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Every eaten food, drink or swallowed medicine ends up in the stomach. He works efficiently and around the clock, but with age, he also has his periods of rebellion. Slow metabolism, possible missing teeth or an inadequate diet do not make the work of the stomach easier. Find out what else influences the aging of the stomach.


  1. How your stomach ages - stages
  2. How the stomach ages - digestive difficulties
  3. How the stomach ages - preventive examinations
  4. How your stomach ages - diseases

The comforting part is that aging itself only slightly affects the functioning of the stomach. Probably because without food we would not have survived long. However, the combination of even small changes with various types of pathological conditions, excessive use of drugs and dietary supplements, as well as an unhe althy lifestyle (i.e. low physical activity, improper diet) can significantly disturb the functioning of the digestive system and cause diseases.

May the awareness of the structure of the stomach and its possibilities make us choose what goes into it with greater care.

How your stomach ages - stages

In the first 24 hours of life, a child's stomach can fit 5-7 ml, which is a meal the size of a cherry. However, it quickly increases its volume, and after a month it can contain about 150 ml at a time. During this time, the secretion of acid in the stomach is about 27 times lower than in adults.

When collecting the ID card, we can already fit 1-2 liters of food and drink in the stomach, or even more if we ate too large portions and the stomach is stretched. The average size is 2 handfuls.

The duration of food in the stomach depends on its consistency and composition, e.g. a piece of cake will stay in the stomach for about 2 hours. The food bites are broken down into smaller particles that will be able to squeeze further through the pylorus into the duodenum.

The stomach is the initial stage of digesting food - primarily proteins and fats. This is possible thanks to the presence of gastric juice, which is a mixture of 3 secretions produced by different cells of the gastric mucosa.

The gastric juice includes, among others hydrochloric acid, electrolytes and internal factor. This juice also contains mucus, water as wellspecial enzymes - pepsinogen and gastric lipase.

Rennet is an enzyme present only in the stomach of babies, it cuts down the proteins contained in milk. Pepsinogen under the influence of hydrogen ions derived from hydrochloric acid is converted into pepsin - it breaks down proteins into polypeptide chains. Lipase, on the other hand, is involved in the digestion of fats.

The intrinsic factor secreted by the parietal cells in the gastric mucosa binds vitamin B12 and allows it to be absorbed in the terminal ileum. In addition, there are hormone-releasing cells in the stomach - gastrin, ghrelin and somatostatin.

Sugar is not digested in the acidic environment of the stomach. Hydrochloric acid also plays an important role in the fight against microorganisms. Thus, the food initially ground in the mouth and digested by gastric juice, thanks to perist altic movements, i.e. rhythmic contraction and relaxation of the stomach walls, moves to further parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

How the stomach ages - digestive difficulties

The human body resembles a precise puzzle in which no element is isolated. Changes in one area affect the tissues and organs connected to it. Therefore, a stomach that ages relatively slowly over the years may become more and more busy.

  • Missing teeth

Statistical Pole after 35 years of age only has 21 teeth. It is much worse in seniors, every fourth person over 65 years of age. he has no teeth of his own at all. Dental problems mean that the process of grinding and chewing food, which is necessary in the initial stage of digestion, is impaired. As a result, larger bits of food than ever before end up in the stomach.

  • Disorders of salivary secretion (xerostomia)

Seniors often experience decreased salivation of complex causes. Less saliva may be the result of reduced thirst (we drink less), as well as dehydration due to e.g. diuretics. Some people develop the so-called dry mouth syndrome. In saliva there are, among others amylase, which initiates the process of digesting carbohydrates. Bactericidal substances are also present. If this line of defense in the first part of the digestive system is weakened, it can make it more susceptible to infection in the later parts of the digestive system.

  • Change in the composition of gastric juice

In animal tests (rats), both basal and gastrin-stimulated gastric acid secretion (HCl) decreased with age.

Similarly in humans, it was found lowereffectiveness of basic and maximum HCl secretion in elderly compared to young people. The secretion of hydrochloric acid is disturbed in inflammation of the gastric mucosa.

Secretion may be increased, decreased and, rarely, acidity (achlorhydria) associated with complete loss of parietal cells in the stomach may occur.

Insufficient amount of hydrochloric acid in gastric juice leads to difficulties in digesting some nutrients, iron, calcium, copper, zinc. In the long run, with a lack of acid, the risk of bacterial overgrowth also increases, leading to troublesome symptoms - flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhea.

  • Slower gastric emptying

The motility of the digestive tract changes over the years. Perist altic movements are slower, which contributes to disturbances in gastric emptying, i.e. the food stays in it longer and passes with a delay to the duodenum and further - to the intestines. This can cause a feeling of rapid fullness with a meal, nausea, heartburn, and upper abdominal pain.

  • Chronic gastritis

With age, the incidence of mucositis increases (often with disappearance), and the causes include: Helicobacter pylori bacteria and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

  • Bad eating habits

We eat more and more, and we often choose inferior quality products - processed food, with the addition of preservatives, dyes and a lot of s alt.

Meanwhile, the amount and quality of food affects the work of the stomach and its aging rate. The less processed the food, the easier it is to digest. What also matters at a given moment and in what proportions goes to the stomach. Eating a few donuts on a fat Thursday is certainly a big challenge, because high-fat foods stay in the stomach for a long time and can cause a feeling of distension, belching, and epigastric pain. In such a situation, it is better not to eat for a few hours, then the stomach will be able to cope on its own.

From the point of view of the stomach, it is best for us to eat small portions of food at room temperature 4-5 times a day. And during breaks (not during meals) they sipped water.

It is worth remembering that there are substances that should not be eaten or drunk on an empty stomach. Here they are:

  • Coffee

contains substances that irritate the gastrointestinal mucosa. It stimulates the secretion of gastric juices and may cause abdominal pain, heartburn and nausea. If someone likes to start their day with coffee, they should add to itmilk.

  • Raw vegetables and fruits

A large amount taken on an empty stomach will increase the secretion of gastric juices, which may be a problem for the elderly, as well as those prone to flatulence, gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer, gastroenteritis, with gastroesophageal reflux. Eating vegetables is important, but for breakfasts (in the above-mentioned cases) it is better that they are only side dishes or cooked.

  • hot spices

It is better to avoid eating spicy meals with the addition of pepper, chili, garlic, turmeric, ginger on an empty stomach. Recently fashionable drinking water with the addition of cayenne pepper on an empty stomach is allowed sporadically for gourmets of this mixture (provided that they have no stomach problems).

  • Alcohol

In contact with it, the stomach must produce much more acid than normal, which has a bad effect on its mucosa - it shows with pain or vomiting. Frequent drinking of alcohol can cause mucositis.

  • Nicotine

Nicotine reduces the production of nitric oxide, which is necessary for the mucosa to effectively protect the organ against the hydrochloric acid contained in it. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer and stomach cancer.

  • Nerves

The secretion of gastric juice is also influenced by emotions, e.g. fear, sadness, nervousness. In an emergency, the level of adrenaline and cortisol rises in the body, which we need to deal with the danger (run away faster, have better reflexes).

The secretion of gastric juice also increases, which irritates the gastric mucosa. If it were rare, there would be no major consequences. Unfortunately, many people get upset and nervous almost all the time. The changes that result from living under constant stress accumulate and have a negative impact on your he alth. They can cause new diseases or aggravate existing ones.

Dr. Robert Sapolsky, American biologist and neurologist, author of the book Why Do Zebras Don't Have Ulcers? The Psychophysiology of Stress "warns:" If you are chronic, you are likely to suffer from a variety of gastrointestinal ailments in the future. " These can be, for example, ulcers, heartburn, chronic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome.

How the stomach ages - preventive examinations

Gastroscopy allows you to examine the esophagus, stomach and duodenum, while colonoscopy allows you to assess the final section of the small intestineand the entire large intestine. Both tests, apart from the assessment of macroscopic changes, i.e. changes visible to the naked eye, also allow for taking specimens for histopathological examination, removing polyps and stopping bleeding.

Gastroscopy is also one of the tests allowing the assessment of Helicobacter pylori infection. Gastroscopy is performed mainly in the case of symptoms: abdominal pain, exhausting heartburn, loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss.

Prophylactic gastroscopy is done relatively rarely, incl. people with Barrett's esophagus, chronic atrophic gastritis, and people with certain genetically determined syndromes. Ultrasound is a good non-invasive examination of the abdominal cavity organs. In turn, occult blood stool testing can sometimes help to avoid invasive colonoscopy.

How your stomach ages - diseases

The most common stomach disease is mucositis. What other changes and diseases can attack this organ?

  • Polipy

are usually found accidentally during gastric endoscopy. Small ones (less than 1 cm) are usually removed completely. In the case of larger changes, a biopsy is performed, i.e. a sample is taken for histopathological examination (under a microscope).

  • Ulcers

that is limited defects of the mucosa. The main causes of the disease are the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Helicobacter infection occurs through the ingestion, usually in childhood. Treatment, apart from the administration of typical drugs that reduce acid secretion, requires the use of antibiotics. Nowadays, the diet is of little importance, it is enough to eat meals regularly, excluding those dishes that cause or worsen discomfort. It is worth limiting coffee consumption. Alcohol is prohibited during antibiotic treatment.

  • Cancer

Stomach cancer is one of the most common malignant neoplasms in the world. In Poland, about 5,500 patients die of gastric cancer each year. Most of them are people over 50, more often men. Patients often visit the doctor at an advanced stage of the disease. The most important cause is infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. The risk of developing the disease is also increased by smoking and a diet rich in meat, low in fruit and vegetables.

About the authorJoanna Karwat A journalist specializing in he alth matters. For over 25 years, she has been following trends in medicine and meets doctors to talk about new treatments. She received two distinctions in the "Medical Journalist of the Year 2022" competition in the journalism categorypress release. He spends every free moment playing volleyball. She won gold in the Beach Volleyball Journalists Championship in 2016.

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