Although stomach acid aids in digestion, one cannot expect the same result when it is present in large amounts in the stomach.
The cells lining the stomach wall produce acid, which is a combination of potassium chloride, sodium chloride and hydrochloric acid. Also referred as stomach acid, it promotes breakdown of proteins and fats, crucial for proper digestion. The ingested food, upon entering the stomach, has to be broken down, without which digestion does not take place. This is what stomach acid does. But when it is present in excess, one is bound to experience digestive disorders such as heart burn (painful sensation in the chest) are some of the most common symptoms of digestive disorders such as heartburn.
Uncontrolled stress can also trigger surplus stomach acid production. Other factors are discussed below:
It is often observed that people tend to have 2-3 large-sized meals everyday. As excess amount of food enters the stomach due to overeating, the cells that line the stomach wall have to release more stomach acid to promote digestion. This increase in stomach acid production leads to digestive disorders like heartburn, that are typically marked by chest pain.
Intake of Alcoholic and Caffeinated Beverages
Certain beverages are notorious for stimulating the stomach to release more acid, and hence staying away from these drinks is recommended to keep this stomach ailment at bay. So which are these beverages that prompt the stomach to secrete more acid? Studies show that drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and alcoholic drinks increase the production of stomach acid. Recent studies show that drinking beer may increase stomach acid production by almost 200% in just an hour’s time.
Fatty foodstuffs such as burgers, pizzas, red meat, and French fries are not easy to digest. Our digestive system has to really work hard to promote the breakdown of fats. These fatty foods slow down digestion, which prompts the stomach to secrete more acid to facilitate the process of digestion.
Smokers often face the problems of indigestion and acid reflux, the main reason being too much acid in the stomach. Smoking cigarettes has been associated with high stomach acidity. This is because the nicotine present in various tobacco products including cigarettes stimulates the stomach to secrete more acid.
Eating spicy meals can also cause the stomach to produce more acid. The increase in stomach acid production from eating spicy food also increases the risk of ulcer development. Spicy foods like Mexican fiesta might have a lip smacking taste, but may trigger excess release of stomach acid. No wonder heartburn and stomach pain is a common complaint after having spicy meals.
Other Medical Conditions
Infections of the H.pylori bacteria that strikes the stomach can also stimulate surplus acid secretion. Due to the infection, the mucus lining that protects the stomach wall from the damaging effects of the acid may also get eroded. This exposes the inner lining of the stomach wall to the acid, which may lead to the formation of ulcers. The stomach may also produce excess acid in response to abnormally high levels of calcium in the body, a condition commonly referred to as hypercalcemia. People with gallstones (hardened cholesterol deposits in the gallbladder) may also suffer from stomach acidity.
Modification in diet and following healthy eating habits is a proven remedy to prevent the stomach from producing excess acid. Firstly, the habit of having big meals has to be stopped. Going for 5-6 small meals, instead of 2-3 large-sized meals is a better option, and works to keep a check on the stomach acid production. Cut down on beverages containing alcohol and caffeine. Eating in moderation is the key to ensure secretion of stomach acid in normal amounts. Smokers are likely to experience stomach acidity, despite having medium-sized meals. Hence, it is necessary to give up smoking in order to get relief from stomach acidity.
Taking over-the-counter antacids (medications that neutralize stomach acids) may also provide stomach acid relief. One should also not sleep immediately after having meals. Instead, go for short walks to promote digestion. If nothing works, it is indicating an underlying medical condition, and in such circumstances, consulting a doctor is essential for further diagnosis.