How much do you know about the gut? Here we dispel some myths:
- “The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body”
Considering its size, the most powerful muscle is the nearby masseter or jaw muscle which has a mechanical advantage because of the way that the muscles attach to the jaw to form a lever.
- “Bad breath is caused by stomach problems”
Smelly breath occurs regularly in about a quarter of adults, but in virtually all cases it comes from their mouth and is a result of bacteria breaking down proteins from food or injured tissue. Tooth decay, gum disease, food particles stagnating between the teeth or simply a dry mouth are key problems.
- “It goes right through me”
The time taken for food to travel all the way through the gut is actually in the region of about two days. After a meal the stomach can take 4 to 5 hours to empty fully and then it takes around the same time again to pass through the small intestine. Finally it takes 30 to 40 hours for passage through the large intestine.
- “Constipation can poison the body”
It’s true that constipation can make people feel sluggish and bloated but there’s no evidence that bugs or toxins leak from the bowel into any other part of the body. Similarly there is no evidence that long-term constipation increases your chances of bowel cancer.
- “You should wait an hour after eating before going for a swim.”
The fear is that a busy stomach, deprived of oxygen might develop a cramp or a stitch. In reality such cramps would be mild.