Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.
Stomach acid, also known as gastric acid, is a secretion produced in the stomach. The acid mostly consists of hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride. The normal stomach pH ranges between 1.5 to 3.5. This secretion is essential for the process of digestion as the stomach uses the acid to break down and digest the food we consume. When the secretion of the acid increases or decreases in the stomach, it leads to various stomach-related problems.
As the stomach produces its own acids to break down food and aids in digestion, any imbalance, excess or deficit, can cause health problems. Whether the level of gastric acid is more or less, it will result in discomfort and a burning sensation in the stomach, gastric ulcers, and gastritis. Lower levels of acid in the stomach is termed as hypochlorhydria, while when the stomach produces no acid, it is called achlorhydria.
The primary cause is the deficiency of vitamins and minerals needed for acid production and absorption. Bad dietary habits and malnutrition cause nutrient deficiency in our body. Excessive alcohol and substance consumption also hinder the cells that produce gastric acids, while stress can contribute in decreasing or increasing its production. Presence of Helicobacter pylori, bacteria, inhibits the stomach's ability to produce appropriate amounts of acids, often leading to conditions such as acid reflux disease. Advancing age is also one of the causes. The production capacity of a 50-year-old individual is only one-fourth as compared to that of a 20-year-old.
Our body immediately reacts to this imbalance. It exhibits some of the following symptoms:
- Bloating, belching, burning, and flatulence after meals.
- A tight feeling in the chest, like a heartburn.
- A sense of fullness, irrespective of whether or not you've eaten anything.
- Upset stomach, coupled with indigestion, diarrhea, and/or constipation.
- A feeling of nausea and vomiting.
- Undigested food in stools.
- A continuous sense of unease.
If you are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms and are fast becoming chronic in nature, it is important to have yourself assessed. Untreated acidity problems lead to stomach lining damage and gastric ulcers which may lead to stomach cancer. Doctors recommend a comprehensive digestive stool analysis, stomach acid test, and/or blood tests to measure the quantity and acidity of stomach contents, and check for any deficiency. You may be prescribed antacids, vitamin supplements, and other medications for relief depending upon the results of your test. One may also try out some of the following home remedies:
- Try to reduce the levels of stress.
- Eat small meals every couple of hours.
- Make sure you include foods that are high in complex carbohydrates.
- Avoid oily, processed, and stale food.
- Drink adequate amount of water and fresh juices.
- Avoid alcohol and other aerated beverages.