All about the stomach

Published On: Oct 24 2012 11:59:27 AM EDT   Updated On: Nov 07 2012 11:21:18 AM EST

By Betsi Blodgett, Pure Matters

Your stomach is as an organ essential for digestion, the process of breaking down food into its smallest particles so your body can absorb nutrients. The process of digestion involves the mixing of food, its movement through the digestive tract, and the chemical breakdown of the large molecules of food into smaller molecules. Digestion of food begins in the mouth, when teeth break the food into smaller particles and amylase, an enzyme in saliva, begins to break down starches into simple sugars. Digestion continues in the stomach.  

When it's empty, your stomach resembles an unexpanded J-shaped balloon. It's capable of contracting and expanding to accommodate anything from a snack to a seven-course dinner.

Different sections

The top part of the stomach secretes gastric acid and a digestive enzyme, pepsin. The lower part of the stomach is more muscular and mixes food with the digestive fluids. With the exception of alcohol and some drugs, absorption of nutrients does not take place in the stomach. When the gastric content is thoroughly mixed and liquefied, it passes into the small intestine, where further digestion of proteins, sugars, and fats occurs and where absorption of nutrients begins. By the time the contents pass through the entire small intestine to enter the colon, digestion is complete and the nutrients have been absorbed. The colon extracts water and some materials such as vitamins K and B-12 and begins to form stool.

Common problems

Common problems of the stomach include: