What Is The Role Of Acid In Our Stomach?
Stomach acid is the soldier that encounters and tackles everything that goes through our mouth. How? Firstly, by breaking down the food we eat into tiny bits that can be absorbed by the body. Secondly, by acting as a defense against pathogens and microorganisms that make us sick. Find out more about its role in the body.
The core function of our stomach is to aid in digestion. It breaks down the food components into nutrients that can be easily absorbed by the body. Since William Prout in 1823 discovered that acidity is due to the presence of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, it has been clear that acid is related to digestion. Keep reading to know what stomach acid is and its role in our body.
Our stomach lining produces a colorless watery fluid that helps break down complex food. Usually, it is called stomach acid or gastric acid. In fact, stomach acid is the main reason why vertebrates can have such complex diets. For the reason that it is highly acidic, it is capable of breaking down everything from meat to fibrous plants. The effective functioning of the stomach acid is mainly due to its content–of hydrochloric acid. Interestingly, our body produces approximately 4 to 5 liters of gastric juice every day.
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Stomach—the organ that produces hydrochloric acid
The digestive system is a well-oiled machine from mouth to anus. The stomach could be called the brain of the system. Its role in producing stomach acid is the most important of all. Stomach secretes water, electrolytes, enzymes, and stomach acids. Each of these plays a crucial role in the working of the stomach, however, hydrochloric acid is major for breaking down the components of food. A network of cells in the stomach (chief cells, mucus cells, D and G cells) chemically digest the food by secreting gastric acid.
Also, the stomach acts as a storage tank that allows us to consume large portions of food at once. The stomach houses the content allowing us to deal with it for an extended period of time.
Role of acid in the stomach
1. Stomach acid aids in the digestion of proteins: It would be impossible to digest and absorb complex dietary components without gastric acids.
2. Stomach acid prevents infections and food poisonings: The hydrochloric acid in the stomach maintains a highly acidic environment in our stomach that prevents the growth of pathogens.
3. Stomach acid ensures proper absorption of Vitamin B12: Stomach acid activates pepsin which breaks down protein to release Vitamin B12 ready for absorption.
4. Stomach acid role in chemical signaling: Stomach acid produces chemical signals that trigger other parts of the digestive system. For instance, a drop in pH indicates the pancreas to release bicarbonates, protease, lipase, and amylase.
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How much acid is too much acid?
Our body is perfectly capable of housing normal levels of stomach acid. At normal levels, the stomach acid does not cause any harm or complication to the body. Sometimes, the levels fluctuate and our body produces low or high levels of acid.
1. Low levels of stomach acid: Our body will fail to digest the food in this case. In the early stages our body signals via burps, bloating, stomach upset, heartburn, and nausea with vomiting. Later, it develops in hypochlorhydria, where our body fails to digest and absorb the food. Improved diet and hydrochloric acid supplements can easily help you cope with the condition.
2. High levels of stomach acid: The body producing high levels of hydrochloric acid or gastric juices will lead to many complications including gastric ulcers, acid refluxes, and gastroesophageal reflux diseases. Our body signals the same symptoms as low levels of acid, however, the symptoms worsen over time.
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Our body works together in proper rhythm to absorb nutrients and pass the food through the digestive tract. So, it is important to review your dietary regime and support the stomach.