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Friday, December 15, 2017

Platypuses Don’t Have Stomachs ... and other Tummy Trivia

“It’s the Holidays ... I’m going to eat what I want, and when it’s over I’ll go back to normal.” Sound familiar? It’s fun until our stomach says it’s not so fun. Here are a few fun facts about the digestive system:

  • The stomach has the stretching ability to hold up to four pounds of food at one time. That’s a lot of turkey!
  • Stomach growling is also called borborygmus. An empty stomach growls louder without food to muffle the sound.
  • As little as one cup of a carbonated beverage can cause gastrointestinal upset.
  • The average person produces up to two pints of saliva a day. Saliva production increases when you're vomiting to protect your teeth from the acid in your stomach.
  • Enzymes in the digestive system break food down into the different nutrients we need.

True or false: If you eat less food, your stomach will shrink and you won’t be as hungry.
False! Once you reach adulthood your stomach stays pretty much the same size.

True or false: Digestion happens in the stomach.
False! The major part of digestion happens in the small intestine. Once food reaches the stomach it breaks down and is released in small batches to the small intestine where digestion starts to happen. The second part of your intestine is called the jejunum, which is kind of a fun word to say.

True or false: Beans cause gas.
Well, yes and no! Beans contain oligosaccharides, a type of sugar molecule also found in cabbage. An anti-oligosaccharide enzyme is necessary to properly digest these sugar molecules. As a normal human digestive tract does not contain any anti-oligosaccharide enzymes, consumed oligosaccharides are typically digested by bacteria in the large intestine. The digestion of these oligosaccharides produces hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gas. So it's the digestion of the beans, and not the beans themselves, that causes gas.

True or false: All foods digest at the same pace.
False! Carbohydrates begin to break down first, followed by protein and, lastly, fats. That’s probably why cheesecake is so satisfying.

True or false: Platypuses don’t have stomachs.

The Holiday season is a time of overindulging in food and drink, but we can limit our choices at social gatherings by avoiding highly processed snacks like chips and sugary goodies in favor of healthier choices. Your stomach will thank you later!

  • Mark your calendar for the first Medical Lecture Series on Jan. 9 with Harvard Medical School's Dr. Gregory Fricchione, professor of Psychiatry, presenting “Soothing That Barking Dog in Our Brains.” For more information about Dr. Fricchione's lecture and the other lectures in this season's series, click here.


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