The Effects of Overeating on the Digestive System

We tend to overindulge during the holidays, but overeating for ongoing special occasions can make it more likely to continue to do so even after the holidays are over. Consistently overeating can put you at risk of unwanted weight gain, but it can also seriously tax your digestive system and cause health complications further down the road.


Overeating Can Interrupt the Stomach’s Ability to Communicate With the Brain


The digestive tract communicates with the brain, more specifically the hypothalamus, to send signals of hunger and satiety (fullness). The stomach and the intestines release hormones that interact with nerve cells in the hypothalamus to elicit feelings of hunger or satiety.


When you overeat on a consistent basis, this mechanism can become dysfunctional. Overeating palatable foods that are high in fat and sugar suppresses the digestive tract’s ability to properly release hormones that indicate hunger and satiety, more specifically the hormones ghrelin and leptin.


Overeating Can Impair Cognitive Function


A review published in Nutrients confirmed that overeating fatty and sugary foods can affect the normal function of the hippocampus, and more specifically can affect memory functions. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that aids in learning and memory, and it even responds to hunger and satiety (feeling full) cues from the stomach. Damage to the hippocampus from overeating can even occur before weight gain is seen.


Overeating Can Increase Your Risk of Developing Colon Cancer


Scientists have discovered that eating a high-calorie diet increases the risk of colon cancer in mice. Within the digestive tract lies an important hormone that suppresses colon tumor formation, called guanylin. When guanylin levels decrease in the intestines, it sets the stage for tumor formation in the colon. Scientists also found that people who are morbidly obese have approximately 80 percent less guanylin compared to lean people.


Obesity, also a consequence of overeating, is known to increase the risk of developing colon cancer. A diet high in fatty and greasy foods may lead to obesity and is also directly related to the development of colon cancer. Scientists at the Salk Institute in California are exploring the link between high-fat diets and their effect on the balance of bile acids in the digestive tract. Researchers believe that when bile acids become imbalanced, this imbalance triggers a hormonal change that allows potentially cancerous cells to duplicate.


Annual Colonoscopy Exams Reduce the Risk of Colon Cancer Death


Annual colonoscopy exams are considered preventative procedures and are proven to significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer death. If you’re due for a colonoscopy, schedule your annual colonoscopy today. Looking for a trusted gastroenterologist in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area? Call our office at 1.800.425.3759.