What does your stomach do for you?-By Dr Harold Gunatillake

What does your stomach do for you?-By Dr Harold Gunatillake

Dr Harold Gunatillake


The stomach is a comma-shaped elastic expandable bag compared to a bagpipe, that takes in food from your gullet and sends partly digested food to the next part of the gut called the duodenum. The exit end of the stomach is called the pylorus that has a sphincter mechanism to open when the churned food in the stomach is ready to be passed into the duodenum.

Processing of the food in the stomach takes place through a chemical process.

This bag is small when you eat small meals, in small quantities using a chopstick like the Chinese and Japanese do.

Some Sri Lankans eat lot of rice and curries, without eating a small amount of rice and more curries. The stomach bag can accommodate lot of food by expanding, adding on to your potbelly.

The stomach secretes acid and enzymes to digest food you eat.

You indulge and enjoy the spicy tasty food you eat, the stomach seems to get the burden of collecting, churning, mixing with gastric juices and enzymes, a silent process that goes on as food enters the stomach. Satiety or the feeling of fullness suppresses your hunger for a period after a meal.

The feeling of satiety occurs due to a few bodily signals that begin when a food or drink is consumed and continue as it enters the gut and is digested and absorbed.

Once you turn on an appetite focus, you must eat until it registers fullness.

The foods that tend to score high on a scale called satiety index are: Boiled potatoes. Potatoes have been demonized in the past, but they’re actually very healthy and nutritious. …

Eggs. Eggs are incredibly healthy and nutrient dense. …

Oatmeal. …Fish. …Soups. …Meat. …Greek yogurt. …Vegetables.

Most people eat more biriyani when they get the opportunity.

Eating too much food habitually makes your stomach work harder, further it expands bigger and give you a pot belly as mentioned earlier. The stomach lining must secrete extra hormones and enzymes to break the food down. Gastric acid seems to be produced more, and when you overeat this acid may back up into the gullet resulting in heartburn.

How do you get your hunger pains or pangs?

Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the stomach and is secreted when your stomach is empty. It enters the blood stream and affects a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus, which governs your hormones and appetite.

Higher the level of Ghrelin the hungrier you get. The lower levels, you tend to eat fewer calories.

So, if you want to lose weight, lower your ghrelin levels.

Let us talk about Gastric acid juice. This is in short hydrochloric acid which breaks down the food and digestive enzymes split up the proteins. The acid juice forms a barrier for the bacteria

The gastric acid juice produced by the stomach lining is highly acidic and has a pH between 1 and 2. They are formed in the Parietal cells in the inner lining.

The night secreting acid juice needs to be neutralized by having breakfast. If you miss your breakfast this strong acid can erode your lining and give inflammation and gastric ulcers.

The strong acid is required to break down tough meat, fibrous plant veggies.

Without adequate gastric acid, many vitamins, minerals, proteins, and amino acids you take in with your food cannot be absorbed.

The gastric lining in addition to producing acid, release several enzymes and mucus.

Mucus seems to protect your stomach lining, so that the strong acid cannot damage the sensitive lining.

The inner lining is always covered by a layer of thick mucus that is secreted by tall columnar epithelial cells. The mucus lubricates the food masses to facilitate movement within the stomach and the formation of a protective layer over the lining inner layer of the stomach cavity.

This protective layer is a defense mechanism the stomach has against being digested by its own protein-lyzing enzymes, and it also facilitated by the secretion of bicarbonate

The body may not produce sufficient gastric acid in certain situations, like medications and stress. That may prevent your body from producing as much hydrochloric acid.

The symptoms of hypo- acid situation can produce certain symptoms such as burping, bloating, indigestion and so on.

In some situations, the stomach lining produces high levels of hydrochloric acid, and the mucus producing glands in the inner lining may not be helpful.

High gastric acid can cause gastric ulcers and acid reflux.

The enzyme secreted by the stomach lining is Pepsin, that serves to digest proteins found in your ingested food. It digests proteins such as in meat, eggs, seeds, and dairy products.

In addition, the stomach secretes water, electrolytes, glycoproteins, and intrinsic factor.

Intrinsic factor is secreted by the gastric parietal cells. It is a factor that helps your intestines absorb vitamin B12.

Pernicious anemia in adults is associated with lack of vitamin B12, due to lack of the intrinsic factor. This defect can be restored to normal by administration of the. intrinsic factor

Lack of intrinsic factor may cause several conditions, such as Chronic gastritis, or surgically removal of part or the whole stomach.

Let us now talk about pepsin which is the main gastric enzyme. It is produced by the stomach cells called “chief cells”.

In its inactive form is called pepsinogen. Pepsinogen is then activated by the stomach acid into active form, pepsin. Pepsin digests proteins in the dietary foods you eat, such as meat, eggs, dairy among others.

The gastric inner lining secretes 1.2 to 1.5 liters of gastric juice per day. This juice makes the food particles more soluble, initiate digestion, mainly the proteins and converts the gastric content to a semiliquid mass called chyme, thus preparing for further digestion in the small gut.

Crabs and fats are not digested in your stomach unlike the proteins digested by enzyme pepsin.

The stomach is acidic, as such amylase even if secreted by the stomach cannot digest carbs in an acid environment.

Your saliva contains salivary amylase which breakdown dietary starch, but unfortunately this action stops in the stomach due to its acid environment.

Fat digestion beings in the stomach. Some of the byproducts of fat digestion can be directly absorbed in the stomach.  In the stomach, gastric lipase starts to break down triglycerides into diglycerides and fatty acids

So, the main functions of the stomach are to temporarily store your food, which passes from the gullet to the stomach where it is held for about 2 hours. Mixing and breakdown of food by contraction and relaxation of the smooth muscles in the stomach bag.

The four key components of gastric digestive function are its function as a reservoir, acid secretion, enzyme secretion, its role in gastrointestinal motility and production of intrinsic factor.

Hope this video talk was useful.

Stay safe and goodbye for now.


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