I mentioned that I am starting a course through Precision Nutrition and I would share some of the interesting things I learned with you. I have just finished up a chapter on the Gastrointestinal tract. (And nailed the chapter exam, by the way!) I thought the anatomy section was fascinating, so I thought I would do a running series on the various parts of our bodies and how they work with digestion.
Let’s start with the stomach.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned recently:
- Our stomach is located in the upper abdomen, on the lefthand side. It is just below our ribs. I don’t know about you, but I have always thought of the stomach as being lower, center. But that is actually the small intestine.
- When food enters the stomach, it begins secreting gastric juices and churning the food to begin to break it up. Some proteins are absorbed in the stomach, but most of the digestion occurs in the small intestine. This is something I knew but hadn’t thought about much. The stomach is really just an early part of the process.
- Gastric juice contains hydrochloric acid. When it is fully working it has nearly the same acidity as battery acid! The gastric juice helps break down the food for digestion.
- The reason our stomach doesn’t dissolve in these circumstances is that it lined with mucus that protects us.
- The stomach is extremely muscular and is rarely not moving. Once food enters the stomach, it churns it and begins working it towards the small intestine. When it is empty, it is this movement that makes your “belly rumble.”
- Our stomachs are divided into four regions, and each of these regions has their job to do in preparing food for digestion. However, not all animals work that way. Rodents have only one area, and many have to eat their food twice, eating their feces mixed with other new food. (Yum! Aren’t you glad you aren’t a rat?)
- Our stomachs are capable of enlarging to hold about a quart of food or liquids without increasing pressure on the stomach.
- Carbohydrates empty first, followed by proteins and then fats – which is why proteins and fats are more satiating than carbohydrates. It is also why carbs are great for “quick” energy.
- Food stays in the stomach 3-5 hours before moving on to the small intestine.
So there you are! Interesting facts about your stomach and how it works. I’ll keep working my way around the body and how it all works. It’s funny, I was never interested in this stuff back when I had high school biology, but now I find it fascinating!