The Stomach
You Needn’t Be Diamond Jim Brady to Have a Champion

Stomachs will hold just about anything we put in. To most people, the stomach is the fool of the body-after all, its only dream in life is to fill itself with food, and it has to be a dummy to tolerate the abuse we give it at times.

The stomach has few talents compared to other organs, but what it does-taking in and processing large amounts of food-it does extremely well. An elephant’s stomach calmly takes in up to 750 pounds of grass and green leaves every day, while large snakes swallow whole pigs and antelopes, and alligator stomachs think nothing of digesting turtles, shell and all.

Not to be outdone by our lower relatives, human beings (usually the male of the species) often try to prove their superiority by testing their stomachs. Some of the recent world eating record include ingesting 63 bananas in ten minutes; 37 donuts in 15 minutes; eight pounds of ice cream in 16 minutes; 83 hamburgers in 2.5 hours; 44 hard-boiled eggs in 30 minutes; 25 soft-boiled eggs in three minutes; and 13 raw eggs in 3.8 seconds.

Going for bigger game, one man ate 27 two-pound chickens at one sitting, while another man sat down next to a whole sheep and when he stood up again left only the fleece, skin, bones, and horns.

These feats are special performances and not typical daily events for the champions. There are, however, people whose regular daily consumption of food has made them legends. One such hero was the turn-of-the-century millionaire Diamond Jim Brady, a sociable fellow who did a lot of his eating publicly at New York City hotels and fashionable spas like Saratoga. According to first-hand accounts, a typical day for Diamond Jim would include a breakfast of hominy grits, eggs, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, lamb chops, fried potatoes, beefsteak, and a gallon of orange juice (his favorite drink). A late-morning snack of two or three dozen oysters was followed by 12:30 lunch of clams, oysters, boiled lobsters, deviled crabs, a joint of beef, and a variety of pies. Afternoon tea consisted of a heaping plate of seafood and several quarts of lemonade.

When evening came, Diamond Jim reached the true peak of his powers and ate a dinner of two or three dozen oysters, six crabs, several bowls of green turtle soup, six or seven lobsters, two ducks, a double serving of turtle meat, a sirloin steak, vegetables, and orange juice. He topped this off with several platters piled with cakes and pies, and a two-pound box of candy.

Diamond Jim Brady’s stomach was a true champion. The normal American stomach has to cope only with three pounds of solids and two quarts of liquids a day, about seven pounds in all.

Strangely enough, there was a time when there were no stomachs at all. Over 500 million years ago when the first fish appeared, they had no stomachs and no jaws. They were like living vacuum cleaners, scouring the sea bottom sucking up tiny bits of plants and other particles. Gradually they became more active and developed jaws with which they began to eat other fish and sea animals. This is when stomachs developed. Until this time, fish had eaten a continuous stream of tiny food particles that could go directly into their intestines, pass slowly along while being digested, and exit out their rear ends. At this time they began to eat other animals whole or in big chunks and large amounts at various times rather than small amounts continuously.

To this day, our stomachs still serve their original purposes: 1) to hold the large amounts of food we eat; 2) to complete the first stage of protein digestion; 3) to mix all the food with the acids it secretes; and 4) to pass this food on as liquid to the intestines at a proper rate.

There are three main ingredients in our food that need to be digested: carbohydrate, fat, and protein. (Minerals and water are already in a simple form and are easily absorbed in to the blood.) The body has a definite plan for our foods: Carbohydrates (starch) are digested in two stages-in the mouth they are partly broken down, and when they reach the small intestine the digestion is completed and they are absorbed. Carbohydrates are not digested in the stomach at all.

Protein is not digested in the mouth but begins to be broken down when it comes in contact with the combination of hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin in the stomach. The small intestine finishes the job and absorbs the final product. Fat (oil) is digested neither in the mouth nor in the stomach but only in the small intestine where it is also absorbed.

Carbohydrate, protein, and fat can be absorbed only through the small intestine. The mouth, the stomach, and the large intestine do not have the ability to absorb these foods. In cases where inedible foods or other substances that are not suitable for human beings are taken in, absorption will sometimes take place in the mouth, stomach, or large intestine, but his is not natural. Substances such as alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and many drugs will be absorbed to some extent by any part of the digestive tract.

Food stays in the stomach in the same order in which we eat it. The stomach has a definite order in which it prefers to digest and pass on food, and if we upset that order indigestion is far more likely to happen.

For smooth, complete digestion, each type of food needs to be passed through its key digestion area in an orderly and unhurried way. For instance, if starch, protein, and oil are put into a jar, the oil will rise to the tip, the starch will sink to the bottom, and the protein will be in-between. This, then, is the order in which we should eat; from carbohydrates to protein to fat.

If complex carbohydrates are our main food, we are in harmony with both the oldest traditions of human beings as well as our evolutionary development. Apes changed into human beings when they stopped eating mainly fruit and began eating grains, beans, and seeds. To be digested properly, starch must be 1) chewed thoroughly and mixed with the saliva and enzymes in the mouth, 2) thoroughly mixed with the acids in the stomach, and 3) completely digested and absorbed in the small intestine. Starch needs to be held in the stomach only long enough to mix with the acids there. Starchy foods include grains, vegetables, beans, bread, and potatoes.

Protein is the dominant nutrient in all flesh foods, especially the less fatty types such as fish, lean meat, and chicken. Protein is not affected by the saliva and enzymes in the mouth and begins to be broken down chemically only in the stomach. This is the reason meat-eaters (both human and animal) tend not to chew much. In fact, choking on large pieces of meat has become so common that many states require all restaurants to have throat-clearing instruments on the premises. If protein food is eaten before starch food, the starch will have to wait because the protein needs to stay in the stomach a long time. During this time, the starch will move down, the protein will rise, and indigestion can easily happen.

Fatty and oily foods include fatty meats, all dairy foods, eggs oils, nuts, nut butters, and others. These fats are not broken down until they reach the small intestine and there they must spend a long time passing slowly through. In general, the speed with which a meal passes through the stomach depends on the amount of fat and oil in it. When fat or oil reaches the first part of the small intestine, the movements and secretions of the stomach are dramatically slowed. When this happens, food tends to just sit in the stomach. For example, there is very little fat or oil in Chinese cooking compared to American cooking, and so Chinese food will be digested faster and leave the stomach sooner. This is the basis for the complaint that American food tastes good, but an hour later you’re hungry again.’

The stomach-stopping power of fat and oil is sometimes used for practical purposes. For instance, people will often eat cheese hors d’oeuvres or other fatty snacks at the beginning of a cocktail party so that the stomach stops working and the alcohol they drink will stay in the stomach and not reach the intestines quickly and be absorbed. This prevents them from getting drunk so quickly. Taking butter, cream, or oily food along with coffee also reflects this principle. Caffeine is a powerful stimulator of acid secretion in the stomach and can often cause over-acidity or heartburn. Fats and oils slow the secretion of acid and help neutralize the acidic effects of coffee or tea.

On the other hand, this stomach-stimulating power of caffeine can be used to help digestion. Coffee is often drunk after meals in America, here the meals contain a lot of stomach-slowing fat. Coffee counteracts this and gets the stomach moving. Alcohol has a similar effect, as does nicotine, and so after-dinner cigars, brandies, coffees, teas, and cigarettes are standard ingredients in oily and fatty meals. Sugars (especially refined sugar and honey) will also stop the stomach, and it is very common to include a strong dose of caffeine or a similar substance like theobromine in soft drinks and candy bars. Donut shops that sell only coffee and pastry (caffeine and sugar) are thriving in the United States. A recent news story told about a race horse that grabbed a candy bar from his trainer’s shirt pocket and ate it just before a race. The horse ran the race and won, only to be disqualified later when track officials found illegally high levels of caffeine and theobromine in his blood. The appetite-suppressing effect of sugar is well known, and this happens because both a full stomach and a dose of sugar will stop the stomach movements that accompany hunger.

In general, liquids will leave the stomach faster than anything else and will even quickly bypass the food in a full stomach, reach the exit valve at the bottom and leave in a few minutes. Water drunk with meals has little effect on the time that food stays in the stomach. If fruits are eaten alone, they leave the stomach in one or two hours, but if taken along with other foods they can cause indigestion, especially if eaten before other foods. This is because fruits are mainly sugar.

Even though starch and sugar are both carbohydrates, their effects on the body are very different. Sugars tend to stop stomach activity and create acidic blood, while starches (especially well-chewed whole grains) create alkaline blood. Vegetables and grains will stay in the stomach for much less time than either protein or fat, and fats leave the stomach more slowly than any other food. For smooth and orderly digestion, here are some things we can consider:

1. Diet

Some foods are appropriate for the physical, mental, and spiritual development of human beings and some are not. Our digestive system is precisely designed for the digestion of those foods that are best for us. By understanding the digestive system of human beings or any other animal, we can clearly see what foods will be best.

2. Chewing

In general, the less evolved an animal is, the less chewing it does. Digestion is basically chemical in nature, and if food is not chewed well, the digestive juices can’t reach their targets efficiently. For example, large lumps of meat have been found in the stomach as long as nine hours after eating, while ground meat leaves the stomach in a fraction of this time.

3. Order

Eating foods in the proper order is a little-known secret of health. In general, foods that are mixed together or contain a large variety of ingredients should be avoided.

4. Temperature

Cold foods are preferred by people who eat a lot of flesh foods like meat, eggs, and chicken. Cold foods not only tend to disrupt digestion but are a prime factor in causing fat and mucus to harden into rigid deposits, cysts, and stones in the kidneys, liver, gallbladder, intestines, spleen, and pancreas, which are all in direct contact with the stomach.

5. Environment

The place where we eat should be slightly dark, warm, and have an atmosphere that is both peaceful and relaxing. These conditions are all conductive to the functioning of our digestive organs. The brightly lit, hurried, and tense atmospheres of fast-food restaurants are ill-suited for dining.

6. Emotions

Tension, fear, depression, pain, sadness, and other disturbing feelings will stop the digestive process. Eating in these mental states in common to people who develop sickness, while healthier people who tend to live long lives intuitively avoid eating food when they’re not feeling well.

7. Activity

Digestion will go well in proportion to how relaxed we are. Standing or moving while eating is practiced only by fish and some modern people. It’s best to sit peacefully while eating, and the amount of activity immediately after a meal should not be more than a leisurely stroll.

8. Quantity

In general, the less we eat the better it is for both digestion and health. Of course, babies and growing children need much more food. We should eat less if we want to think clearly and be spiritually aware, because the functions of the nervous and digestive systems are like a see-saw: the more one is active, the less active the other will be. When our stomachs and intestines are full, our energy goes to those locations and is not available for optimum thinking and other mental or spiritual activities. On the other hand, when we are intensely concentrating on something, we become much less interested in food. People in love, for instance, often lose weight and forget to eat at all.

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