Do you think that the brain or the heart or perhaps the human lungs are the most complex organs in a human body? Sorry to break it to you, they aren’t the only super-complex organs we are blessed with. If not totally as equal in complexity as the brain, the human stomach is a very complex organ that is capable of achieving extraordinary feats. So, let us learn 30 interesting human stomach facts and find out what this organ is capable of.
Interesting Human Stomach Facts: 1-10
1. One of THE MOST interesting human stomach facts is that it is fully expendable. Simply put, if the stomach is removed, a person can survive. You must be wondering, if the stomach is removed, how the hell is the food digested?
2. This brings us to our second point. It is a total myth that the stomach is responsible for digesting food all the food. We have been taught wrong in our schools. Only partial digestion takes place in stomach. The rest of digestion is carried out by our small intestine. The stomach only aids the small intestine by breaking down the consumed food in smaller pieces.
3. So, once a stomach is surgically removed totally in a process called Total Gastrectomy, the surgeons end up attaching the esophagus to the small intestine directly. So, whatever you consume goes to the small intestine, where it gets digested. Only this time, the small intestine needs to work really hard because the stomach is no longer there for breaking down the food into smaller pieces to aid digestion.
4. This means that a human is capable of retaining his full-blown digestive system even without the stomach. That’s one hell of a super power of humans. Isn’t that one of the surprisingly awesome stomach facts?
5. So, what really the does sitting there in between the esophagus and the small intestine? It does a lot of thing. It is the first defence the body puts forward against any type of harmful microbes that enter our body with the food we consume. The stomach produces acid, which tries to eliminate those microbes.
6. What kind of acid? You might get a shock! The stomach produces industrial-grade concentrated HCL or hydrochloric acid which eat through bones and metals. This means that if you put a drop of your stomach acid on your palm, it will melt your muscles, your bones and your skin to go right past out the other side.
7. So, if that acid is so corrosive, why the hell is it not dissolving our whole stomach and then other organs? Good question! The answer to this question is very complex but we will give a very simple explanation. Inside our stomach is a layer of mucus membrane layer known as the mucosa. This mucosa has two types of cells – the parietal cells and goblet cells.
8. The parietal cells are the once that produce the acid. The goblet cells are once that produce very large quantities of mucus, which covers the entire mucosa. This mucus is immune to acidic corrosion and hence, the stomach itself remains immune to the corrosive HCL.
9. So, how much of this acid is produced in our body every day? Can you guess? Okay, it produces 3 liters of hydrochloric acid in a single day. That’s quite a lot!
10. Apart from the two types of cells previously mentioned (i.e. the parietal cells and the goblet cells), the mucosa also has two other types of cells – the G Cells and the Gastric Chief Cells. These cells produce proenzymes. Proenzymes are actually enzymes in inactive state.
Interesting Stomach Facts: 11-20
11. Since the enzymes are inactive they cannot harm the stomach. Once the proenzymes enter the lumen (i.e. the big space inside the stomach), the acid activates them and give birth to the enzymes.
12. Now since the enzymes are in active state, they are pretty much corrosive and capable of damaging the stomach. But again, the mucus lining saves the day!
13. The hydrochloric acid in the stomach performs a few functions. First, it kills microbes. Second, it helps to break down food into smaller pieces so that the enzymes can start acting on them. Third, it activates the proenzymes. And finally, enzymes can work only when the ideal pH level is maintained. This pH level is provided by the acid.
14. Though it should be a part of different article, we feel the need for mentioning this point here. When the acid and enzyme laced food enters the small intestine from the stomach, the small intestine gets exposed to the corrosive acid. Unfortunately, there is no mucus layering to prevent corrosion. This is where the pancreas pitches in.
15. The pancreas produce HCO3– – a bicarbonate alkaline. As the acidic food starts entering the small intestine, it first passes through the alkaline shield produced by the pancreas. This leads to a dramatic drop in the acidic level of the food and saves the small intestine from getting corroded.
16. In point number 2 we mentioned that stomach is responsible only for partial digestion. Let us find out what really happens. The digestion process starts right in our mouth where our saliva uses an enzyme called salivary amylase to soften the food and digest the starch.
17. From there the food passes down to the esophagus which then releases the food into the stomach through the cardiac sphincter (also known as the lower esophageal sphincter). Once in the stomach, two types of digestion take place.
18. The mechanical digestion – in this form of stomach digestion, contract and relax, moving the food around and breaking it down to smaller pieces. This movement of the stomach muscles into a soft liquid mixture that, for some god damn reason, scientists have named as chyme.
19. The soft liquid form is attained because of the liquid enzymes and hydrochloric acid which gets mixed with the broken down food.
20. The HCL breaks down the food further and the main proenzyme known as the pepsinogen (released by stomach cells) is activated into the enzyme known as pepsin. The job of this pepsin is to breakdown only the big protein molecules. Nothing else is touched by pepsin. This whole thing done by HCL and pepsin is known as chemical digestion.
Interesting Stomach Facts: 21-30
21. Once the chyme is ready, it is gradually released into the small intestine through pyloric sphincter. This is where rest of the digestion takes place. Other organs like gallbladder, liver and pancreas lend the much needed helping hand to complete the remaining process.
22. Now let us concentrate on some funny stomach facts. Our stomach blushes too. It literally happens when we blush. The reason for the stomach lining to turn more reddish when we blush is that blood flow increases. The whole thing is caused by sympathetic nervous system.
23. What really happens is that in a situation when we blush, adrenaline is released by the body. The job of adrenaline is to dilate blood vessels so that blood flow and oxygen supply can increase. So, the adrenaline actually preps up our body just in case we need flee. When we run, we need greater oxygen supply which can happen only if blood flow increases. So, when we blush, there is more blood in the blood vessels of our stomach lining, making it appear red.
24. The mucus that actually protects our stomach from the acid it creates needs a replacement every 2 weeks. So, every two weeks, the stomach wears a new mucus dress.
25. We often hear our stomachs rumble and it can be quite embarrassing. However, it is perfectly natural and happens to everyone. The sounds are generated by a unidirectional wave-like movement in the esophagus and the small intestine that are responsible for pushing the food down from the esophagus to the stomach and inside the small intestine. This movement is called peristalsis. The sounds emanate from stomach walls and small intestine’s walls. They become more audible when the stomach is empty. Growling empty stomach is an indication that there is a shortfall of nutrition that requires digestion. Simple! Empty vessels make more noise!
26. The duty of the stomach is to predigest food. Predigestion releases more energy that can be used up by brain as well as for moving around. This explains why animals with no stomach are less smarter than animals with stomach. Also, animals without stomach can move around less that animals with stomach. Hydras and roundworms are examples of animals without stomach.
27. This brings to the fact that people who get their stomachs removed by surgery are less active that those who have stomachs. Also, since human stomach is capable of storing up to 1.5 liters of drink and food, people with stomach can go longer between two meals while those who have their stomachs removed need to eat frequently to enough energy. They also need to eat smaller meals because they don’t have a stomach to store food.
28. Thin people don’t necessarily have smaller stomachs that heavy people. This is a myth. Thin people can have equally large stomach as heavy people. If thin people are eating less than heavy or fat people, it simply means that thin people different food thermostat – a mechanism which is used by the stomach to communicate to the brain that it is full and needs no more food.
29. Every time we drink carbonated water or eat some food, some air goes right into the elastic sac that we call stomach. Burping is the easiest way of getting rid of this air.
30. If you turn upside down while eating or after eating, the food will never fall out of your stomach back into esophagus and then out of your mouth. Gravity has no role to play here. The mechanism called peristalsis prevents this from happening because the wave-like movement takes place only in one direction, i.e. from esophagus to stomach and from stomach further down in small intestine. Gravity just cannot win here.