stomach pain

YouTuber Explores How Much Food the Human Stomach Can Hold

We all have different Christmas traditions, but there is one ritual that is ubiquitous: over-eating. Every holiday, many of us test the limits of how much food we can scarf down. That brings up an interesting question: how much food can the human stomach hold?

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One YouTube channel has finally answered that question. Using a real stomach from a cadaver, the presenter uses water to see just how far the stomach can expand.

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The Anatomy of the Stomach

To begin the explanation, the video first breaks down the anatomy of the stomach. Located between the esophagus and the small intestine, the stomach contains three main parts:

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  1. The fundus
  2. The body
  3. The pylorus [1,2]

They also explain where your stomach actually sits in the body, using children as a case study. Children often clutch their midsection when they’re trying to tell you their stomach hurts, but this is actually misleading. 

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In reality, your stomach actually sits in the upper left area of the abdomen. When a child (or an adult) is holding their stomach in pain, they’re actually holding their small bowel.

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The video doesn’t, however, just demonstrate how much food the human stomach can hold. It also answers several other questions, including:

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  1. Why doesn’t your stomach eat itself because of all its stomach acid?
  2. Can you stretch your stomach to make it permanently larger?

How Much Food Can the Human Stomach Hold?

According to the video, the literature varies widely in terms of how much food the human stomach can hold. Some say up to six liters, some say it’s more like two to four. When looking at the size of the stomach on the table, however, it seems impossible that it could accommodate six liters of anything.

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So how much water did they fit into the cadaver stomach? Only six hundred milliliters. 

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So what gives? Why do some resources say the stomach can hold six liters, while this video was only able to fit in a fraction of that amount? The presenter does admit that their little experiment has some limitations.

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Normally when food enters your stomach, your body sends a signal back to the brain to tell your stomach to relax to accommodate more food. This, of course, could not happen in this scenario. For the average person, that reflex usually results in anywhere from 0.8 to 1.5 liters of expansion before you really start to stretch the stomach [2].

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Can You Expand Your Stomach?

The short answer is yes. According to the video, your stomach is one of the most distensible organs in the digestive tract. This means that it is highly capable of expansion. If you are constantly pushing your stomach to its limits and putting pressure on its walls, it will distend more. Over time, this could actually cause your stomach to grow larger.

Of course, doing this once in a while at special occasions won’t permanently change your stomach. Your stomach may expand to accommodate a large meal, but it will return to its normal size [2].

Why Doesn’t Your Stomach Eat Itself?

Aside from seeing how much food the stomach can hold, the video also explains why the aside in your stomach doesn’t destroy the stomach itself. The reason is thanks to mucus.

The video explains that there are cells in your stomach lining that produce mucus. This mucus layer protects the walls of your stomach from its powerful stomach acid. If, however, this mucus layer is made thinner, the stomach acid may irritate your stomach lining. Certain medications may have this effect, including NSAIDs live ibuprofen [2].

This video contains a lot of interesting information that will make you appreciate your stomach a little more this holiday season. And while the video didn’t really answer the question how much food can the stomach hold, you or someone in your family will likely attempt to test those limits at this year’s feast.

Read next: Dad sat through 30 hours of tattoo pain so his son would feel better about birthmark

References

  1. How Much Food Can the Human Stomach Hold???” Youtube. Institute of Human Anatomy. November 26, 2020.
  2. Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Stomach.NCBI. Shazia R. Chaudhry; Maria Nataly P. Liman; Diana C. Peterson. August 13, 2020.
Brittany Hambleton
Freelance Contributor
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!
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