Parts of stomach
Microscopic structure of stomach
Examinations of stomach
Treatments for stomach diseases
Stomach Care – Natural ways
Home remedies for stomach care
Stomach is a complex organ and is divided into four sections. An adult human’s stomach is a distensible organ that holds approximately one liter of food. A newborn’s stomach retains around 30 milliliters of food. Sections of stomach are as follows –
- The Cardia – It is the starting section of the stomach wherein the contents from esophagus are emptied into the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter is situated near the cardia. It is the “z-line” section of the gastroesophageal junction, where the cell structure changes to columnar from stratified squamous.
- The Fundus – It is the upper curvature of the stomach. It is a dome shaped region of the organ.
- The Body – It is the main, central and largest section of the stomach. The fundus is situated superior to the body of the stomach.
- The Pylorus – It is the inferior section of the body of the stomach. The pylorus is a funnel shaped organ that contains pyloric sphincter and connects stomach to duodenum. It pushes the chyme from the stomach to the duodenum.
The four vital microscopic structures of the stomach are mucosa, submucosa, muscularis and serosa.
- Mucosa – It is the innermost layer of the stomach and is composed of mucous membranes. Secretes hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes through small pores known as gastric pits
- Submucosa – It surrounds mucosa and is made up of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues. Provides nutrition to the wall of the stomach, controls muscle contraction and secrets digestive substances.
- Muscularis – It covers the large area of the stomach’s mass, and surrounds submucosa. It is made up of three layers of smooth muscles arranged in fibers that allow stomach to contract. It mixes and propels food.
- Serosa – It is the outermost layer that surrounds muscularis that is made up of connective tissue and squamous epithelial tissue. It secrets serous fluid, a thin, watery fluid that protects the organ from friction. It mixes and propels the food through the gastric tract.
The process of digestion starts from the mouth. The food in mouth under goes the process of mastication (chewing) till the solid food becomes a small mass called as “bolus”. This bolus goes into the stomach through esophagus. The stomach stores the food for around 1 to 2 hours for second phase of digestion. Meanwhile, other digestive organs such as intestines, liver, pancreas and gallbladder prepare themselves for completion of digestion process.
Once the chyme (partially digested food in stomach) is ready, the pyloric sphincter opens up and passes it into the duodenum. This process is called as gastric emptying. The intestines after receiving chyme complete the digestion process and absorb nutrients.
- Digestion – The digestion process in the stomach is classified into 2 types’ viz. mechanical digestion and chemical digestion.
- Mechanical digestion – It is the physical division of food into bolus (smaller masses) that occurs due to smooth muscles contraction in the stomach that mixes bolus with gastric juices that results into chyme.
- Chemical digestion – It is the chemical process of digestion; larger molecules are converted into smaller molecules with the help of gastric enzymes. Gastric enzymes such as pepsin convert proteins into smaller amino acids; and lipase converts triglyceride fats into smaller fatty acids.
- Secretion – The endocrine and exocrine cells of the stomach that are situated in mucosal lining produces and secretes vital substances that control the process of digestion.
- Gastric juice – It is the mixture of digestive enzymes, mucus and hydrochloric acid. It is mixed with bolus to form chyme that enters duodenum.
- Mucus – Mucus is secreted by mucosa into the stomach and gastric pits. It is rich in bicarbonate ions that neutralize stomach acid.
- Intrinsic factor – It is a glycoprotein that attaches to vitamin B12 in the stomach that allows small intestine to absorb this vitamin. Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient that helps in formation of red blood cells (RBCs).
- Hydrochloric acid – It kills the pathogenic microbes that are found in food and protects the body. It helps in digesting proteins with the help of gastric enzyme (pepsin).
- Digestive enzymes – Pepsin and lipase are secreted by chief cells of gastric mucosa. Pepsin breaks proteins into amino acids, whereas lipase converts triglycerides into diglycerides and fatty acids.
- Gastrin – It is a hormone that is secreted by endocrine cells of gastric pits. It stimulates the muscles and glands of the stomach that increases the secretion of gastric juices and enzymes. It is useful in contraction of muscles of the stomach.
- Hormonal balance – Apart from gastrin, stomach cells produce two other hormones called as Cholecystokinin (CCK) and Secretin. CCK improves digestion and secretin promotes bile and pancreatic juices. Secretin protects intestines from damage due to acidic chyme.
Most of the stomach conditions are common due to consumption of unhealthy diet or liquids. As discussed above, stomach plays an important role in process of digestion, absorptions, secretion and assimilation; and any alteration in these functions can lead to stomach upset.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) –
The most common affection of digestive tract is GERD. In this condition, the stomach acid or contents travels back to esophagus due to various factors such as overeating, obesity, unhealthy diet, hiatus hernia, medications, etc. Too much of acid production in stomach causes erosion of the esophagus. The classical symptoms of GERD are heartburn (burning in chest) and regurgitation. Other common symptoms of GERD are dry cough, nausea, burping and difficulty in swallowing food.
- Indigestion –
It is also known as stomach upset or dyspepsia. Actually, indigestion is a sign that indicates some underlying digestive tract problem such as GERD, ulcers, gall bladder, etc. Indigestion is a group of symptoms that causes discomfort in stomach region. The symptoms are bloating, nausea or vomiting, gaseous distention, burning in upper abdomen and sour eructation with acidic taste in mouth. It can be caused due to digestive disorders, medications and unhealthy diet.
- Gastritis –
The inflammation of stomach is called as gastritis. It can be acute (sudden) or chronic (long-standing). The infection or the inflammation of the stomach lining can be due to bacteria (Helicobacter pylori), viruses, pernicious anemia, fast foods, reflux of bile from gall bladder, and medications. It can increase the risk of stomach cancer, if left untreated. The signs and symptoms of gastritis are nausea, vomiting, indigestion, hiccups, anorexia, black stools, abdominal pain and bloating, and burning in chest region during meals and at night.
- Gastric ulcer –
It is a type of peptic ulcer, which is usually known as stomach ulcer. The other type of peptic ulcer is duodenal ulcer. Gastric ulcers are painful sores or ulcers that occur in the stomach lining. It can be caused due to infection (H. Pylori), medications (painkillers), tumors of gastric cells, or gastric juice imbalance. The symptoms of mild gastric ulcer are nausea or vomiting, heartburn, bloating of upper abdomen; whereas in severe cases there are symptoms such as vomiting of blood, blood in stools, weight loss and severe pain in abdomen. In case of advanced cases, there could be internal bleeding and perforation that requires surgical intervention.
- Gastroparesis –
In gastroparesis, the stomach loses its motility due to nerve damage and food remains in the stomach. Impairment of stomach muscles leads to gastroparesis. It is usually seen in people suffering from diabetes. The clinical features of this disorder are nausea, vomiting, fullness, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and bloating of stomach after consuming less amount of food.
- Stomach cancer –
Gastric cancer or stomach cancer is a chronic disease characterized by malignancy of gastric cells forming a tumor. Approximately 95% of gastric cancer starts in the glandular tissue (Adenocarcinoma). The tumor may spread to other organs through bloodstream or lymphatic system. The causes of stomach cancer are chronic gastritis, gastric polyps, chronic gastric ulcer, excessive smoking and drinking, genetic abnormalities, hereditary influence (strong familial history) and pernicious anemia.
- Gastric varices –
Gastric varices occur when the veins of the stomach swell due to increased pressure in blood vessels. It occurs in people who suffer from chronic liver diseases.
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome –
It is a rare disease of digestive system characterized by increased gastrin (acid) production. Peptic ulcer and GERD result from this syndrome. Severe burning in chest (heartburn) and regurgitation of food or fluids associated with nausea and vomiting are the clinical features of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
- Stomach bleeding –
Stomach bleeding occurs in advanced stages of stomach cancer, severe gastritis, or chronic gastric ulcer. Bleeding is seen in the form of black material in stool or vomit that indicates a serious condition of digestive system.
Crohn’s disease –
It is a chronic bowel disease characterized by the inflammation of any part of the digestive system. Inflammatory ulcers are formed in the stomach region with bleeding. The symptoms of this disease are pain in abdomen, diarrhea, and anorexia with weight loss.
To diagnose or detect any medical condition of the digestive tract, you need to go under few investigations. If you experience pain in abdomen, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in stools, etc. your physician may advise you to examine your stomach by using few equipments or laboratory tests. This will help in diagnosing a case for timely management of the digestive disorder.
- Laboratory tests
- Stool test – Stool test is done in case of anemia, weight loss, chronic diarrhea, and malabsorption syndrome to detect bacterial infection, parasites, blood, and various other substances.
- Stool culture – Stool culture helps in detecting pathogenic microbes such as salmonella, shigella, vibrio cholera, clostridium, rotavirus, H. pylori, etc. It is also useful in finding out ova and parasites such as Giardia, Entameba histolytica in case of chronic diarrhea.
- Blood tests – Usually, blood tests are advised in case of gastrointestinal infection or inflammation, food poisoning and allergies. Complete blood count (CBC), ESR, CRP, hormone levels are analyzed with the help of blood tests.
- Urine tests – Urine tests are done in association with stool tests in case of bacterial infection and to check bilirubin levels in liver and gallbladder.
- Imaging –
- Abdominal Ultrasound – You doctor may advise you to get an ultrasound scan of your abdomen in stomach ache or dyspepsia.
- Computed Tomography (CT) – It is done with the help of X-rays and computer to assess the stomach and abdomen.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – High resolution images of stomach and abdomen are taken by using a magnetic field.
- Barium Meal and Barium Enema – Barium meal is done to assess upper gastrointestinal tract, whereas barium enema to analyze lower gastrointestinal tract. Barium meal and enema are done by using barium contrast and X-ray images to evaluate gastrointestinal system. Barium meal is done in case of stomach ulcers, pyloric obstruction, perforation of stomach, etc. Barium enema is done in colon or rectal obstruction and large polyps.
- Endoscopy –
- Upper GI endoscopy (Esophago-gastro-duodenoscopy) – It is a special technique to examine esophagus, stomach and duodenum. A flexible tube (gastroscope) with a light and camera at the end is inserted through the mouth to view upper gastrointestinal tract. It is useful in diagnosing majority of the stomach disorders such as ulcers, varices, polyps, bleeding, foreign objects, tumor, etc.
- Colonoscopy – It is used to analyze lower gastrointestinal tract.
- Stomach biopsy –
- Gastric emptying test –
- pH test –
Stomach biopsy is an important investigation of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Your doctor may take out a piece of affected tissue with the help of endoscopy. The tissue is then sent to laboratory for histopathological test that may reveal infection, cancer or any other issues of stomach.
A scanner is used in gastric emptying test to analyze how fast food leaves the stomach. It is usually done to diagnose gastroparesis.
A tube is inserted in esophagus through nose to monitor stomach acid levels in esophagus. It helps in detecting and managing GERD.
Different treatments are available to treat various stomach disorders. You should visit your physician for proper management of stomach disease. Your healthcare specialist will note down your symptoms, recommend you few investigations for proper diagnosis, and then he will suggest you appropriate treatment for your stomach ailment.
- Antacids – Antacids or acid reducers are the drugs that decrease the production of stomach acid. They only suppress the acid production, but do not cease it. It is not used in killing the microbes or viruses. Several types of antacids are available such as histamine H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitor.
- Histamine H2 blockers – They are also called as H2- receptor antagonist. Histamine, a naturally occurring compound in our body increases the production of acid in the stomach. H2 antagonists block the histamine that helps the stomach to produce less acid. This action mechanism of histamine H2 blockers helps in treating GERD and peptic ulcers. H2 blocker such as famotidine and ranitidine (Generic Zantac) are used to decrease the acid production.
- Proton pump inhibitor (PPI) – PPIs reduces 90% of stomach acid production. It also reduces the irritation of stomach and allows ulcers to subside. PPIs such as omeprazole (Omez) and rabeprazole (Generic Aciphex) are used to relieve heartburn and peptic ulcer.
- Antibiotics – Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infection (H. pylori) of the stomach. They are given in association with other medications to cure the infection. Antibiotic drugs are given orally, through veins, or in the deep muscle.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are treated with the help of anti-inflammatory drugs such as Generic Mesalamaine.
- Therapeutic endoscopy – The upper GI endoscopy is used to cease stomach bleeding, as a therapeutic tool.
- Motility drugs – Motility agents are used to treat gastroparesis. They increase the contraction of stomach muscles that enhances the gastric motility.
- Surgical interventions – In case of severe stomach ailments such as ruptured ulcer, malignant tumor, or bleeding; surgery is required to manage the condition. Many surgeons suggest bariatric surgery or weight loss surgery to recover from diabetes and obesity. The whole idea of bariatric surgery is to reduce the stomach size by removing a section of the stomach.
After going through stomach structure, functions, examinations, and gastric conditions; we got an idea about the importance of stomach in our body. One should be very careful while eating various foodstuffs, as the food after the process of mastication goes directly to the stomach. Therefore, taking utmost care of your stomach plays an important role in gastro-intestinal functions.
If you suffer from frequent attacks of digestive tract such as heartburn, regurgitation, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, etc. you should consult a well-qualified alternative medicine specialist for proper guidance. There are many natural ways to take care of your stomach in an efficient manner.
- Track your diet – In case of temporary stomach upsets, try to keep a diet track by maintaining a food diary for a week, to identify foods that are causing problem to you. This will help you to avoid or limit the foods that are troubling your stomach.
- Choose vegetables and fruits carefully – Few vegetables may lead to gas troubles like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, etc. You should be careful while selecting green vegetables by keeping a diet record for few days, so that you can rely on vegetables that are not causing any problem to your stomach. Same goes to the fruits, few people cannot tolerate melon or apple. So wisely choose your diet plan to avoid stomach upset.
- Increase your fiber intake – Gradually start adding fiber foodstuffs to your diet that are found in plant foods. Organic vegetables and fruits are rich source of fibers that enhances the process of digestion. Green leafy vegetables are rich in nutrients that keep your digestive system healthy.
- Opt for low-fat content diet – Avoid foodstuffs that are rich in fats such as fried foods, red meat, etc. as they can aggravate stomach ailments. Try to consume diet rich in protein, good fats (unsaturated fats), carbohydrate (low calories) for easy digestion.
- Avoid spicy stuff – Frequent use of red or black pepper causes irritation to your stomach mucosal lining leading to gastric ulcers. To avoid gastric irritation, try to skip spicy foodstuffs. However, few people do not suffer from stomach problems even after eating spicy foodstuffs; but they can avoid them to prevent stomach problems.
- Check out for milk intake – Many people find difficulty in digesting milk easily. Though, few people think milk soothes stomach ache, but it can be harmful in many cases. Majority of the people cannot tolerate the lactose content in the milk; they find difficulty in digesting it. They end up into abdominal bloating, gaseous distention and colicky pain.
- Eat properly and moderately – Irregular dietary habits can overload your stomach that affects the digestive process. Do not gulp your food at once, take time to eat, chew you food properly as the first process of digestion is mastication (chewing). Avoid overeating, instead of having large meals try to eat small meals four to five times a day. Do not skip your meals, eat regularly. Avoid huge meals before going to bed, consume your meal 2 to 3 hours before going to sleep. Drink plenty of water; one should drink at least two liters of liquids per day. Skipping meals irritate your stomach lining by producing excessive acid causing heartburn and dyspepsia.
- Lose excess weight – If you are obese or overweight, try to reduce your weight by healthy diet and physical activities, because abdominal fat creates pressure on your digestive tract that causes heartburn and regurgitation. Maintain a normal body mass index (BMI) and try to shed excess pounds to get rid of GERD and other gastric troubles.
- Stop smoking – Smoking is not only harmful to your respiratory system, but also affects your gastro-intestinal tract. Smoking weakens your gastric cells, and muscle that connects esophagus and stomach causing acid to travel in reverse direction that is known as acid reflux. Long standing acid reflux can lead to peptic ulcers and gastro-intestinal tract inflammation. Excessive smoking increases the risk of stomach cancer.
- Avoid binge drinking – Digestive disorders such as gastritis, pancreatitis, liver ailments, esophagitis, GERD, etc. are caused due to binge drinking. People suffering from digestive issues should not drink, as it may aggravate the symptoms. Alcohol damages the cells of digestive tract and elevates stomach enzymes that hamper the digestion process.
Avoid mental stress – During stress times, you might have noticed uneasiness in your stomach, loss of appetite, or increased appetite for unhealthy foodstuffs, etc. Depression, anxiety and stress hamper your digestive balance. However, different people behave in different manners in depression phase; some may feel like eating nothing and few many overeat. Many healthcare experts claim that stress is the one of the leading causative factors for peptic ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You should avoid eating when you are stressed, sad, and anxious as it may alter your delicate process of digestion. Try to maintain your mealtimes while you are relaxed and happy.
Few home remedies that help in soothing your stomach.
The active ingredient present in cinnamon stimulates the gastric function and helps the contents move smoothly in digestive tract. One can consume cinnamon tea by mixing half teaspoon of cinnamon powder in a cup of hot water.
- Fennel seeds:
Many medical herbalists prescribe fennel seeds to patients who suffer from gas and stomach ache. Fennels contain a volatile oil (anethole) that stimulates the secretion of gastric juices. Take 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds in a cup of water and boil it for ten minutes with a cover on it. Strain it and then consume it at least 2 to 3 cups a day on an empty stomach.
- Caraway seeds:
Caraway seeds are similar to fennels seeds. They enhance the digestion process and relieve gas troubles. You can simply chew the seed or make a tea from it. The process of making Caraway tea is similar to fennel tea. Drink it on empty stomach, 2 to 3 times a day.
- Ginger root:
Ginger is an effective home remedy for almost all types of stomach disorders. Ginger contains gingerols and shogaols that relax the stomach muscles, which helps in relieving nausea and gaseous distention. It aids digestion process, and helps in smooth flow of food content in stomach, and also helps in absorption of nutrients. To get rid of stomach troubles, drink a cup of ginger tea.
Garlic soups provide great relief from gaseous distension. It stimulates the digestive system and enhances digestion. You can eat two roasted garlic, or make a solution by boiling the mixture of water, garlic, cumin seeds, and black pepper; strain the mixture and allow it to cool. Drink the solution three times for desired effect.
Fresh peppermint soothes stomach muscles and improves the flow of bile that aids digestion process. It is usually used in patients suffering from indigestion, gas and stomach cramps. Drink a cup of mint tea on an empty stomach for better results.
Chamomile acts as an anti-inflammatory and relaxes stomach muscles, which helps in pushing food contents through the digestive tract. Drinking chamomile tea relieves you from stomach cramps.
- Lemon water:
Lemon water relieves pain in stomach and indigestion. It aids digestive process and moves things through the digestive tract at healthy pace. It also keeps you hydrated that helps in flushing out waste products. Squeeze fresh lemon in a glass of warm water and consume it regularly for better results.
Bland foodstuffs such as bananas ease stomach ache. Eating banana on daily basis soothes your stomach lining and aids digestion process.
- Rice water:
Rice water acts as a demulcent that soothes the mucus membranes of stomach, which relieves gastric inflammation and pain.
- Baking soda:
You can use baking soda as an antacid. Mix half teaspoon baking soda in half glass water, stir it, and drink. Remember, baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate; hence people with high blood pressure should not use this remedy.
Thyme is an herb that contains essential oil and compounds that stimulates the digestive system. Take one teaspoon thyme leaves in a cup of water, boil it, strain it and drink on empty stomach at least three times a day. It will relieve your stomach ache and gaseous distention.
Non-caffeinated soda pop, particularly lemon-lime or ginger ale soothes stomach lining. Overeating loads your tummy, to get relieve from this problem you can drink ginger soda, which produces burp due to carbonation.
- Fruit juice:
In case of stomach flu (microbial infection – food poisoning), which causes vomiting and diarrhea, you can drink fresh fruit juice. This will help you in regaining lost nutrients and potassium due to diarrhea.
- Apple cider vinegar:
It is one of the most effective natural remedies to get rid of stomach gas and indigestion. It has a soothing effect on stomach.
- Hot water application:
Application of hot water on abdominal region after eating improves the circulation, which enhances digestion.