Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD,Alexander Tsiaras, and TheVisualMD.com
Which of the two stomachs shown above will yours resemble after Thanksgiving dinner? When we overdo it at the table, the stomach expands beyond its normal capacity, sometimes to the point of severe discomfort. Digestion slows, especially if the foods are high in fat. Even so, we manage to “find room” for that last slice of pie. This kind of eating has nothing to do with nourishment or sustaining life. Eating to the point of pain and pants-loosening is the result of our brain saying: “This food is good; better get it while we can!” Our brains evolved when food was scarce. Because we need food to survive, our brains tell us that eating is pleasurable. Eating triggers the release of the feel-good brain chemical dopamine in the same area of the brain that is activated by addictive drugs. However, we do have a system that tells our brain when we have had enough. The bright lines in the images above are the vagus nerves, which connect the brain to the digestive system. They control foods’ movement through the digestive system, among many other jobs. When the stomach is full, the vagus nerve sends a “full” signal to the brain. The figure on the right is a binge eater, someone who gorges on food well after the brain receives the “full” signal. Not only does overeating strain the heart and gall bladder, it can stretch the stomach up to twice its usual capacity.