Does red meat take longer to digest

Does Meat Take Days to Digest? Read This to Know!

Fats and proteins do take time to digest as compared to others
According to Dietitian Sheela Sehrawat from Diet Clinic, meat takes about two to four days to digest. Your digestion starts from your chewing. The moment you start eating anything, your digestive juices starts working on it and transforms it into a rough mash. This mash moves to the stomach where it gets mixed and mashed again, further moving towards the intestines. This process varies in the case of meat, vegetables and grains. Meats leave a lot of ammonia which is flushed in the form of urea by the kidneys. This process requires a lot of water, therefore, you must drink plenty of water to digest meat faster.

What Can You Do to Boost Your Digestion After a Hearty Meat Meal!

1. Chew Multiple Times

It is imperative to chew your food multiple times to mechanically help them break down and release gastric acid secretions in your stomach. This will make the stomach environment a lot more acidic, further helping to digest meat faster.

2. Eat a Few Pineapple Pieces

Eat a few pieces of pineapple before or during your protein rich meat meal. This fruit contains natural enzyme called bromelain, which further helps to break down the bonds between proteins, helping them to digest better.

3. Eat Papaya

Similarly, you can also eat papaya that contains enzyme compound called papain that facilitates digestion of protein. This fruit will also help avoid bloating and indigestion.

Papaya contains enzyme compound called papain that facilitates digestion of protein
4. Add Probiotics to Your Diet

Best way to aid digestion for meat is to add probiotics like yogurt and kefir to your meal. Probiotics are a wonderful source of friendly bacteria that help aid digestion.

5. Make Low-Fat meats Your Staple

Rather than choosing high-fat meat, choose low-fat one. While eating it in moderation is a wise step, you must also choose a healthier diet. Needless to say, low fat meats will make the digestion easy and fast.

6. Marination Makes a Lot of Difference

One of the best ways to help meat digest faster is to marinade with acid (like vinegar) containing food overnight. The overnight acid marinating will ensure breaking down of proteins, further increasing its digestibility.
(Also read: How to Make Mutton Soft and Tender)

One of the best ways to help meat digest faster is to marinade with acid
CommentsMeat does take a longer period to digest as compared to other foods, however, you can always ensure easy digestion process if you follow the above steps and prevent any stomach related disorders.

Take Control of Your Digestive Health with Your Second Brain

What if I told you that you have two brains inside of you right now? That’s right, two totally distinct and self-operating masses.

Point to your forehead. This is the location of the brain we all know about. Now from here, trace down the center of your body until you hit your belly button. It might be hard to believe, but you’ve just arrived at the location of your second brain.

No, not your belly button. I’m talking about your gut.

Up until now, you’ve probably thought of your gut as a simple blob that gets big when you wolf down a whole pizza, and growls at you when you haven’t had one in a while. But that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the complex world that’s operating in your gut everyday.

The gut is actually a series of intricate nerves and message systems that command the most significant functions in your body. You may already know that the gut controls digestion, but did you know that it’s also the command center for how you feel, if you get sick, what you crave, and even your decision-making! So if you want to feel great, you have to take care of your second brain.

A Tale of Two Brains

Now this part gets a little more scientific… When I say second brain, I’m referring to your Enteric Nervous System (ENS). The ENS is made up of over 500 millions of neurons and is broken down into three major parts: the stomach, the small intestine, and the colon.

When stretched out the ENS is a whopping 9 M long – that’s about half the size of a bowling lane! It also contains more neurons than your spine and more nerves than run throughout the rest of your body. Researchers actually think that your second brain may be the original nervous system in early lifeforms. So, your second brain actually came before the brain in your head.

These two brains are in constant communication with one another, but what makes it so shocking is that 90% of messages originate in the gut. This means that the gut communicates more with the brain, than the other way around.

So Who’s Running the Show Here

Discovering the gut-brain connection is incredibly exciting, but it would be a mistake to compare the two in a competition for who is more important. The more you understand about the second brain, the more you’ll realize that the two are more like close partners than distant relatives.

The brain and gut have to work in closely with one another to create lasting digestive health”When a human feels healthy, it’s because the two brains are working in a perfect partnership and are hearing one another’s messages with total clarity.”

Here lies the problem. The gut sends 90% of the messages between the two, but the brain in your head can override the messages and ignore them. When this happens, we either eat more than we’re supposed to or deny food when our gut is saying we need it. So we are either left overweight, underfed, or full of something our body never needed in the first place. A great example is how sugar hijacks your brain and tricks you into wanting more – despite a lack of nutritional value.

Listening to your gut can be tricky when your brain keeps telling you to eat that snickers bar, but learning to listen to it will make a world of difference for your gut health and overall health.

The folks over at New Scientist put together this chart for you to better see how this brain exchange works in action.

Mind Over Matter

Mind over matter? I think there’s a serious problem with the idea that we should prefer the power of our minds to the matter in our environment. This has led us to greatly under appreciate the strength and importance of the gut brain, whose primary function is to help us adapt to the outside world.

Think of your head as the brain in charge of perceiving an environment, and your gut as the gauge which will indicate what food, chemical, and nutrient levels need to be increased or decreased in order to thrive in that situation.

The relationship between the brain and the gut isn’t just a cute anecdote about biology; It’s reason to change the whole way you think about your own body. Let’s face it, you have been missing a significant part of the big picture until now. We all have.

You have to make changes if you want to give your body what it needs to thrive. If you want to overcome digestive problems and live efficiently, you have to build the healthiest gut possible. And with a healthy gut, your entire world can change.

How Do I Make These Messages Stronger?

You may have heard the saying that, “food is the best medicine.” Well, it’s true. In order to have a healthy gut that can send clear messages to your brain, you have to fuel the gut with a diet high in fiber and good bacteria.

Here are some of the best foods to throw into your cart next time you go to the store.

  • Cruciferous Veggies: Broccoli, Kale, and Cabbage etc.
  • Foods High in Insoluble Fiber: Artichokes, Lentils, Beans, and Leeks etc.
  • Fermented Vegetables: Kimchi and Sauerkraut etc.

What are in these Messages Anyways?

The gut doesn’t produce reason or thoughts in the way we understand the brain to, but it certainly influences them. The gut is in charge of the fundamental body functions that decide the conditions of our everyday life.

Digestion

This is the most obvious one. There are 500 million nerve cells in the gut that send different signals based on our relation to food. The gut tells us when we are too full, when we are hungry, and when there is something in the environment that we should definitely not ingest. And of course, the gut signals to us when the stomach is full and needs to expel waste. Pretty essential huh?

If we consume bad food and bacteria, our gut will send weak signals that get overwritten by the brain. In case you didn’t pick up on this, brain overwriting is really bad. This is exactly how weight gain or weight loss gets out of hand and we completely lose sight of what our body genuinely needs. If you want to have a healthy beach body that always craves the nutrients it needs, you have to start with the gut.

Mood

Think back to when you were a little kid and said, “my tummy hurts” when you’re feeling sad. This is because, a large portion of the chemicals responsible for balancing your mood come from the gut. Serotonin is split evenly between the two brains 50/50, but a whopping 95% of all the serotonin in your body is located in your gut. How crazy is that? And now you can see exactly why, you instinctively hold your gut when you feel that your mood hormones have been thrown out of balance.

95% of the serotonin in your body is found in the gut.

The gut is home to at least 40 neurotransmitters that impact our behavior, feelings, and self-esteem. In other words your hormones affect everything. If you keep experiencing uncontrollable mood swings of sadness and anger, taking care of your gut health could be the answer to centering your emotions and outlook on life.

Survival: Fight or Flight

When you sense danger in your environment or feel anxious, blood circulates from your gut to nerve endings in your muscles. This is why many describe feeling “butterflies” in their stomach when experiencing stress. The gut gets rid of these butterflies by producing the hormone ghrelin to increase hunger, sparking the release of dopamine, which in turn reduces our levels of anxiety. Think of your muscles as the troops and your gut as their commander who screams charge when it’s time to attack or dip.

Immunity

Your cells actually only account for 10% of your body weight. There are trillions of other nutrients and bacterial flora in your body that make up a large portion of the remaining cells. A lot of these bacteria, such as lactobacillus, are essential to your survival because they break down food and absorb the proper nutrients into your body. The gut is the main sorting center in which your system decides what to do with all of the bacteria and nutrients that you’ve digested into your stomach. This is why the gut is the epicenter for all things health. So you need to learn to identify good bacteria and load up on it. Seriously, go to town. It’ll only make you and your gut happier.

When you have an unhealthy balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria, your entire digestive system is thrown out of whack.

Symptoms of bacterial imbalance are:

  • constipation
  • excess gas
  • chronic diarrhea
  • intestinal discomfort

If you want to counteract the digestive trauma caused by this imbalance, doctors strongly suggest that you add a probiotic to your diet. Even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms, you’ll benefit from taking a probiotic. It’s like sending reinforcements in to battle any bad bacteria.

There’s 1 small catch though. A lot of the probiotics you’ll find in the store are a total waste of money because most companies producing probiotics don’t research how to keep their probiotics alive all the way to your gut.

NuCulture is an absolute exception to this trend and a crowning achievement in probiotic technology. It’s clinically tested to give you over 15 billion CFU’s (colony forming units) of thriving bacteria that stay alive long after they’ve arrived in your gut. It even contains a new and revolutionary prebiotic, PreforPro.

Here’s how it works: NuCulture is in a time release capsule so everything is safely delivered past your stomach acid. PreforPro is released as the front line of defense which knocks out bad bacteria in your gut. This creates a clean and ideal foundation for the 5 clinically studied probiotic strains to make their home in your gut.

And unlike other brands, NuCulture is packaged with the exact clinical dosage of each powerful probiotic strain, so you aren’t getting short changed on any of the nutrients you need to build a perfectly healthy gut.

So I guess there’s more truth to the saying: Follow your gut.

Understanding Hunger and Fullness Cues

“Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.” It sounds so simple, yet countless people struggle with putting this principle into practice. Why is overeating such a battle? One of the main reasons is because people aren’t tuned in to their bodies. They lose sensitivity to true stomach hunger, and get it confused with a multitude of other signals and needs.

What is stomach hunger?

Stomach hunger — or physical hunger — involves a complex interaction between the digestive system, endocrine system and the brain. When the body needs refueling, we start feeling tired and weak, while finding it harder to concentrate and work. The stomach, which is located just below the ribcage, starts to ache and rumble. This is true stomach hunger. When we begin eating in response, we really enjoy the food and start feeling better, because a bodily need is being met.

What happens when I ignore my stomach hunger?

If you don’t feed your body when it needs food, the physical symptoms intensify. The stomach starts to really hurt. You find it more difficult to concentrate and may experience lightheadedness. You may also get irritable and short-tempered. In addition, some people get shaky and nervous, while others get a headache. Because you are so ravenous at this point, once you do start to eat, you’re very vulnerable to uncontrolled eating or bingeing.

When I eat, how do I know when to stop?

Hunger and fullness is regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain. When your body has had enough food to satisfy its needs, signals are sent to the hypothalamus, registering fullness (also called satiety). When we are in tune to our bodies, we recognize when it’s time to stop eating. The stomach feels comfortable, and satisfied — not stuffed. We soon begin to feel calmer, more alert and energized.

It takes approximately 20 minutes for fullness signals to transmit from the stomach back to the brain. So, if you eat too fast and aren’t paying attention, it’s easy to override this system and eat more than what the body is calling for.

How do I know when I am overeating?

When you are eating at a calm, relaxed pace and paying attention to your body, you will notice the following when you have eaten more than physically needed:

  1. You are mechanically taking bites and swallowing, but you aren’t really enjoying the food anymore.
  2. You are feeling pressure and discomfort in your stomach. If filled further, it starts to hurt. You may even feel queasy.
  3. After a while you start to feel sluggish.

What if I can’t detect hunger and/or fullness signals in my body?

Assuming that you’re not eating too hurriedly or with many distractions, there are several possible reasons for having difficulty perceiving these internal bodily cues. If you’ve been ignoring your hunger and fullness signals for a long time, you may have temporarily lost your physical sensitivity to them. This is often the outcome of frequent dieting, chronically restricting food intake, being raised to “clean your plate,” or struggling with any kind of disordered eating. If this is the case for you, it will take some time to rediscover hunger and fullness cues, which may require professional guidance. Outside help is especially crucial if: 1) you are never hungry and routinely get full with just a few bites, or 2) you are always hungry and never feel satisfied after eating.

Sometimes, there are emotional reasons for a person being unable to access their hunger and fullness signals. Getting in touch with body sensations stirs up painful memories for some people, while others feel undeserving of meeting their own needs. If you are one of these people, it is important to work through these issues with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.

Lastly, in some cases, there are medical explanations for problems with hunger and fullness. For instance, certain medications, specific diseases, depression, stress and pain can clearly increase or decrease the appetite. But overall, there are still many unanswered questions regarding the body’s regulation of food intake. Research is currently underway to try to better understand the complex mechanisms, and to figure out why some people struggle more than others.

What are some “false alarm” signals that are often confused with stomach hunger?

Sometimes, we mistake other signals in our bodies for physical hunger. They are legitimate sensations, but not true stomach hunger. Here are some examples:

“Teeth Hunger”

Sometimes, especially if we’re feeling irritated or stressed, we want to chew our frustrations away. Our bodies are not calling for food, but we put it in our mouths as an attempt to relieve anxiety.

“Mouth Hunger”

We see or smell something that looks so delicious that our mouths start to water. Sometimes just thinking about a food brings on a craving for it. We desire to taste the food, but really aren’t physically hungry.

“Mind Hunger”

We look at the clock and think we have to eat a certain amount of food because “it’s time”, even if we don’t feel like eating.

Thirst

Sometimes we confuse the sluggishness of dehydration with actual hunger. The body is calling for fluids, not food.

Fatigue

When we sense that our energy levels are low, some of us automatically think that if we eat something, we’ll feel better. However, if we’ve been working extra hard and/or haven’t been getting enough sleep, our bodies are calling for rest, not food.

“Heart Hunger/Emotional Hunger”

We feel an ache and emptiness in our hearts due to unmet emotional and/or spiritual needs. Rather than acknowledge our feelings and work through our issues, we try to fill the void with food. Or sometimes we try to use food to “stuff” our feelings down. Although there can be physical discomfort in the gut when we’re upset, it is a distinctly different sensation from stomach hunger.

Moving forward…

As you can see, the simple design of physical hunger and fullness is often overshadowed by other body signals, habits, needs and emotions. Identifying and dealing with them appropriately is a huge step in the process of discerning true stomach hunger. Learning to eat intuitively — meeting your body’s true physical needs for fuel and nourishment — will help you naturally reach the healthiest weight for your one-of-a-kind body.

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1 The gastrointestinal tract is a 30-foot tube running from your mouth to your anus. Topologically, your gut has the same shape as those doughnuts you regularly pass through it.

2 The small intestine contains so many folds—down to the microscopic level—that its total surface area is about 2,700 square feet, enough to cover a tennis court.

3 The Roman physician Galen regarded the stomach as a quasi-autonomous being within us, able to “feel a lack which rouses the animal and stimulates it to seek food.”

4 Much of our basic understanding of gastric physiology comes from the work of army surgeon William Beaumont, who in 1825 observed the digestive process by inserting food into an unhealed gunshot wound in a French-Canadian trapper’s stomach.

5 The three days of Christmas: It took up to 72 hours to digest your holiday dinner. Carbs (stuffing and pumpkin pie) will be processed first. The dry, overcooked protein that is your holiday turkey came next. Fat (gravy and whipped cream) was be the last to go.

6 Maybe it’s just the company. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, is often blamed for post-meal drowsiness, but the proteins in the meat largely neutralize it.

7 Or maybe it’s those dancing sugarplums. Gorging on high-glycemic foods (lots of sugar and starch) can concentrate tryptophan in your blood plasma, boosting its effect.

8 Most of the body’s serotonin, a major mood-influencing hormone, is made not in the head but in the stomach lining.

9 The calories you burn simply digesting food account for 5 to 15 percent of your energy expenditure. Protein and alcohol require the most energy.

10 Chemistry of a cheap date: Women produce only 60 percent as much alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme that neutralizes booze, as men do.

11 Achalasia, a rare condition that prevents swallowing, can be treated by a shot of Botox, which relaxes the esophageal sphincter—and undoubtedly makes it look years younger.

12 Pica, an eating disorder in which sufferers develop an appetite for nonnutritive substances such as paint and dirt, affects up to 30 percent of young children. Its cause is unknown but possibly linked to subtle mineral deficiencies.

13 Your stomach’s primary digestive juice, hydrochloric acid, can dissolve metal, but plastic toys that go down the hatch will come out the other end as good as new. (A choking hazard is still a choking hazard, though.)

14 Same with crayons, hair, and chewing gum—all of which will pass through within a few days, no matter what you’ve heard.

15 You, however, are easily digestible. The pain of pancreatitis comes from fat-digesting enzymes leaking from the pancreatic duct system into surrounding tissues, literally eating you from within.

16 Water, enzymes, base salts, mucus, and bile create about two gallons of liquid that enters the large intestine. Only six tablespoons or so comes out.

17 Without the colon’s marvelous ability to recover bodily fluids, animals could not survive on dry land.

18 The loudest human burp ever recorded—107.1 decibels, about as loud as a chain saw from three feet—was produced by Londoner Paul Hunn in September 2008. On TV, no less.

19 Brown is the new green: In 2005 the Ashden Award for Sustainable Energywas given to a Rwandan prison that used the methane from human feces to fuel cooking stoves.

20 That one program saved more than $1.5 million. Think of the global implications.

From the feeling of clothes against the skin, to the sounds of cocktail party chatter, the human brain is constantly blocking out information that could be distracting. Now, a new study reveals how the brain achieves this ignoring feat.

In the study, researchers scanned people’s brains while someone was lightly tapping on the participants’ fingers and toes. When the researchers told the participants to ignore the feelings in their hands or feet, the scans showed more synchrony between brain waves in different parts of their noodles.

“Moment by moment, we’re really only doing one thing: We have to block things in the sensory and internal world,” said Stephanie Jones, a neuroscientist at Brown University and senior author of the study published today (Feb. 3) in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In addition to helping scientists understand how the brain works, the findings have the potential to help people with chronic pain.

“We’re moving into an area of thinking about how we might use noninvasive brain stimulation to help with pain processing,” Jones told Live Science.

Ignoring body parts

To find out what goes on in the brain when it ignores distractions, Jones and her colleagues put 12 volunteers in a magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanner, which reveals images of the rapidly changing magnetic fields that are produced by brain activity. The researchers told the volunteers they would feel taps on their left middle finger and their left big toe.

In some cases, the participants were told to pay attention to sensations in their finger and ignore those in their toe, and in others they were told to pay attention to their toe and ignore their finger.

The team used the MEG scanners to look at the synchrony between part of the somatosensory cortex, which processes touch in the hand, and the right inferior frontal cortex (rIFC), which is thought to be involved in blocking out information.

The researchers saw an increase in the synchrony between the “hand area” of the somatosensory cortex and the rIFC when the volunteers were told to only pay attention to the feelings in their foot and ignore those in their hand.

This increased synchrony suggests “there’s some coordination” between part of the brain that processes information from the hand, and the part involved in blocking out distractions, Jones said.

Blocking out pain

Understanding how brain rhythms change when people ignore things in their environment isn’t just an academic pursuit; Jones and her colleagues think it could be useful in treating people with chronic pain, who often are not helped by existing treatments.

For example, technologies like transcranial magnetic stimulation or transcranial direct current stimulation — which involve creating tiny magnetic or electrical fields in the brain, respectively — may be able to help people block out pain by producing the right patterns of brain activity, Jones said.

Previous research suggests that ignoring parts of the body “is something the brain can be trained to do,” Jones said. Catherine Kerr, one of the new study’s co-authors, previously did a study in which participants underwent the tapping task before and after meditation. She found that after meditation, people were able to shift their attention to different parts of their bodies faster and to a greater extent than before.

Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Pain Really Is All In Your Head And Emotion Controls Intensity

iStockphoto iStockphoto

When you whack yourself with a hammer, it feels like the pain is in your thumb. But really it’s in your brain.

That’s because our perception of pain is shaped by brain circuits that are constantly filtering the information coming from our sensory nerves, says David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and author of the new book Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind.

This ability to modulate pain explains the experiences of people like Dwayne Turner, an Army combat medic in Iraq who received the Silver Star for valor.

In 2003, Turner was unloading supplies when his unit came under attack. He was wounded by a grenade. “He took shrapnel in his leg, in his side — and he didn’t even notice that he had been hit,” Linden says.

Despite his injuries, Turner began giving first aid and pulled other soldiers to safety. As he worked, he was shot twice — one bullet breaking a bone in his arm. Yet Turner would say later that he felt almost no pain.

“Soldiers in the heat of the moment don’t recognize the pain that’s happening,” Linden says. But once that moment is over, those same soldiers may feel a lot of pain from something minor, like a hypodermic needle, he says.

The brain also determines the emotion we attach to each painful experience, Linden says. That’s possible, he explains, because the brain uses two different systems to process pain information coming from our nerve endings.

One system determines the pain’s location, intensity and characteristics: stabbing, aching, burning, etc.

“And then,” Linden says, “there is a completely separate system for the emotional aspect of pain — the part that makes us go, ‘Ow! This is terrible.’ “

Linden says positive emotions — like feeling calm and safe and connected to others — can minimize pain. But negative emotions tend to have the opposite effect. Torturers have exploited that aspect for centuries.

“If they want to accentuate pain during torture they can do this with humiliation with an unpredictable schedule of delivering pain,” Linden says. “Those things will make the emotional component of the pain experience stronger.”

CIA interrogators used both tactics after Sept. 11, according to a Senate report released late last year.

One thing scientists are still trying to understand is precisely how the brain regulates the perception of pain. A team from Brown University has found some clues.

The team studied low-frequency brain waves in a part of the brain that responds to sensations in the hand, says Stephanie Jones, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Brown. Earlier research had shown that these rhythms increase when the brain is blocking sensory information from the hand.

But what causes these rhythms to increase? The team thought it might find an answer in a frontal area of the brain that helps us ignore distractions.

So the researchers monitored the brain waves of a dozen people who were asked to pay attention only to their hand or only to their foot. During the experiment the scientists delivered a light tap to each person’s finger or toe.

When participants focused on their feet, low-frequency rhythms increased in the brain area that responds to hand sensations — because participants were asking their brains to ignore sensory input from the hand, and it’s these low-frequency rhythms that do the blocking of such information. That was expected.

But low-frequency rhythms also increased in a different brain area — the region that ignores distractions, the team discovered. They reported their findings in the current issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The two areas became synchronized, Jones says. “There’s coordination between the front part of the brain, which is the executive control region of the brain, and the sensory part of the brain, which is filtering information from the environment,” she says.

That suggests that at least some people can teach their brains how to filter out things like chronic pain, perhaps through meditation, Jones says.

A 2011 study supports this idea. It found that people who practiced mindfulness meditation for eight weeks greatly improved their control of the brain rhythms that block out pain.

Introduction

(Image credit: Digestive system image via )

The digestive system has two main functions: to convert food into nutrients your body needs, and to rid the body of waste. To do its job, the system requires the cooperation of a number of different organs throughout the body, including the mouth, stomach, intestines, liver and gallbladder.

Here are 11 facts about the digestive system that may surprise you.

Food doesn’t need gravity to get to your stomach.

(Image credit: Upside down kid photo via )

When you eat something, the food doesn’t simply fall through your esophagus and into your stomach. The muscles in your esophagus constrict and relax in a wavelike manner called peristalsis, pushing the food down through the small canal and into the stomach.

Because of peristalsis, even if you were to eat while hanging upside down, the food would still be able to get to your stomach.

Laundry detergents take cues from the digestive system.

(Image credit: Stained shirt photo via )

Laundry detergents often contain several different classes of enzymes, including proteases, amylases and lipases. The human digestive system also contains such enzymes.

The digestive system also employs these types of enzymes to break down food. Proteases break down proteins, amylases break down carbohydrates and lipases break down fats. For example, your saliva contains both amylases and lipases, and your stomach and small intestine use proteases.

Your stomach doesn’t do most of the digestion.

(Image credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Dreamstime)

p> It’s commonly believed that the stomach is the center of digestion, and the organ does play a large role in “mechanical digestion” — it churns food, and mixes it with gastric juices, physically breaking up food bits and turning them into a thick paste called chyme.

But the stomach is actually involved in very little chemical digestion, the process that reduces food to the size of molecules, which is necessary for nutrients to be taken up into the bloodstream.

Instead, the small intestine, which makes up about two-thirds of the length of the digestive tract, is where most of the digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place. After further breaking down the chyme with powerful enzymes, the small intestine absorbs the nutrients and passes them into the bloodstream.

The surface area of the small intestine is huge.

(Image credit: Villi image via )

The small intestine is about 22 feet (7 meters) long, and about an inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. Based on these measurements, you’d expect the surface area of the small intestine to be about 6 square feet (0.6 square m) — but it’s actually around 2,700 square feet (250 square m), or about the size of a tennis court.

That’s because the small intestine has three features that increase its surface area. The walls of the intestine have folds, and also contain structures called villi, which are fingerlike projections of absorptive tissue. What’s more, the villi are covered with microscopic projections called microvilli.

All of these features help the small intestine to better absorb food.

Stomachs vary in the animal kingdom.

The stomach is an integral part of the digestive system, but it’s not the same in all animals. Some animals have stomachs with multiple compartments. (They’re often mistakenly said to have multiple stomachs.) Cows and other “ruminants” — including giraffes, deer and cattle — have four-chambered stomachs, which help them digest their plant-based food.

But some animals — including seahorses, lungfishes and platypuses — have no stomach. Their food goes from the esophagus straight to the intestines.

Flatulence gets its smell from bacteria.

(Image credit: Strange smell photo via )

p> Intestinal gas, or flatus, is a combination of swallowed air and the gasses produced by the fermentation of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. The digestive system cannot break down or absorb certain components of foods, and those substances simply get pushed along the tract, and make their way into the large intestine. Hordes of intestinal bacteria get to work, releasing a variety of gases in the process, including carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and hydrogen sulfide (which gives flatulence its rotten-egg stench).

The digestive system is cancer prone.

(Image credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Dreamstime)

Each year, more than 270,000 Americans develop a cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, including cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum. About half of these cancers result in death. In 2009, colorectal cancer killed almost 52,000 people in the U.S., more than any other cancer except lung cancer.

What’s more, the digestive system is home to more cancers, and causes more cancer mortalities, than any other organ system in the body.

A sword swallower helped doctors look inside the stomach.

(Image credit: Endoscopy illustration via )

An endoscope is an instrument used to examine organs and cavities inside the body. The German physician Philipp Bozzini developed a primitive version of the endoscope, called the lichtleiter (meaning “light conductor”), in the early 1800s to inspect a number of bodily areas, including the ear, nasal cavity and urethra.

Half a century later, French surgeon Antoine Jean Desormeaux developed another instrument, which he named the “endoscope,” to examine the urinary tract and bladder.

In 1868, German doctor Adolph Kussmaul used an endoscope to look inside the stomach of a living person for the first time. Unlike today’s endoscopes, Kussmaul’s instrument was not flexible, making it difficult to guide the instrument deep into the body. So Kussmaul employed the talents of a sword swallower, who could easily gulp down the 18.5-inch by 0.5-inch (47 cm by 1.3 cm) instrument that Kussmaul designed.

A man with a hole in his stomach provided a window into digestion.

(Image credit: Stomach illustration via )

In 1822, a fur trapper accidentally shot a 19-year-old man named Alexis St. Martin. Army surgeon William Beaumont successfully patched up St. Martin, but the trapper was left with a hole in his stomach’s abdominal wall, which is called a fistula. The fistula allowed Beaumont to investigate the workings of the stomach in entirely new ways.

Over the next decade, Beaumont conducted 238 experiments on St. Martin, some of which involved sticking food directly into his patient’s stomach. He drew a number of important inferences from his work, including that fever can affect digestion, and that digestion was more than just a grinding motion of the stomach but also required hydrochloric acid.

The stomach must protect itself — from itself.

(Image credit: Stomachache photo via )

Cells along the inner wall of the stomach secrete roughly 2 liters (0.5 gallons) of hydrochloric acid each day, which helps kill bacteria and aids in digestion. If hydrochloric acid sounds familiar to you, it may be because the powerful chemical is commonly used to remove rust and scale from steel sheets and coils, and is also found in some cleaning supplies, including toilet-bowl cleaners.

To protect itself from the corrosive acid, the stomach lining has a thick coating of mucus. But this mucus can’t buffer the digestive juices indefinitely, so the stomach produces a new coat of mucus every two weeks.

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