Mixing and Propulsion of Food in the Stomach The Basic Electrical Rhythm of the Stomach Wall

The digestive juices of the stomach are secreted by gastric glands, which are present in almost the entire wall of the body of the stomach except along a narrow strip on the lesser curvature of the stomach. These secretions come immediately into contact with that portion of the stored food lying against the mucosal surface of the stomach. As long as food is in the stomach, weak peristaltic constrictor waves, called mixing waves, begin in the mid- to upper portions of the stomach wall and move toward the antrum about once every 15 to 20 seconds. These waves are initiated by the gut wall basic electrical rhythm, which was discussed in Chapter 62, consisting of electrical "slow waves" that occur spontaneously in the stomach wall. As the constrictor waves progress from the body of the stomach into the antrum, they become more intense, some becoming extremely intense and providing powerful peristaltic action potential-driven constrictor rings that force the antral contents under higher and higher pressure toward the pylorus.

These constrictor rings also play an important role in mixing the stomach contents in the following way: Each time a peristaltic wave passes down the antral wall toward the pylorus, it digs deeply into the food contents in the antrum. Yet the opening of the pylorus is still small enough that only a few milliliters or less of antral contents are expelled into the duodenum with each peristaltic wave. Also, as each peristaltic wave approaches the pylorus, the pyloric muscle itself often contracts, which further impedes emptying through the pylorus. Therefore, most of the antral contents are squeezed upstream through the peristaltic ring toward the body of the stomach, not through the pylorus. Thus, the moving peristaltic constrictive ring, combined with this upstream squeezing action, called "retropulsion," is an exceedingly important mixing mechanism in the stomach.

Chyme. After food in the stomach has become thoroughly mixed with the stomach secretions, the resulting mixture that passes down the gut is called chyme. The degree of fluidity of the chyme leaving the stomach depends on the relative amounts of food, water, and stomach secretions and on the degree of digestion that has occurred. The appearance of chyme is that of a murky semifluid or paste.

Basic Electric Rhythm Stomach

Physiologic anatomy of the stomach.

Hunger Contractions. Besides the peristaltic contractions that occur when food is present in the stomach, another type of intense contractions, called hunger contractions, often occurs when the stomach has been empty for several hours or more. They are rhythmical peristaltic contractions in the body of the stomach. When the successive contractions become extremely strong, they often fuse to cause a continuing tetanic contraction that sometimes lasts for 2 to 3 minutes.

Hunger contractions are most intense in young, healthy people who have high degrees of gastrointestinal tonus; they are also greatly increased by the person's having lower than normal levels of blood sugar. When hunger contractions occur in the stomach, the person sometimes experiences mild pain in the pit of the stomach, called hunger pangs. Hunger pangs usually do not begin until 12 to 24 hours after the last ingestion of food; in starvation, they reach their greatest intensity in 3 to 4 days and gradually weaken in succeeding days.

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Responses

  • Salla Ahlberg
    What is mixing and propulsion?
    3 years ago
  • Giorgia Li Fonti
    What are constrictor waves?
    4 months ago

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