From those burning, churning feelings that erupt whenever we eat our favorite foods, to the bloating that keeps us from zipping up our jeans, to the gas that can make us the most unpopular person in the elevator, our stomach can be the cause of some major inconveniences, if not some outright health concerns.
Still, experts say most folks know painfully little about how their stomach and their digestive tract operates -- one reason that solving tummy troubles can seem much harder than it has to be.
"There are some very popular misconceptions concerning stomach health, most of which can really lead people astray on how to effectively deal with certain problems," says Mark Moyad, MD, director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.
David Greenwald, MD, agrees. "Sometimes what seems like a complex, difficult or even frightening problem really is a simple one, with a simple solution, if you can separate the myths from the facts," says Greenwald, an associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
To help set the record straight, Greenwald, Moyad, and NYU director of pediatric gastroenterology Joseph Levy, MD, helped WebMD prepare the following gut-busting challenge. Try to separate the myths from the facts to see how much you really know about how to keep your tummy healthy and happy.
1. Myth or Fact: Digestion takes place primarily in the stomach.
Answer: Myth. The major part of the digestive process takes place in the small intestine. The stomach takes in the food, then churns it and breaks it into tiny particles called "chyme." The chyme are then released in small batches into the small intestine, where most digestion occurs, he says.
Contrary to popular belief, Levy says, foods do not digest in the order they are eaten. "Everything lands in the stomach where it's all churned together, and when it's ready it's released into the small intestines together," he says.
2. Myth or Fact: If you cut down on your food intake, you'll eventually shrink your stomach so you won't be as hungry.
Answer: Myth. Once you are an adult, your stomach pretty much remains the same size -- unless you have surgery to intentionally make it smaller. Eating less won't shrink your stomach, says Moyad, but it can help to reset your "appetite thermostat" so you won't feel as hungry, and it may be easier to stick with your eating plan.
3. Myth or Fact: Thin people have naturally smaller stomachs than people who are heavy.
Answer: Myth. While it may seem hard to believe, the size of the stomach does not correlate with weight or weight control. People who are naturally thin can have the same size or even larger stomachs than people who battle their weight throughout a lifetime. "Weight has nothing to do with the size of the stomach. In fact, even people who have had stomach-reducing surgeries, making their tummy no larger than a walnut, can override the small size and still gain weight," says Levy.
4. Myth or Fact: Exercises like sit-ups or abdominal crunches can reduce the size of your stomach.
Answer: Myth. "No exercise can change the size of an organ, but it can help burn the layers of fat that can accumulate on the outside of your body. Plus it can help tighten the muscles in the abdomen, the area of the body lying just south of the diaphragm, that houses the stomach and many other internal organs," says Moyad.
Interestingly, the part of your "belly fat" that can do you the most harm may actually be the fat you don't see. It resides in the "omentum," a kind of internal sheet that lies over and around your internal organs.
"People who are very overweight often have a lot of fat between their organs internally. In fact, in some instances, the liver can become so packed with fat you can develop a form of hepatitis, and in extreme cases, it can stop functioning altogether," says Levy. The good news: A healthy eating plan can not only help you shed the weight you can see, but also the internal fat layers you don't see.
5. Myth or Fact: Foods that contain insoluble fiber (which does not dissolve in water) cause less gas and bloating than foods with soluble fiber (which does dissolve in water).
Answer: Fact. According to Moyad, most folks are astounded to discover that what they perceived as a "gentler" form of fiber -- the soluble kind found in foods like oat bran, beans, peas, and citrus fruits -- can actually cause more gas and bloating than insoluble fiber, found in foods like whole-wheat bread, wheat cereals, cabbage, beets, and carrots. "It is true," says Moyad. "And the reason is that gas and bloating result from intestinal flora that is needed to digest soluble fiber." Since insoluble fiber is not digested at all -- it goes right through you -- there is no interaction with intestinal flora; consequently, no gas is formed.
One caveat to keep in mind: While insoluble fiber won't give you gas, it can increase the frequency and size of bowel movements.
6. Myth or Fact: One way to reduce acid reflux is to lose as little as 2 to 3 pounds.
Answer: Fact. "The less acid that flows back up into your esophagus, the fewer problems you will have clearing it. And believe it or not, losing just 2 pounds of weight from the abdominal area can make a difference -- and pregnancy is about the best example of this," says Moyad. As the baby grows and pushes against the internal organs, heartburn increases; but once the baby is born and the pressure is relieved, the heartburn is, too. "In much the same way, losing even a little bit of belly fat can provide similar relief.
The really good news: Moyad says most people lose weight in the belly area first, so you should see some positive results on your heartburn within a few weeks after starting a weight loss plan.
7. Myth or Fact: Eating before bed can make you gain weight faster than if you eat the same foods during the day.
Answer: Myth. Most experts agree that we gain weight when we take in more calories than we burn up. And while it seems logical that foods we eat during an active day will burn more quickly and more efficiently than foods we eat right before going to sleep, Moyad says weight gain is not based on a 24-hour clock. "It's the total amount you take in over a period of time compared to how much you burn that determines if you will gain weight," says Moyad.
Recent animal studies suggest that avoiding after-dinner snacks may help prevent weight gain. Eating at night may disrupt the body's circadian clock and alter hormones that control appetite and ultimately result in weight gain.
That said, Levy reminds us that when we are fatigued or stressed, eating right before bedtime can make digestion more difficult and may cause more gas, bloating, and heartburn. "There is a 'brain' in the gut that helps to make sure that food is moved through the digestive system at the right pace, in the right amount," says Levy. When we are fatigued -- like most of us are at the end of a busy day -- that 'gut brain' is fatigued as well. So, says Levy, there is a decrease in the number of contractions that move food through the system.
8. Myth or Fact: A 200-calorie snack of peanut butter and crackers is more likely to control your appetite than just eating 200 calories' worth of crackers.
Answer: Fact. The reason: "Fats digest much slower than carbohydrates, and they remain in the stomach longer, which means we naturally feel full longer after eating a snack that contains at least some fat," says Levy.
Additionally, Moyad points out that simple carbohydrates (like crackers, bread, or cookies) elicit a quick rise in blood sugar and insulin levels, which subsequently drop just as quickly, causing dramatic shifts in both mood and appetite. "In short, you find yourself edgy and hungry," says Moyad.
9. Myth or Fact: Beans cause everyone to make excess gas, and there's nothing you can do about it.
Answer: Myth ... sort of! Beans are high in a kind of sugar that requires a certain enzyme to properly digest. "Some people have more if it, some people less. And the less you have, the more gas that will be produced during digestion of beans," says Greenwald. What can help: Studies show that over-the-counter products that add more of the enzyme needed to break down the sugar in beans as well as other traditionally gassy vegetables can help if taken before you eat. After the fact, you can reduce the gas that forms by taking a product containing simethicone, which, says Greenwald, is a true bubble buster, releasing the surface tension on gas bubbles that form as a result of eating foods that are hard to digest.
It is a bean-shaped and sack-like structure which is located behind the lower ribs and between the esophagus and small intestine. The main function of the stomach is to secrete gastric juices, digests and store food molecules. On an average, the stomach can hold more than a quarter-gallon or half-pound of food.What is interesting about the stomach? ›
It is a bean-shaped and sack-like structure which is located behind the lower ribs and between the esophagus and small intestine. The main function of the stomach is to secrete gastric juices, digests and store food molecules. On an average, the stomach can hold more than a quarter-gallon or half-pound of food.What are 3 facts about the stomach for kids? ›
Your stomach is located in the upper left part of your abdomen. The stomach's main jobs are to store and break down food. The stomach churns and makes gastric juice to help digest the food we eat and protect us from germs. Food that has been broken down in the stomach is called chyme.What are the medical facts about the stomach? ›
- Your stomach is part of your digestive tract. The stomach is a large, hollow organ with strong muscular walls. ...
- The mucus protects your stomach from stomach acid. ...
- The muscles in your stomach tighten and relax to mix food with the acid and enzymes (stomach juices).
- Your Digestive System Is Surprisingly Long. ...
- You Produce a Lot of Saliva. ...
- Swallowing Is a Pretty Complex Operation. ...
- Your Stomach Produces Hydrochloric Acid. ...
- Your Pancreas and Liver Are Not so Mysterious. ...
- So Much Happens in Your Small Intestine. ...
- Fiber Is Very Important.
- Temporarily store food.
- Contract and relax to mix and break down food.
- Produce enzymes and other specialized cells to digest food.
The average human stomach can hold about one liter before that feeling of fullness kicks in. But some stomachs can stretch to hold as much as two to four liters. If the pressure in your stomach significantly increases, you'll feel nauseous. If the pressure becomes severe, vomiting may occur.Can we survive without stomach? ›
According to Dr. Bilchik, “you don't need a stomach to live a normal life.” If the entire stomach needs to be removed, the esophagus can be attached directly to the small intestines. People who have had their stomach removed function well and are pain-free.How big is the stomach? ›
Most adults have roughly the same size stomach, even though people can weigh different amounts. Your empty stomach is about 12 inches long by 6 inches across at its widest point. As an adult, your stomach can expand to hold about 1 quart of food.What are the 4 main functions of the stomach? ›
Abstract. The core function of the human stomach is as an aid to digestion. The four key components of gastric digestive function are its function as a reservoir, acid secretion, enzyme secretion and its role in gastrointestinal motility.
Humans only have one stomach anatomically. It receives food from the esophagus and performs its job. When food reaches the end of the esophagus, it passes through a muscle valve known as the lower oesophageal sphincter and into the stomach. The stomach then creates fluids and enzymes that aid in the digestion of food.What are the 7 functions of the stomach quizlet? ›
- Temporarily Storage.
- Secretion of H+ - kills microorganisms and converts pepsinogen -> pepsin.
- Secretion of Intrinsic Factor (IF) - for absorption of vitamin B12.
- Secretion of mucus and HCO3- - protection of gastric mucosa.
- Secretion of water - lubrication of bolus, suspension of nutrients in solution.
That's because your brain has told your stomach to release an appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin that tells your intestines and stomach to contract. The rumbling you hear is the movement of those organs. Think of it as hunger you can hear.What is 4 fun facts about the digestive system? ›
Your entire digestive tract is less than 30 ft long. Your pancreas and your liver produce enzymes to help you break down food. The liver also works to detoxify your body, and can regenerate itself when up to ⅔ of it is lost. Fiber is indigestible, and is left over when all other nutrients are removed from food.What does the stomach do? ›
Stomach. After food enters your stomach, the stomach muscles mix the food and liquid with digestive juices. The stomach slowly empties its contents, called chyme, into your small intestine. Small intestine.What can live in your stomach? ›
Living inside of your gut are 300 to 500 different kinds of bacteria containing nearly 2 million genes. Paired with other tiny organisms like viruses and fungi, they make what's known as the microbiota, or the microbiome.What is the stomach made of? ›
Four main layers constitute the stomach wall, including the mucosa, submucosa, muscularis externa, and the serosa. The innermost layer, the mucosa, is covered by epithelial tissue and is mainly comprised of gastric glands that secrete gastric juices.What food takes the longest to digest? ›
The foods with the longest time to digest are bacon, beef, lamb, whole milk hard cheese, and nuts. These foods take an average of about 4 hours for your body to digest. The digestion process still occurs even when asleep. Which means our digestive fluids and the acids in our stomach are active.Does your stomach shrink if you eat less? ›
Myth or Fact: If you cut down on your food intake, you'll eventually shrink your stomach so you won't be as hungry. Answer: Myth. Once you are an adult, your stomach pretty much remains the same size -- unless you have surgery to intentionally make it smaller.What happens to your stomach when you don't eat? ›
YOU GET GASTRIC PROBLEMS
Even when there is no food to digest, it continues to do its job at the usual time that you eat. “Prolonged periods without food tend to lead to acid reflux, gastritis and stomach acid. Excessive amounts of digestive juices might erode your intestinal lining and cause ulcers,” said Chan.
After a meal, it normally takes 1 1/2 to two hours for food to move out of the stomach and into the small intestine. When your stomach takes longer than normal to empty, it's called gastroparesis.Can your stomach hurt from not eating? ›
The brain triggers the release of a hormone called ghrelin in response to an empty stomach or in anticipation of the next meal. Ghrelin signals the body to release stomach acids to digest food. If food is not consumed, the stomach acids begin to attack the lining of the stomach, causing hunger pains.
Your stomach is like a balloon – it can shrink or expand depending on how much you eat. If you overeat, you may be setting yourself up to overindulge later.Does your stomach shrink as you get older? ›
Despite what you may have heard, your stomach doesn't actually shrink with age, Hobbins says. But there do seem to be changes to the stretchiness of your tummy that happen alongside aging that mistakenly tell the brain you're full when you're not, she says, leading some older folks to lose weight as they age.What side is stomach on? ›
The entire digestive system is made up of one muscular tube extending from the mouth to the anus. The stomach is an enlarged pouch-like section of this digestive tube. It is located on the left side of the upper abdomen and shaped somewhat like an oversized comma, with its bulge pointing out to the left.Is the stomach a muscle or an organ? ›
The stomach is a muscular, hollow organ in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and many other animals, including several invertebrates. The stomach has a dilated structure and functions as a vital organ in the digestive system.How many parts of the stomach are there? ›
The human stomach is subdivided into four regions: the fundus, an expanded area curving up above the cardiac opening (the opening from the stomach into the esophagus); the body, or intermediate region, the central and largest portion; the antrum, the lowermost, somewhat funnel-shaped portion of the stomach; and the ...What is the blood supply of the stomach? ›
The celiac artery gives rise to three major branches, including the left gastric, splenic, and common hepatic arteries. Collectively, these major branches of the celiac artery supply the stomach, spleen, liver, gallbladder, abdominal esophagus, pancreas, and duodenum.What is the most important function of the stomach? ›
The main function of the stomach is to store food and release it to the intestines at a rate whereby the intestines can process it. The stomach mixes the food and grinds it into a finely divided chyme that increases the surface area of the food in preparation for digestion.What is the stomach Class 10? ›
The stomach is a bag-like muscular organ found on the upper abdomen's left side. The esophagus delivers food to the stomach through a valve called the esophageal sphincter. The stomach produces acid and enzymes that aid in the digestion of meals.
Humans only have a single stomach analogous to vertebrates. Whereas ruminants such as cows, giraffes, etc., have four compartments inside their stomach which enable them to digest cellulose found in plants.Who has the most number of stomachs? ›
Topping our list of animals with multiple stomachs is the Baird's beaked whale, which can have more than 13 stomachs! How is this possible? The whale has two large stomach chambers, its main stomach and a pyloric stomach. Then beaked whales have a series of connecting chambers between stomachs.How small is a 2 year olds stomach? ›
Toddlers have small stomachs, about the size of their fist. They cannot eat very much at one time. This is why it is important that you give them three meals and 2-3 snacks each day. The snacks you give your child should be nutritious.What are the 6 main functions of the digestive system? ›
- • Six Functions of the Digestive System.
- Mechanical processing.
The processes of digestion include six activities: ingestion, propulsion, mechanical or physical digestion, chemical digestion, absorption, and defecation.Does the stomach absorb nutrients? ›
Digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place primarily in the stomach and small intestine, but that is not to say that the large intestine, or colon, doesn't also play a role in the digestion of nutrients.Why do stomachs hurt? ›
Less serious causes of abdominal pain include constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, lactose intolerance, food poisoning, and a stomach virus. Other, more serious, causes include appendicitis, an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a bowel blockage, cancer, and gastroesophageal reflux.Does stomach growling mean poop? ›
A case of diarrhea -- or loose, watery stools -- is a common cause of very loud or excessive stomach rumbling sounds. With diarrhea, there are usually increased muscle contractions in the stomach and small intestines, resulting in significant borborygmi.Is it OK to let your stomach growl? ›
Stomach growling or rumbling is a normal part of digestion. There is nothing in the stomach to muffle these sounds so they can be noticeable. Among the causes are hunger, incomplete digestion, or indigestion.What is the secret of stomach? ›
The stomach secretes water, electrolytes, hydrochloric acid, and glycoproteins, including mucin, intrinsic factor, and enzymes (Fig. 24.3). Gastric motility and secretion are regulated by neural and humoral mechanisms.
The small intestine absorbs 90 per cent of your body's nutrients. The small intestine is about three times the length of your body — the longest part of the digestive tract. When you eat food, it's held in your small intestine for up to four hours.What are the four stomachs? ›
Quick facts. Ruminant stomachs have four compartments: the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum and the abomasum.What are the 4 parts of the stomach? ›
Four main layers constitute the stomach wall, including the mucosa, submucosa, muscularis externa, and the serosa. The innermost layer, the mucosa, is covered by epithelial tissue and is mainly comprised of gastric glands that secrete gastric juices.Where is stomach located? ›
In the human digestive system, the stomach lies between the esophagus and the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). It is in the left upper quadrant of the abdominal cavity. The top of the stomach lies against the diaphragm. Lying behind the stomach is the pancreas.What doesn't the stomach do? ›
The Stomach does not digest itself because it is lined with epithial cells, which produce mucus. This forms a barrier between the lining of the stomach and the contents. Enzymes, which make up part of the digestive juices are also secreted by the stomach wall, from glands with no mucus barrier.What controls the stomach? ›
The stomach has two main centers of control consisting of nervous control and hormonal control, including hormones such as gastrin and cholecystokinin, which relax the proximal stomach, and contracts the distal stomach.What food stays in your stomach the longest? ›
The foods with the longest time to digest are bacon, beef, lamb, whole milk hard cheese, and nuts. These foods take an average of about 4 hours for your body to digest. The digestion process still occurs even when asleep. Which means our digestive fluids and the acids in our stomach are active.