Understanding your stomach

How it works

Prior to understanding how stomach ache occurs,
it’s important to learn where each digestive organ
is located and the functions of each.

Upper abdomen
1Esophagus

After chewing and swallowing food, it moves down a tube called the esophagus. At the lower deeper end of this tube there is a tight muscle. This ring relaxes briefly to allow food into the stomach, but it is usually tightly shut to prevent stomach acid reflux from harming the sensitive inner walls of the esophagus.

Upper abdomen
2Stomach

The stomach holds the swallowed food and liquid while powerfully acidic digestive juices are added. Muscles (called “smooth muscles”) around the lower part of the stomach mix the food with the stomach acids which liquefy solids and break down fats.

Upper abdomen
3Pancreas

The pancreas is about the same size and shape as a small banana, and lies in the upper abdomen, towards the back, near the spine. It produces a clear digestive fluid composed of bicarbonate and enzymes which are secreted into the intestine to help in breaking down the food. These enzymes digest proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into much smaller molecules, so that our intestines are able to absorb them. The pancreas also produces insulin and other important hormones.

Upper abdomen
4Liver

The liver is the largest gland in the body and performs a large number of tasks that affect impact all systems of our body. All blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver, being processed there. In addition, the liver produces a fluid called bile, which is secreted into the gallbladder.

Upper abdomen
5Gallbladder

The gallbladder is an organ that collects the bile, a bitter dark fluid that helps digest food by emulsifying fats. The gallbladder is about the size of an egg when full. Although thin, the gallbladder wall is made of a muscle tissue strong enough to contract and squeeze bile into the small intestine when necessary.

Lower abdomen
6Small intestine

The small intestine is a long, muscular tube. An adult’s small intestine is around 6 meters (20 feet) long; the small intestine absorbs most of the nutrients from food. Peristalsis, the wave-like movement of its smooth muscles, pushes the digested food along its length. This movement is coordinated by a dense nerve network within the muscle wallss.

Lower abdomen
7Large intestine

The large intestine absorbs the remaining nutrients from the digested food not absorbed by the small intestine, and also removes excess water from it. If peristalsis - the wave - like movement of its smooth muscles that slowly pushes the waste material along the large - intestine, - is halted or slowed, the waste cannot be eliminated, resulting in constipation (Link: www.dulcolax.com) . If the waste is pushed through the colon too quickly (e.g. because of cramps) the excess water cannot be removed and diarrhea may result.

Lower abdomen
8Kidneys

Located at the very back of the abdomen, the kidneys filter waste material from the blood. The kidneys employ a physical-chemical process called 'osmosis' to the blood in order to extract salts, acids and other unwanted substances. Unlike other organs in the abdomen, the kidneys do not require muscular contractions to perform their function.

Lower abdomen
9Reproductive organs (woman)

A woman’s reproductive organs are located near and in front of the end of the colon, below and behind the small intestine. Between puberty (around 10 to 16 years) and menopause (around 50), the uterus, Fallopian tubes and ovaries produce sex hormones and react to changing levels of such hormones in a monthly cycle. Menses, the woman’s monthly bleeding, are part of the menstrual cycle. A cycle starts on the first day of the period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long. During menses, cramps may occur in the uterus and surrounding abdominal organs.

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Digestion and
abdominal cramps

Now that you have learned how each of the main organs in your abdomen works, how about understanding how abdominal pains occur?

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Smooth muscle

The entire process of digestion is very complex. Normal digestion depends on the body’s ability to gently push the food through the digestive tract while whilst thoroughly mixing its contents. It happens through the contraction of a layar of smooth muscle running along its entire length.

Peristalsis

The stomach, small intestine and large intestine, all have an outer layer of smooth muscle. Using a rhythmic, wave-like muscle contraction known as peristalsis, food is gently squeezed, broken down and pushed along the digestive tract. The entire process occurs without us needing to even think about it. In fact, usually, we do not even feel these gentle contractions at all.

How Buscopan® works

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Stop the cramp, stop the pain

After being swallowed, Buscopan® moves down the digestive tract. There, Buscopan® interrupts the signal that tells the gastro-intestinal muscles to cramp. The muscles can relax, the pain subsides, and the digestive process returns to normal.

Where Buscopan® comes from

Where Buscopan® comes from

In the search for a safe and effective treatment for the pain of abdominal cramps, Sanofi learned from the healing arts of some of the world’s oldest cultures. Ancient Hindu physicians in India knew of the antispasmodic effects of a relative of Duboisia: the Datura plant. Today, the Buscopan® story starts in Ingelheim, Germany, where elite Duboisia plants are grown in greenhouses. These plants are bred to be resistant against nematodes and beetles. The best seeds are harvested and then delivered to the company’s plantations in South America and Australia for further on-site selection. Here, the shrubs grow on a large scale.

The pharmaceutically important alkaloid scopolamine contained in the dried leaves and stalks, is isolated and purified. Finally, the active precursor substance scopolamine is in a single chemical process - converted into Hyoscine butylbromide, the active ingredient of Buscopan®.

In 1951, the new medication was ready for commercial production.