We all know where our stomach is, but most of us do not know how it works. Basically, the stomach is an important part of the digestive system which helps our body break down the food that we eat with the use of powerful acids. The shape of the stomach is like a jelly bean, as it is sac-shaped or a pear-shaped bag. It’s interesting to take note that the stomach has the capacity to change its size and shape in accordance to the position of our body as well as the amount of food that it stores. An adult stomach can store about three quarts of liquid.
There are two ways that the human stomach aids in the digestion of food. The first one involves the production of gastric juices. Here, the cells of the stomach would line up and make approximately three liters of gastric juice, and this activity is done daily. The gastric juice breaks down the food into finer pieces. For example, a steak that can be hard to chew and masticate using our teeth will be well-digested in the stomach because the gastric juice would aid in breaking it down.
Perhaps the most important substance in gastric juice is the hydrochloric acid. This is being produced in the parietal cells. These cells are located in the stomach wall and there are almost a billion of these cells in the stomach wall. The hydrochloric acid is a strong acid that aids in the breaking down of food. This acid is so concentrated that if you put a piece of wood in the stomach, the acid will break through it. So the food that passes in the esophagus going to the stomach would be welcomed by the gastric juices, which include the hydrochloric acid, and breaks it into finer pieces.
Another way that the stomach helps in the digestion of food is through the stomach’s muscular wall. This part of the stomach churns the food together with the gastric juices. The food will result to a soup-like mixture because of the churning and the mixture of gastric juices, which will then be squirted to a valve. This valve is known as the duodenum, which is the next part of the human’s intestinal tract. Both the production of gastric juices and the action of the stomach’s muscular wall are influenced by a lot of factors, such as the absence and presence of the food.
So what stops the stomach from digesting itself or from auto-digestion? It is the production of bicarbonate- rich solution which covers the mucosa or the inner layer of the stomach. The bicarbonate solution neutralizes the hydrochloric acid as well as other acids that are secreted by the parietal cells. This is made possible because bicarbonate is an alkaline or a base. When the acid and the base or alkaline is mixed, it produces water in the process, which then protects the stomach from all the strong acids that it produces.