Can eating a big meal really harm your stomach?

There are many things concerning good digestion and a healthy eating habit. Some of these things are real , and  some are popular things, that became like myths. One thing that people are concerned is if the stomach will be stretched after a big meal and if this stretching might be a cause of obesity or overweight.

Here are information about stomach, digestion and some myths related to this subject.

Fact you do not know about stomach

Researchers and doctors say about stomach that it does not change dimensions if you eat less. Many people do not understand exactly how their stomach works. Thus, they do not know from where the noise that it makes when eating certain foods (beans, peas), what role does it have indigestion or if its volume can be changed.

Here are some of the myths that researchers and doctors managed to abolish.

Myth 1: digestion occurs in the stomach

Wrong. The digestive process takes place mostly in the small intestine. The stomach takes the food, then crumbles and turns it into many particles. After this, they reach the small intestine where digestion occurs. And, contrary to popular belief, food is not digested in the order you eat it. Once the food reaches the stomach, it is mixed and  forms a bowl that will reach the small intestine.

For a clearer understanding, let’s see what is actually happening in your stomach.

The stomach secretes acids and gastric juices that break down food and  start the digestion of proteins. In the stomach, occurs a partial sterilization of food, where infectious germs are destroyed by the action of enzymes and hydrochloric acid. In 24 hours, your stomach  secretes about 1.5-2 liters of gastric fluid. Gastric juices secreted in the stomach contain  water, mucus, hydrochloric acid, ions, and enzymes. Muscles perform a stirring movement of the stomach, from 20 to 20 seconds to liquefy food, which passes through the pilot hole in the small intestine and is known as stomach chem.

The stomach can hold up to a liter of food. When you combine several kinds of food at one meal,  food will stay longer in the stomach until will be digested. It’s up to half an hour for fruits eaten on an empty stomach, up to 4 hours for food containing protein and up to 10 hours in case of combinations of foods difficult to digest. The average time for normal digestion of food from one meal 3-4 hours.

Nutrients from food are digested in a certain order, with different speeds and in different places in the digestive tract. For example, starch digestion – and carbohydrates in general – begins in the mouth, protein digestion begins in the stomach but continues in the small intestine and in the thick one. In every organ of the digestive system, are  secreted various digestive enzymes involved in digestion. Each enzyme acts specifically on certain substances. An enzyme called ptyalin, found in saliva,  specializes in digesting sugars. It loosens large molecules  called polysaccharide in small molecule, called oligosaccharides (like starch into maltose). Digestive enzymes that are secreted in the stomach, are specialized in protein digestion – pepsin, or lipids (fats) – gastric lipase. Others, such as

The activity of all these enzymes is controlled by the acidity in the area that is secreted, about the pH environment in that part of the digestive tract. pH is the factor that shows the degree of acidity of the environment.

Stomach acidity is given by hydrochloric acid (HCl) in concentrations of 0.5%, which causes a pH of 0.9-1.5 and up to 2. That’s a very acidic environment. When food enters the stomach, acidity decreases easily by mixing food with gastric juice, which promotes activation of digestive enzymes. During gastric digestion, gastric juice is still secreted, and this increases the acidity which will cause gradual inactivation of digestive enzymes. Everything is adjusted by changing the acidity because each enzyme acts only at specific temperature and acidity, that means at a certain pH.

The stomach secretes also two hormones that influence appetite and satiety. When the stomach is empty, it secretes ghrelin, which tells the brain that you are hungry. The hormone leptin tells the brain that you are full. The problem is that the satiety message is perceived 10-20 minutes after the time it was sent. If you eat quickly, in those minutes you get to eat more food than you needed. Therefore, it is advisable to eat slowly, really feel the taste of food and to pay attention to the sensations coming from the stomach.

Mucin (mucus) protects the stomach lining from the acidity of gastric fluid, watch for self-digestion and contains a so-called intrinsic Castle factor, which necessary for B12 absorption. Inflammations, infections, alcohol, and spicy foods which reach the stomach, weakens the role of mucosal barrier and favors the appearance of gastritis and stomach ulcers.

An interesting fact is that men can drink more alcohol than women. The explanation is not related to body weight but lies in the fact that they have an enzyme that metabolizes half of alcohol they drink before it reaches the bloodstream. Women do not have the same amount of enzyme in the stomach or blood.

The secretion of gastric juices starts when you take food in your hand, you smell it and want to eat it, then continues while chewing and after, when it reaches the stomach. While chewing gum, for example, the stomach secretes gastric juices. Through brain, stomach receives information that follows to digest what in that moment you chew in your mouth. It is preparing to receive food, secretes gastric juice, but it is all a hoax because  stomach just gets saliva and some substances (which in the case of chewing gum are additives). It is said that chewing gum can lead to long gastritis because it increases acidity in the stomach.

Myth 2: If you eat less, you shrink your stomach and you will not be very hungry

Wrong. In adults’ case, the stomach is already formed and remains at the same size, if it is not modified by surgery. Stomach muscle fibers do not disappear and their number does not dissolve, explain professionals. If you eat less, you will not decrease your stomach, but you “reset” your appetite. That means you will not get hungry as often, and you will respect your mealtimes.

The stomach is nothing but a slim, muscular bag,  but it can extend its volume. When it is empty has a volume of 60 ml,  but as you serve food, it expands the volume to 1.5 liters.

Then the food passes into the intestine where it is broken down and converted into energy. And after a while stomach returns to its original volume, decreasing again. Drastic diets don’t have the effect of reducing the stomach’s dimensions. You can get this only surgically. And yes, this surgery gives results. Once the stomach’s volume becomes smaller, you will consume less food and thus, you will saturate faster. Obviously, the effect is visible, you lose weight thanks to a lower caloric intake.

Another face of this myth is saying that if you eat a rich meal,  your stomach gets bigger.  The correct answer to this is that your stomach is an elastic organ that expands when it receives a large amount of food, liquid or air, to encompass everything. But returns to its original dimensions as soon as foods or liquids have passed in the large intestine, in the process of digestion. So, if you eat more, once, it will not be any major permanent enlargement of your stomach,  creating more hunger.   There are some research suggesting that if you restrict  regularly the food intake, stomach capacity is reducing, perhaps because the stomach’s walls became more resistant to stretching. However, nutritionists do not recommend food restriction as a method of losing weight. In fact, overweight people don’t  have a bigger stomach than the slim ones.

Myth 3: Slim people have a smaller stomach than the fatty ones.

Wrong.  The size of the stomach has nothing to do with the person’s weight. People who were born supple may have even a larger stomach  than fatty ones. The number of kilos that you have has nothing to do with your stomach size. Some people don’t succeed to lose weight even after they reduce their stomach surgically.

Myth 4: squats and crunches will  shrink the stomach

Wrong. No amount of exercises can change the structure of an organ, but exercises can help you burn the excess fat of the body. In addition, exercise helps strengthen the abdominal muscles, those that cover the stomach and many other internal organs.

These exercises help both in reducing body fat from the abdominal wall and in removing the visceral fat, from the organ. According to specialists, crunches are excellent, because they help burning belly fat, a fat  that even diets can not remove. Studies have shown that belly fat is the most dangerous because it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Overweight people often have internal organs wrapped in fat. The liver, for example, can be “wrapped” in fat, and so the risk of internal diseases goes higher.

Myth 5: If you eat before you sleep, you will overweight and your stomach will get bigger

Wrong. The number of calories brought into the body can increase your risk of getting fattened. There is no evidence to show that eating at a certain time of day can fatten, or can transform the sizes of your stomach, show specialists from University of Michigan Medical Center. However, if you eat late in the evening is likely, due to stress and fatigue, to eat more, and thus, make the digestion harder. In addition, the stomach contractions are weaker, because the body is already tired.

In conclusion, there is no way of having a bigger stomach because of overeating, or to shrink your stomach due to a diet. After you eat, your stomach’s volume increases, but after the digestion occur, it’s dimensions are back to the normal size.

The stomach is a hollow organ with two sphincters (cardia and pylorus) which, when are closed, prevent food to get out of the stomach. These sphincters are actually smooth muscle tissue rings that, when the contract, constricted so much that digestive cavity, that will close the hollow space.

The stomach is located in the continuation of the esophagus, the tube where the food goes after we swallow it. The stomach can be considered as a dilation of the esophagus, where food from one meal is accumulated, to be digested.

What is very important to remember, is that the stomach is not just a digestive organ, but it is linked to the nervous and hormone system, with the whole body. So, some hormones are secreted by the stomach and affect other organs, and some nerve reflexes in the stomach and also have echoes in other organs.

Stomach has also ties with mood, some foods give us good feeling, or we can feel when the “stomach is full”, even if the stomach has no voluntary innervation. This is because there are centers of hunger and satiety in the hypothalamus, which are linked with gastric activity. So, we could explain why some foods are “nourishing” than others.

Forwards, there are some ideas about how you can have an easy digestion, without being concerned about if your stomach will change or not it dimensions, due to the quantity of food you eat.

How to benefit from easy digestion 

Each cell of the body is a fascinating and tiny biochemical factory, where are disciplined working different molecules of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals. To conduct easily our daily business, your body will extract all these nutrients from a variety of foods,  subject to the process of digestion . 

This process actually begins in our brains. You see, smell and hear how foods are prepared. Consequently, signals are sent to  the integration center from the brain, remembering how tasty is the food you intended to eat and salivary glands begin to secrete more intense.

Messages are sent to the stomach too, and the moment the table is laid, the digestive juices are ready to be mixed with food. There is some “conditioning” Pavlov demonstrated early last century. If you expect an hour or two over the regular meal time, digestive juices  remain unused. This is why it is recommended to take meals at about the same hours of the day.

Seated at the table, we begin to chew. Mastication process is absolutely necessary for saliva, with its chemical substances, to initiate digestion, especially for starches and fats. To facilitate contact between the inside of food and enzymes, food must be thoroughly shred, which is why it’s good to chew food better. In the process of digestion are participating mouth, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and annex glands (salivary glands, liver, pancreas). 

The stomach has three main functions.

First, to store food, as the food it is chewed and swallowed. In the stomach, continues starch digestion, begun in the mouth by the enzyme called amylase.

The second function is to secrete enzymes, hormones, hydrochloric acid and the mucus that lining the stomach and constitute a protective barrier against acidic substances and to other agents that can damage the gastric mucosa layers. Among these agents are vinegar, acetylsalicylic acid, cortisol, alcoholic beverages, pepper, mustard, chilli, and cinnamon.

The third part of the stomach is to mix food with digestive juices and, by rhythmic contractions, to remove small portions of content  through the pyloric canal into the duodenum and small intestine. Normally, the stomach needs 3 hours to digest a simple meal and 4-5 hours or more for an abundant meal, after which it is pleased to have a quiet time, for an hour or two, to prepare for the next meal. Eating between meals disturbs the whole process of gastric digestion, even though you  did not realize this.

Enzymes produced by the intestinal and duodenal mucosa, together  with the mucosa secreted by the pancreas, continues the digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. A hormone stimulates the secretion of pancreatic and gallbladder contraction, helping the ball to be discharged in the duodenum, to complete the digestion of fat. 

The intestine contractions favor the mixture of the content with intestinal digestive juices and the contact with the intestinal mucosa, in order to facilitate the absorption of nutrients. In the same time, the content is moved to the large intestine.

The small intestine has a length of 6 meters and  presents pleats, some bumps in the lining called villi. Within 24 hours, about 1500 ml of intestinal contents from the small intestine reaches the large intestine, which is 1.5 m long. The large intestine absorbs most of the water intake and here occurs the fiber and resistant starch  digestion, using microbial flora. From the  resistant starch and from fibers, the microbial flora factories short-chain fatty acids, which have a role in feeding the intestinal mucosa.

Recommendations for easy digestion: 


  • have meals at about the same time , with small snacks at 11:16 pm;
  • eat liquid food ( like soup ) before the solids;
  • chew food properly;
  • eat fruits and sweets after a distant time  from meals;
  • supplement with enzymes, when the meal is too heavy;
  • eat fibers on a regular basis;
  • eat  yogurt, buttermilk , sauerkraut or probiotic supplements;
  • practice regular physical activity that makes you happy;


    • don’t drink while you are eating;
    • don’t drink too cold or too hot beverages;
    • don’t eat foods that are too cold or too hot;
    • avoid fresh and white bread
    • don’t watch TV, don’t read and don’t argue when you are eating
    • don’t crunch between meals
    • don’t rest immediately after a meal
    • don’t make an intense physical effort after the meal 

Make gradually small changes and you will see improvements in the process of digestion and in your metabolism, and these changes will remove your discomfort, indigestion, bloating and gastric disorders.

Let’s take a closer look over some of these rules for an easy digestion.

Drink enough liquids.  Although it is believed that the water is only for hydration, still water is involved in  many other needs. Water is involved  in synthetic reactions, stabilize the balance of fluids in the body,  help digestion. Water is one important key for a good digestion, and that’s because removes food debris, toxins. And, a good digestion means well-being, inner balance, and good health. Thus, drink every day plenty of liquids, like soups, teas, water, juices. The amount is 8-10 cups a day but in summer the amount of fluid passing 2 liters.

Light exercises.  Few people  know that exercise facilitates a good digestion, and when you exercise, if you put your hand on the stomach, you will  feel a small noise, which means that digestion is underway. That is why, after a meal is better to go a little bit down, do not stay up in bed, switch from “siesta” to a little bit of sport.

Have regular meals. For a good digestion, you must serve meals regularly, after a schedule. Breakfast within the first hour after waking, lunch after 3-4 hours,  dinner  before 19.00-20.00. Have  two snacks daily. Respecting the daily program, digestion is improved and the rate of metabolism increase, you reach inner balance  and this is because the state of well-being requires a bit of discipline.

Allergens. And last but not least, if you want to avoid a  poor digestion, digestive problems, avoid foods that will favor allergies you already know, for example, if you have lactose intolerance avoid dairy products and drink milk soy. Try to avoid foods containing gluten, even  that is a real  challenge today.