In biology class, we learned this familiar story: Food enters the stomach, the stomach churns it with acid and enzymes, and then, somehow, the stomach senses when the stew is ready and releases it into the small intestine.

But this simple narrative implicitly assumes that all the food of a meal comes into the stomach at about the same time, and only then does the digestion process begin. This is often not the reality. What happens when we eat continuously over many hours, such as at a Super Bowl party, or an all-day summer barbecue, or a long afternoon at an all-you-can-eat crab shack?

Does every new bite cause the stomach to reset its process to zero? "Uh oh, detecting fresh, undigested food... better start over..." But if the stomach resets to zero with every new bite, wouldn't it eventually grow overfull?

Or does the stomach eventually get fed up with all the new introductions and just start releasing whatever it has into the small intestine, ready or not? In that case, when and how did it decide to proceed with incomplete processing?


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