Do you know how strong is the acid in the stomach? The ph level of gastric acid is merely one or two units higher than that of battery acid, which can easily dissolve metal and bones. Stomach acid, too, can cause damage to our bones and teeth. This is the perfect depiction of how strong is acid in the stomach. There are certain properties of the stomach, however, that prevent it from getting damaged by gastric acid.
Gastric acid is a digestive liquid produced by the body within the lining of the stomach, which plays a vital role in the digestion and processing of food. It consists of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid (HCl), which are essential for absorbing proteins and other nutrients. This is the cause behind how strong is acid in the stomach.
A. Stomach Acid
Watery, acidic, and colorless fluid is released in the stomach by gastric glands within the tunica mucosa, the innermost lining of our stomach. The main purpose of this acid is to digest food. It contains various digestive enzymes that include –
The glands present in the stomach consist of “parietal cells”. Water and carbon dioxide combine inside the cell lining to create carbonic acid that further breaks down to create HCl. Carbonic acid breaks down for the creation of HCl such that it is produced in a concentration of about 0.16 moles per liter which kills microbes or pathogens. It helps break down proteins and activate other enzymes in the stomach.
It is released by the salivary gland, the pancreas, and the stomach. Its role in the stomach is to break down fats that are to be further absorbed by the small intestine. It turns fatty acids into glycerol and provides us with energy.
Released by the glands as an inactive enzyme called pepsinogen, this enzyme is activated by HCl. It also plays a crucial role in the digestion and absorption of proteins. It also increases the body’s natural ability to absorb nutrients.
The stomach acid also contains small quantities of Potassium chloride and Sodium chloride, which result in the activation and secretion of HCl. Not only is gastric acid strong in its acidity, but it is also an indispensable part of the human digestive system.
B. How Strong Is Acid In the Stomach?
The normal volume for gastric acid is 20-100 ml, and the normal ph level is 1.5-3.5 (according to the ph scale, anything with a ph score of 0-3 is highly acidic). This goes to show how strong is acid in our stomach.
Here is a video that shows how strong is acid in the stomach –
C. Role of Acid in The Stomach
- Stomach acid has a crucial part to play in the digestion and protection of the body from germs and bacteria. There are, of course, certain bacteria in the body that are crucial for our health and development. Some bacteria help us fight “bad” bacteria, promoting our immunity against infections.
- The regulation of the ph of the stomach acid plays a pivotal role in modulating the bacterial population in the body. When the ph is less than 3.0, enzymes like HCl and pepsin kill all the harmful bacteria in the stomach. However, if the ph is above 4.0, bacterial overgrowth can occur. The ph of stomach acid has a drastic effect on the human microbiome. It can also affect the metabolism of our body.
- Stomach acid helps break down the absorption of foods like meat and dairy products. It also ensures the utilization of Vitamin B12 and other minerals. By making sure that there is no undigested food passing forward through the digestive system, it prevents nutritional deficiencies and vomiting.
- If undigested food gets collected in the stomach or other parts of the GI tract, it may harden into a solid mass known as “bezoar.” This can cause serious complications such as perforation, gastric ulcers, damage in the small intestine, etc.
- It is very important that acid be released in the stomach so that food can be sufficiently digested and go forward in the digestive tract. The ph of the stomach may also vary based on the contents of the meal being broken down.
D. Increase in Gastric Acid Production
Sometimes, due to dietary habits or infections and diseases such as H. Pylori (a bacterial infection found in the lining of the stomach that takes place when germs enter the digestive tract) and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (tumors found in the pancreas or the duodenum), there can be an increase in gastric acid production or an increase in the concentration of HCl in the acid, making it too intense for our body to function normally.
The amount of acid secreted in the stomach can be measured using a narrow tube called a catheter or a Ph probe. The result usually takes about 24 hours.
In conditions where too much acid secretion is involved, an increased risk of serious health problems can often be found budding in the body. It may be best to consult a doctor if you have any symptoms of excessive acid secretion, such as discomfort in the abdomen, heartburn, nausea, decreased appetite, or unexplained weight loss/gain.
Increased production of gastric juices may lead to acid reflux, a highly common digestive disease that involves regurgitating stomach acid into the food pipe. Although contact with the gastric juices with the food pipe is not too serious, many illnesses may be caused if a continuous excess of acid in the stomach is left untreated.
We should be mindful of how strong is acid in the stomach as it may lead to several illnesses. Some examples may include the following-
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is where stomach contents (including acids secreted in the stomach) flow into the esophagus and irritate its lining. Although the tunica mucosa protects the stomach from acid, our esophagus does not have any such property to protect itself.
The bile entering the esophagus causes heartburn or discomfort in the chest, especially after eating or while lying down. It can cause long-term damage if no measures are taken against it. It may cause complications such as Barett’s esophagus (precancerous changes, redness, and thickness in the esophagus) or the formation of scar tissue in the esophagus lining, making it hard to swallow.
- GERD can usually be controlled and managed with medications. It may take about 3 weeks for stomach acidity to come under control. The doctor may prescribe “proton pump inhibitors,” which may reduce the amount of acid produced by the parietal cells in the stomach lining, decreasing the chances of acid reflux. PPIs can be used for a variety of problems caused due to stomach acidity.
- In minor cases of acid reflux and GERD, you may be required to take antacids from the local pharmacy. It may reduce the sensation of a burn in the chest and improve other symptoms that you may be having.
- However, if GERD keeps deteriorating, your doctor may recommend fundoplication, a surgery that involves wrapping the top of the stomach over the esophageal sphincter. This would help in tightening the muscles and reduce the chances of acid reflux.
- Make sure that you exercise and follow a healthy balanced diet.
- It is also important to avoid over-exertion and any food items that cause your acidity to flare up.
Another example of risk factors to your health due to increased acid secretion and acid reflux is the likeliness of developing esophagitis. This condition involves redness and inflammation in the esophagus due to constant contact with stomach acid.
The damage in the tissues of the esophagus makes it difficult to swallow and causes chest pains and heartburn. It can cause food to get stuck in the food pipe. Its symptoms include coughing, pain in the chest region, dysphagia, etc. It can be diagnosed via an endoscopy.
- Your doctor may advise you to make some changes in your lifestyle, like avoiding certain medicines or allergens, losing some weight, quitting smoking, etc.
- Its treatment involves prescription drugs that reduce acid production or certain antacids.
- In extreme cases where medicines might not be much help, the doctor may recommend a procedure that involves strengthening valves separating your stomach and esophagus.
- This minimally invasive surgery shouldn’t take more than four to six hours.
3. Peptic Ulcer Disease
A peptic ulcer is a painful sore or lesion that may develop on the stomach’s inner lining. These bacterial infections can cause a lot of pain and discomfort to the patient.
Ulcers can also flare up in the duodenum or the first part of the small intestine due to a surplus of gastric acid in the stomach and acid reflux.
- Its treatment generally involves medications.
- The first line of treatment for ulcers caused by H. Pylori usually uses antibiotics.
- The doctor might prescribe proton pump inhibitors and antacids to reduce acid secretion and neutralize stomach acid.
E. Decrease in Stomach Acid Production
A lack of stomach acid may also cause a lot of damage to the body. It is astonishing to see how strong is acid in our bodies as its absence may lead to –
Hypochlorhydria is a condition involving a deficiency in the amount of acid produced in the stomach. Due to the lack of gastric acid, our body cannot digest the food we’re eating.
This condition is very serious as it can lead to indigestion and malnutrition. It may also be a sign of a vitamin deficiency or H. Pylori.
- H. Pylori can be diagnosed by a Rapid Urease Test and requires serious medical attention.
- In case of nutrition deficiencies, you may have to monitor what you eat and make certain changes to your diet.
- To treat this condition, you may be prescribed betaine hydrochloride supplements, which also consist of essential enzymes like pepsin.
- These will aid your digestion and provide you with the required nutrition.
Achlorhydria is a diagnosis given when the stomach is not producing Hydrochloric acid. The parietal cells stop the HCl secretion, making it hard for the body to digest food. Pepsin is also unable to get activated in the absence of HCl. Chances of bacterial overgrowth also rise up as the acidic property of the stomach decreases.
This condition can often be traced to Hypothyroidism as the thyroid hormone has a pivotal role in releasing this acid. Another cause may be radiation to the stomach or stomach cancer.
This may increase the risks of iron deficiency anemia and further issues in digestion. Its symptoms may include bloating, nausea and diarrhea. It can cause weakness in the body and hair loss as well.
- Although no specific treatment limits Achlorhydria, the complications must be managed.
- H. Pylori, for instance, must be eradicated, and issues such as cancer or anemia must be acknowledged.
- This condition usually has a cause behind it. Once these are managed and brought into control, any issues relating to stomach acid will also be treated.
Because of how strong is acid in the stomach, there can be a lot of serious complications if any ailments are left untreated or if they are not treated at the right time and stage.
F. Preventative Measures
- To prevent such conditions from developing, you must make sure that you avoid food that makes you gassy or puts too much pressure on your stomach.
- It is very crucial that you are aware of how strong is acid in the stomach.
- You should get regular health checkups and check for any possible health risk factors.
- Diet and the quantity of what you eat play a huge role in developing and eradicating acid reflux.
We must keep in mind how strong is acid in stomach and think twice before we take our body for granted.