach’s Role in Digestion

The stomach is a muscular sac which is located in the upper abdomen between our esophagus and our small intestine.

The glands in the stomach lining produce stomach acid and pepsin. One of the main digestive enzymes, pepsin helps digest the proteins in food. It-breaks down proteins into smaller peptides.

The stomach churns the ingested food into a degree of thickness that is easier to digest by our intestines. The stomach as part of our digestive system plays also a role in nutrient absorption.


Function of the stomach

  1. At empty/resting state, the sac-like shaped stomach has an average volume of about 50 ml (about quarter cup).
  2. Chewed food passes from the esophagus into the stomach; the flow is somewhat regulated by the esophageal sphincter but more importantly depends on how fast you eat and if you are eating both solids and liquids.
  3. After a normal meal, the stomach expands temporarily to about 1 liter (about quarter gallon) to process food. When truly forced, the stomach can expand to accommodate up to 4 liters (one gallon) of food.
  4. The stomach releases acids and enzymes for the chemical breakdown of food.
  5. Digestion of the food takes place partially in the stomach. The churning action of the stomach muscles physically breaks down the food.
  6. The enzyme pepsin is responsible for protein breakdown.
  7. The stomach releases the churned food into the small intestine at a “regulated” rate.
  8. The passage of churned food from the stomach to the small intestine is controlled by the pyloric sphincter. The crushed and mixed food is liquefied to form chyme and is pushed through the pyloric canal into the small intestine.
  9. A network of blood vessels and nerves surrounds the stomach; this network is responsible for the regulation of the secretion and the motion of stomach muscles that churns food.
  10. The stomach also secretes an enzyme called gastric lipase when lipids enter the stomach. Gastric lipase breaks down the lipids.
  11. Once food is broken down into smaller constituents, it moves into the small intestine, where other digestive enzymes, such as peptidases, sucrase, maltase, lactase and intestinal lipase, continue to break it down.
  12. The large intestine does not produce digestive enzymes.



Different parts of the stomach

The stomach is divided into four parts.



The stomach wall

The walls of the stomach is made out of four layers:

  • The mucosa and the sub-mucosa form the gastric folds (or gastric rugae). These folds provide the stomach with increased surface area for nutrient absorption.
  • At empty/resting state, the rugae lay flat and appear smooth.
  • As soon as chewed food enters the stomach, the gastric folds stretch outward, expanding the stomach, and increasing the food holding capacity of the stomach without increasing pressure.



Stomach cells that support digestion

Our stomach has four main types of secretion cells spread across the inner surface of the stomach.

**Epithelium are such tissues that line the cavities and surfaces of blood vessels and organs throughout the body.

The stomach also secretes an enzyme called gastric lipase when lipids enter the stomach. Gastric lipase breaks down the lipids.


Healthy habits for a healthy stomach

Certain lifestyle habits can help us with a healthy stomach and defy abdominal obesity.

First of all, if you notice that certain food types do not agree with you, try to keep away from them. Eliminate junk food from your diet. Ketogenic diet is definitely your best choice for combating any other chronic condition.

If you experience bouts of acidity, consider adding naturally alkaline food items to your diet nature.

Taking walks supports digestion and helps shedding excess body fat. Walks also help prevent a condition like GERD from occurring.

A sedentary lifestyle with little or no exercise contributes to stomach-related problems.


Common stomach conditions and diseases

The umbrella term for stomach disease is gastropathy. Some common stomach disorders include:

Dyspepsia: This is a condition characterized by a feeling of fullness; indigestion; and pain in the upper abdomen or lower chest. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting. Dyspepsia can be a precursor to GERD and may also indicate angina.

GERDGastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition in which the stomach acids rise up the esophageal passage. Heartburn is a common symptom of the condition.

Peptic Ulcers – These can occur when the protective mucous lining of the stomach walls is damaged by the stomach acids. The bacterium, Helicobacter pylori is thought to be the cause for the development of gastric and duodenal ulcers.



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