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Stomach function, anatomy & treatment of disorders

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Stomach function - How is the stomach organised and what does it do?

Our stomach is only as big as a fist when empty, yet it does a tremendous job: within 70 years it processes around 50,000 litres of liquid and 30,000 kilograms of food. To do this, it takes a sophisticated system that works flawlessly and fits together perfectly. Learn more about the function and structure of the stomach here.

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Facts about the stomach:

  • The stomach is located between the oesophagus and the duodenum 
  • Solid food stays in the stomach for about one to five hours 
  • Liquid lingers for only ten to twenty minutes 
  • The stomach stores and mixes the ingested food 
  • The gastric juice contributes to the digestive process and through its acidity renders bacteria harmless
Green-coloured graphic showing the structure of stomach.

Structure of the stomach

The stomach is located in the left upper abdomen just below the diaphragm and can be roughly divided into two areas - an upper and a lower one: 

1. The upper part stores the ingested food.  

2. The middle part processes the chyme and prepares it for further transport.  

Food intake from the oesophagus into the stomach and release from stomach into the duodenum are regulated by two special sphincter muscles located at the top and bottom of the stomach. They can open or close like a valve as needed.

Interesting: If the upper sphincter muscle does not close properly between the oesophagus and the stomach, more gastric acid can pass back into the oesophagus unchecked, which can be one causes of heartburn. 

The more important sections that can be distinguished in the stomach are: 

  • Transition between the oesophagus and the stomach (cardia),  
  • Gastric arch (fundus), which can expand so far that space is created for up to two litres of food storage 
  • Stomach body (corpus), main part of the stomach, which grinds the food further, in order to then mix it through 
  • Lower transport area (antrum) 
  • Gastric gatepost (pylorus), a ring-shaped sphincter muscle, which passes small chyme portions to the duodenum as the first section of the small intestine

Function of the stomach

The main tasks of the stomach are the storage, the further break-down and mixing of the ingested food. This succeeds on the one hand with powerful wave-like movements of the muscle wall and on the other with gastric juice produced by glands located in the gastric mucosa. This gastric juice contains acid that kills bacteria and thus prevents infection. The stomach acid is thus the first barrier in the body, since most bacteria do not survive the passage through the stomach. 

In addition, gastric juice contains special enzymes that predigest certain food components already in the stomach. 

The delivery of gastric juice through the glands is stimulated by the so-called vagus nerve. This stimulation can occur either alone by the thought, sight, smell and taste of food as well as by the stretching of the stomach wall when food enters the stomach.

How can stomach function be balanced and is it important?

Having problems with digestion once in a while is unpleasant, but not dramatic. When there is pressure and pinching in the stomach, the stomach and intestines often only need just a little bit of help to function optimally again.  

Drinking enough (1.5 to 2 litres of water) throughout the day prevents the formation of tougher chyme and eases its transport through the body, thus unburdening stomach and intestine. However, this only applies to water, tea and very low-sugar drinks such as highly watered-down juices (spritzers). Soft drinks, fruit juices or even smoothies include a lot of nutrients and have to be digested themselves.

Additionally, movement stimulates the blood circulation, which may also benefit the stomach and intestines. It’s imperative that you find your own workout routine. Short, sportive exercises can be a good starting point to support your physical health.

Disturbed function of the stomach

If the stomach muscles contract uncontrollably, the digestive process can be disturbed: The chyme can no longer be mixed, transported and digested. This may cause symptoms like heartburn, bloating and nausea.

A well-functioning stomach is therefore important for good digestion and for the prevention of further symptoms.

With ingredients such as Iberis amara and Chamomile can Iberogast® can tonicize the stomach muscles to normalize the digestive process of an irritable stomach - the chyme can be processed and transported normally again.

Iberogast®’s unique combination of nine powerful medicinal plants has been coordinated perfectly to alleviate various symptoms of functional digestive disorders. It has shown relaxing, tonicizing and anti-inflammatory effects. It has been recommended for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia, which may be manifested by different annoying gastrointestinal symptoms, like abdominal pain or cramps.

Basic dietary and lifestyle tips that can help a healthy stomach

Even small attentions are good for the digestive organ and can effectively remedy gastrointestinal symptoms and disorders. Avoiding symptom triggering factors such as smoking and alcohol and reducing stress could help improve digestion. Relaxation and walks are recommended instead. A fixed, regular daily routine also can promote proper digestion.

The right diet and digestive foods contribute especially to a healthy stomach. Listen to your body – it will let you know which foods to avoid and when. 

It’s also important to chew thoroughly. By eating slowly and consciously, it is also easier to notice when you are full.

Young, slender woman in sitting on the floor, with her belly uncovered and her hands lying gently on it.

The intestines

What is the function of the small intestine, colon, and intestinal flora? Find out everything about the intestines and how they work. Read now!

Intestinal function

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Iberogast®

Disturbances in the gastrointestinal tract are usually not only extremely unpleasant and associated with numerous complaints, they often make a normal everyday life even harder. It’s good that there is Iberogast®: The combination of nine medicinal plants targets both the underlying causes and the annoying symptoms. 

All about Iberogast®

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