6 Common Belly Myths – Busted!
Was mom right about some stuff?
If everything you know about digestion came from your mother – “That chewing gum will take seven years to digest!” – allow our panel of experts to bust a few belly-related myths…
Does dieting shrink your stomach?
Barring surgery, you can’t change the actual size of this organ. Dr Apostol Pappas explains: “Eating very small amounts does make your stomach ‘shrink’, but it doesn’t lose the ability to stretch and accommodate food when you start eating more again. The ‘actual stomach’ (the cellular components that make up the stomach) doesn’t change.”
I pop antacids like sweets. They’re harmless, right?
Wrong. Your stomach needs acid to break down food, so these meds can disrupt the natural digestive process, says gastroenterologist Dr Jacqueline Wolf. Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are in a related category, are riskiest, but use all antacids sparingly.
I’ve heard meat takes days to digest…
“Fatty food and larger meals take more time to digest and stay in the stomach longer,” says Pappas. Meat may also take longer to digest, especially if it’s fatty. Lighter meals (and less mixing of different foods) digest faster. Certain macronutrients like carbs tend to sprint through your gut, but most food moves out within 48 hours – including chewing gum.
How often should I “go”?
Up to three times a day is normal, says Lipman. Fewer than three per week is a sign that something’s amiss and could put you at risk for GI distress. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the urge; “holding it” lets the colon extract more water from stools, making them hard – and harder to pass.
What’s the deal with colon flushes?
A colon flush is when you’re given “some kind of laxative to ‘cleanse the colon,'” explains Pappas. “We don’t, as a rule, do this unless we are preparing a patient for endoscopy.” Any type of colonic could deprive your microflora of vital nutrition. The best route to a healthy intestine is a diet full of plant-based fibre, which helps push food through the upper GI tract before nourishing healthy gut bacteria.
The don’t-work-out-for-30-minutes rule: true or false?
Exercising with a full stomach won’t kill you, but it can lead to a world of hurt, says Dr Steven Lamm. The problem is exercise-related reflux caused by escaped stomach acid. It typically occurs after a big meal, so limit your pre-workout fuel to small portions of easy-to-digest foods like bananas.
Looking for more info on your stomach? Here’s how to decode your sore stomach and how to settle your tummy when your gut is totally out of whack. Plus, the lowdown on the best supplements for your digestive system.