Stomach acid, also known as Gastric acid is made up of Potassium Chloride (KCl), Sodium Chloride (NaCl), and Hydrochloric Acid (HCl). It is highly acidic in nature which explains the reason behind our appetite. This article will answer questions like: how acidic is stomach acid and how powerful it is. So, keep reading!
1. pH Range of Stomach Acid
The pH of stomach acid is between 1 to 3. This is how acidic is stomach acid. It acts as the first line of defense that protects the body against microbes and pathogens. It also makes the food easier to digest.
2. Composition of Gastric Juice
Gastric acid consists of various complex chemicals, making it diversified in nature. These include – water, mucus, HCl, pepsinogen, gastric lipase, amylase, and KCl & NaCl in trace amounts. The constituents eventually help to neutralize and digest the food. (See What are the Monomers of the Carbohydrates Lipids Proteins and Nucleic Acids?)
3. Power of Stomach Acid
Researches revealed that the power of stomach acid is almost similar to that of battery acid. The acid in the stomach is around 0.01M. HCl ionizes completely and thus, becomes strongly acid. Hence, the pH range of stomach acid makes it possible for it to corrode even the strongest of the metals. Powerful isn’t it!
4. Preservation of Stomach From Acid
Now that we know how powerful is stomach acid, let us learn how our stomach is prevented from acid. The stomach has a lining of epithelial cells on the outer covering. These cells are secretory in nature. They produce a solution of mucus and bicarbonate inside the stomach.
- The bicarbonate in the stomach neutralizes the stomach acidity to reduce the harm it can cause.
- The mucus acts as a barrier on the walls of the stomach that protects the stomach lining.
- Moreover, the secretion of acid occurs in small concentrations. So, it does not damage the inner lining of the stomach.
5. High levels of Gastric Acid
As we know how acidic is stomach acid, it is understandable that high levels of stomach acid can lead to various complications. These include gastric ulcers, acid reflux, and GERD. Further, a high level of gastric acid concentration can also cause conditions like infection, gastric outlet absorption, and even tumors. (Also read Do Cows Really Have Four Stomachs?)
6. Gastric Ulcers
Although the mucus and bicarbonates are responsible for the protection of the stomach lining, it might not always be enough. In cases where the stomach lining is damaged, the formation of gastric ulcers takes place. Ulcers are very painful as they are actually sore lining in the stomach. They affect both the stomach and small intestine accounting the fact how acidic is stomach acid. (See What does it feel like to get stabbed in the stomach?)
7. Loss of Acidic Strength
The acidic nature of the stomach is responsible for the absorption of minerals and nutrients. The condition where the stomach loses its acidic strength is hypochlorhydria. In this case, the body would not receive vitamins and minerals as required. It is a trigger for poor digestive activity. The food and the nutrients present would not be broken down and thus would initiate bacterial growth.
8. Maintain Acidity of Stomach Acid
There are various ways to reduce the potency of stomach acid, including:
- Easting slowly and sparingly
- Limiting processed food
- Avoiding carbonated & caffeinated drinks
- Incorporating fermented vegetables
However, if you face issues due to low stomach acid, do the following:
- Chew your food properly
- Eat fermented vegetables
- Drink Apple Cider Vinegar
- Add ginger to your daily diet
So exactly, how powerful is stomach acid? Well, much to our surprise, it is so strong that it can eat right through the skin and metals. But, the presence of mucus protects the lining of the stomach from dissolution. In adverse conditions, abnormal situations prevail as discussed above. So, its best to take a balanced diet.