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9 Surprising Facts About Your Stomach

When it comes to the tummy, experts say myths abound. How much do you really know about your stomach?

7. Myth or Fact: Eating before bed can make you gain weight faster than if you eat the same foods during the day.

Answer: Myth. Most experts agree that we gain weight when we take in more calories than we burn up. And while it seems logical that foods we eat during an active day will burn more quickly and more efficiently than foods we eat right before going to sleep, Moyad says weight gain is not based on a 24-hour clock. "It's the total amount you take in over a period of time compared to how much you burn that determines if you will gain weight," says Moyad.  

Recent animal studies suggest that avoiding after-dinner snacks may help prevent weight gain. Eating at night may disrupt the body's circadian clock and alter hormones that control appetite and ultimately result in weight gain.

That said, Levy reminds us that when we are fatigued or stressed, eating right before bedtime can make digestion more difficult and may cause more gas, bloating, and heartburn. "There is a 'brain' in the gut that helps to make sure that food is moved through the digestive system at the right pace, in the right amount," says Levy. When we are fatigued -- like most of us are at the end of a busy day -- that 'gut brain' is fatigued as well. So, says Levy, there is a decrease in the number of contractions that move food through the system.

8. Myth or Fact: A 200-calorie snack of peanut butter and crackers is more likely to control your appetite than just eating 200 calories' worth of crackers.

Answer: Fact. The reason: "Fats digest much slower than carbohydrates, and they remain in the stomach longer, which means we naturally feel full longer after eating a snack that contains at least some fat," says Levy.

Additionally, Moyad points out that simple carbohydrates (like crackers, bread, or cookies) elicit a quick rise in blood sugar and insulin levels, which subsequently drop just as quickly, causing dramatic shifts in both mood and appetite. "In short, you find yourself edgy and hungry," says Moyad.

9. Myth or Fact: Beans cause everyone to make excess gas, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Answer: Myth ... sort of! Beans are high in a kind of sugar that requires a certain enzyme to properly digest. "Some people have more if it, some people less. And the less you have, the more gas that will be produced during digestion of beans," says Greenwald. What can help: Studies show that over-the-counter products that add more of the enzyme needed to break down the sugar in beans as well as other traditionally gassy vegetables can help if taken before you eat. After the fact, you can reduce the gas that forms by taking a product containing simethicone, which, says Greenwald, is a true bubble buster, releasing the surface tension on gas bubbles that form as a result of eating foods that are hard to digest.

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Reviewed on June 06, 2013

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