The stomach is a sac like organ located in the abdominal cavity, whose shape evokes the letter J. Its size varies from person to person and is dependent on the overall constitution of the individual. However, it is highly elastic, and so can have potentially huge proportions. The stomach is located on the left side of the abdomen, in the hypochondrium. Its upper end connects to the esophagus, the part of the gastrointestinal tract, which aims to deliver a morsel from the mouth directly to the stomach. The section of the digestive tract, which builds on the lower stomach is part of the small intestine called the duodenum. Before the food gets to the next section of the digestive tract, it is necessary for it to have remained for a certain time in the stomach.
Functions of the stomach
The stomach has many functions. Firstly it is the organ where the food taken in is stored, but also partly ground up and disintegrated into nutrients. These are further processed and absorbed in other parts of the digestive tract. To grind the food the stomach uses muscle contractions and so the food is rolled and crushed into ever smaller parts. To disintegrate the food digestive juices are necessary. These contain enzymes produced in the stomach mucosa cells. For example the enzymes pepsin: that breaks down protein, or lipase: used in decomposing fats are produced in the stomach. Sugars are not broken down in the stomach, because they have already been partially decomposed in the mouth. Their further decomposition occurs only in the small intestine. Another component of the gastric juice is hydrochloric acid. It has a role in defending the body against bacteria and viruses that could have gotten into the stomach with the food.
Diseases of the stomach
The stomach is an organ that communicates through the oesophagus. That is also why this organ is more susceptible to diseases. Among the stomach diseases the most commonly found are inflammations of the stomach, gastric ulcers and unfortunately also malignant gastric disease.
Inflammation of the stomach, this in medical terminology is named Gastritis, It is a common disease affecting mostly adolescents and adults. It is one of the most common and most widespread diseases of the digestive tract. Depending on the duration, the causes of origin and changes in the lining of the stomach, we distinguish between acute and chronic forms of gastritis
- Acute gastritis occurs suddenly and difficulties persist for 1-2 days. The body is capable of dealing with this type of inflammation on its own and quickly repairs the damaged tissue. The sources of acute inflammation of the stomach can involve heavily spiced foods, ingestion of large quantities of alcohol, certain medications and also stress. The symptoms of acute gastritis are loss of appetite, burning stomach pain and diarrhea.
- Chronic gastritis is a long-lasting inflammation of the stomach arising slowly. It occurs after under treated acute inflammation of the stomach, due to Helicobacter pylori infection, long-term ingestion of certain drugs, or in autoimmune diseases, i.e. when antibodies attack the body's own stomach cells. If symptoms are expressed, there is usually a pain in the upper abdomen, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. An indisputable sign of chronic Gastritis is so called 'Pernicious anemia' which occurs due to vitamin B12 deficiency.
The treatment of acute inflammations of the stomach is not necessary. Diet, bed rest and the avoidance of the substances that caused the condition are recommended. Treatment of chronic inflammation of the stomach lies in the use of certain medications. Antacids, i.e. drugs reducing stomach acid, as well as H2 antagonists or Proton-pump inhibitors, which are drugs that can reduce hydrochloric acid in the stomach, are prescribed.
Gastric ulcer disease
Gastric ulcers are large defects of various sizes in the lining of the stomach. These are profound disruptions of the mucous membrane, submucosal tissue and muscle layers of the stomach. Ulcers occur due to the direct action of the hydrochloric acid on the mucous membrane, which is no longer protected by mucous. Mucus is a protective barrier that may be corrupted by the presence of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, drugs containing Acetylsalicylic acid, stress, or gastrinoma: the tumor-producing the enzyme gastrin. A gastric ulcer manifests itself as abdominal pain occurring both during fasting and immediately after eating, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. In cases where the ulcer begins to bleed, it will become apparent as vomiting blood or blood present in the stool. As a part of the treatment it is advisable to abide by precautions such as periodical consummation of a well-balanced diet, maintaining mental calmness, reducing smoking and drinking coffee and alcohol. Treatment should be supported by drugs from the proton pump inhibitor group, which block an enzyme needed for the production of gastric juices. Furthermore, Antacids: drugs binding hydrochloric acid that has already been produced and thus reduce the time of its contact with the gastric mucosa, should be used. Just as it is necessary to eradicate Helicobacter pylori using Triple Therapy drugs.
Gastric cancer is a malignant cancer disease that affects the lining of the stomach. It is a diagnosis that probably arises in connection with a genetic predisposition, infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, external and immune factors. In cases where the gastric tumor is diagnosed at an early stage, the chance of survival is high as at this phase it is quite treatable. Unfortunately, there are no pronounced symptoms in this phase and therefore the stomach cancer often becomes evident in the later stages, when It has developed into a deadly disease. There is the likelihood of pain in the upper abdomen, loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness. Adverse symptoms also include vomiting blood. Treatment of the early gastric cancer is surgical and brings good results. In case of late gastric cancer, the treatment aims only to alleviate a patient's suffering not treat the cause.