mucosa layer

March 11, 2011

Stomach Acids

While most organs of the body are neutral or alkaline, a highly acidic stomach is needed in order to digest food. People are biologically equipped with gastric acid that breaks down food once it enters the stomach. When food is chewed and swallowed, the food travels through the esophagus and into the stomach. The essential nutrients are still too course and complex to be absorbed into the blood stream and effectively utilized by the body. The digestive juices of the stomach aid the body in extracting the necessary vitamin and mineral elements, while leaving behind the waste.


The stomach is a vital organ that is comprised of a mixture of acidic liquid components. Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is the main component of gastric acid, along with substantial portions of potassium chloride (KCl) and sodium chloride (NaCl). This corrosive compound has a pH of 1 to 2, and can be dangerous in any other part of the body. The blend of acids provides the perfect balance for breaking down all kinds of carbohydrates and protein. To protect itself from its own acid, the stomach is lined with a bicarbonate base at the mucosa layer. This base neutralizes the acid that contacts the stomach directly.


The stomach wall is lined with several layers, one of which features parietal cells that secrete gastric acid into the lumen of the stomach. Secretion occurs in three phases: the cephalic, gastric and intestinal. Stomach acid production is controlled through hormones and the visceral nervous system. Stomach acid formation occurs naturally based on the amount of food deposited in the stomach. Larger quantities of food will cause the stomach to produce greater amounts of gastric acid.

Food Break Down

Gastric acids activate enzymes like pepsinogen, subsequently modifying into pepsin, which deconstructs proteins into peptides. Peptides, polymers of amino acids, allow the body to use the amino acids beneficially. Stomach acid also serves as a defense system against harmful germs and bacteria found in foods and beverages. The high acidity kills most dangerous microorganisms and bacteria, eliminating the strain on the immune system. Once completely broken down, the particles are transferred to the large and small intestine where nutrients are extracted and waste is passed through to the rectum.

Acid Reflux

When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), located above the stomach, abnormally fails to tighten properly, or is constantly opened, the risk of stomach acid ascending through the esophagus is increased. If the acid travels to the esophagus this may cause intense heartburn and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), a disease that affects millions of people. The acidity of the gastric acid creates a burning sensation that can be irritating and very painful. Regurgitation, a symptom of GERD, causes people to be orally exposed to gastric acid and experience a sour and sometimes bitter taste in their mouth.

For more information on how stomach acid affects heartburn and acid reflux, visit

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