(Keep in mind that we have not absorbed any nutrients yet: we’re still breaking everything down.) Eventually our pyloric valve opens, and our stomach releases the chyme, bit by bit, into our small intestine—where a collection of salts and enzymes goes to work.Bile emulsifies fats and helps neutralize stomach acid; lipase breaks down fats; trypsin and chymotrypsin break down proteins; and enzymes like amylase, maltase, sucrase, and (in the lactose-tolerant) lactase break down starches and some sugars.Meanwhile, the surface of the small intestine absorbs anything that our enzymes have broken down into sufficiently small components—usually individual amino acids, simple sugars, and free fatty acids.
In the stomach, pepsin (another enzyme) breaks down proteins, and strong hydrochloric acid (p H 1.5-3, average of 2…this is why it stings when you vomit) further dissolves everything.
The resulting acidic slurry is called ‘chyme’—and right away we can see that the “meat rots in your stomach” theory is baloney.
Nothing ‘rots’ in a vat of p H 2 hydrochloric acid and pepsin.
On average, a ‘mixed meal’ (including meat) takes 4-5 hours to completely leave the stomach—so we’ve busted yet another part of the myth.
“Humans can’t actually digest meat: it rots in the colon.” And its variant: “Meat takes 4-7 days to digest, because it has to rot in your stomach first.” (Some variations on this myth claim it takes up to two months!
) Like most vegetarian propaganda, it’s not just false, it’s an inversion of truth.
As the proverb says, “When you point your finger, your other three fingers point back at you.” Let’s take a short trip through the digestive system to see why!
Briefly, the function of digestion is —hopefully into individual fats, amino acids (the building blocks of protein), and sugars (the building blocks of carbohydrates) which can be absorbed through the intestinal wall and used by our bodies. We crush food in the mouth, where amylase (an enzyme) breaks down some of the starches.
So our gut bacteria go to work and digest some of the remainder, sometimes producing waste products that we can absorb.