Digestion is one of the most complex processes of the human body. Food goes through many stops until it becomes waste and leave the body.
An important step often given too little attention in the digestion process is chewing. This is the first part of digestion.
As soon as food enters the mouth, the teeth starts to grind the food into smaller pieces.
While the saliva moistens the food and starts to digest carbohydrates.
The tongue helps push the food into the back of the mouth for swallowing.
Through the swallowing mechanism, chewed food goes down the esophagus into the stomach.
Here, the stomach acid decomposes the proteins in the food.
From the stomach, the food is transported to the small intestine, where carbs and other starch are split.
This is done by the digestive juices produced by the pancreas.
In addition, the bile produced by the liver is used in the small intestine to process fats.
The nutrients are absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. When substances are no longer needed, they go down into the large intestine.
In the large intestine, the liquid mass turns into stool, which is then excreted.
How fast a person digests their food depends on many factors including gender, metabolism rate and physical activities.
Healthy digestion is especially important for everyone. If the nutrients are not properly absorbed it can lead to deficiencies.
Stomach Pain vs Stomach Ache
It should be noted that abdominal pain should not be confused with stomach pain. It is common that most people refer to any discomfort in the stomach area as either.
While anyone who has pain above the abdomen and below the chest could be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disorder.
But the pains are felt differently and are triggered by various factors.
Harmless stomach pain is often caused by overeating, too fat, too spicy or too heavy food, but hunger can also cause stomach discomfort.
Although stomach ache due to a feeling of fullness is unpleasant, after a short time it will be relieved naturally.
Gastric pain or GERD, in most cases, is harmless and subsides after a short while.
However, the frequency and intensity of stomach discomfort should be monitored.
If the stomach ache occurs more frequently or the symptoms get worse over time, you should consult a doctor.
Most Common Symptoms of Stomach Upset
Stomach pains are different in everyone as mentioned earlier. Discomfort can be stinging, pulling, oppressive to spasmodic.
In many cases, additional symptoms such as flatulence, constipation or diarrhea may appear.
If there is vomiting, nausea or blood in the stool, consult a doctor right away.
Equally important is heartburn. This involves the esophagus, the stomach and in many cases even the oral cavity.
If the stomach produces too much stomach acid to break down and utilize the food, it reacts with a burning sensation. The stomach contains hydrochloric acid, which attacks the food and the stomach wall.
This is not always safe and should be diagnosed by a specialist and treated accordingly.
If stomach problems, including heartburn, occur regularly and has become intolerable, seek advice from your doctor.
Causes of an Upset Stomach
There are many causes that upset the stomach. Although these may be short-lived and initially harmless to the body, these should not be ignored.
Some of the causes include the following:
- Monotonous crash diets (too much fat, too spicy)
- Stress (commonly mental stress)
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Nicotine or alcohol consumption
- Illness-related causes like stomach ulcers, liver problems, hepatitis, cancer
If you are aware what your stomach is feeling, you can prevent it from being upset.
Similarly, feeling of fullness, stomach pressure and a bloated belly can be avoided if small amounts of food are eaten throughout the day instead of large portions.
Of course, proper nutrition is a huge factor in how well your stomach functions.
What to Eat and NOT to Eat for Better Digestion
Fruits, especially watermelon and banana, are digested very quickly and can leave your body after just 4 hours.
Vegetables contain fiber that aids digestion which takes 5 to 9 hours.
However, some vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, are less digestible. They can take up to 12 hours in the stomach.
White rice is also one of the most digestible foods. After about 12 hours it can be completely digested.
Eggs contain protein that the body needs. When scrambled, they are broken down easily and are beneficial for people who are recovering from a stomach virus.
Sweet potatoes contain soluble fiber that increases good bacteria in the intestines which aid in healthy digestion.
Many foods are digested much slower than the examples above.
Avoid these foods if you suffer constipation, bloating and other stomach problems regularly.
Meat – digestion of meat usually lasts around 24 hours. But it is common that digestion sometimes takes 72 hours.
Legumes – such as beans, lentils or chickpeas are also not easily digestible. The digestion can therefore last up to 15 hours. This is because the enzyme, oligosaccharides, is produced by the body only in small quantities.
Fish – another food that is slowly digested; takes 20 hours to be digested.
Nuts and seeds – also last a long time in the digestive tract with a digestion time of 18 to 24 hours.
7 Tips to Prevent Digestion Problems
1Avoid fatty food
Fat is a flavor carrier and is important in the body but only in small quantities.
Generally, however, far too much fat is difficult for the stomach to process. Snack on fruits rather than greasy chips.
When food is crushed in small pieces, the better it is for the stomach. Chew each bite 20-30 times if possible.
This facilitates the work of the stomach and the production of stomach acid is reduced to a minimum.
3Drink while eating
Drinking helps the stomach liquefy food and split it up easily. This supports digestion and reduces the concentration of stomach acid.
If you have something to eat with your meal, you will automatically eat less as well, which also relieves the stomach.
4Avoid too much spice
If the stomach reacts to cayenne pepper or chili with pain and irritation, these should be avoided.
Even if it tastes good, it creates burden on the digestive tract and can even harm it in the long term.
5Take time to eat
During busy and stressful times, it is difficult to maintain a regular eating routine or enjoy a meal at least. But with the right attitude it can be done.
If you take your time and enjoy a meal, you won’t get a stomach ache so quickly.
Likewise, eat your food sitting down so the stomach can work properly. Eating fast and/or standing, gives no time for the stomach to devote to its task.
Fennel, ginger or peppermint tea have a calming effect on an irritated stomach.
Pharmacies also offer gastrointestinal teas which are made up of different tea blends beneficial to the stomach.
7Add honey to your tea
Honey contains active ingredients that protect the stomach lining.
If you suffer from stomach ache before going to sleep, don’t eat anything for 3 to 4 hours before bed.
Instead, take a spoonful of cold-thrown, natural honey.