In the human body, the structures comprising the digestive system secrete enzymes, intrinsic factors and gastric acid. All of these secretions are necessary for proper digestion of food in the stomach. This article particularly discusses gastric acid and the effect of its higher or lower concentration on your health. To begin with, gastric acid is also known as stomach acid. It is described as an acid solution with a pH of 1-2 in the lumen of the stomach. It mainly consists of a small amount of hydrochloric acid and large quantities of sodium chloride and potassium chloride.
Stomach Acid Secretion
Stomach acid is produced in all the three stages of digestion: cephalic, gastric, and intestinal. The secretion of gastric acid in the cephalic phase is stimulated in anticipation of sensory aspects of food. The secretion is induced by the smell, sight or the feel of food in the mouth. In the gastric phase, the secretion is stimulated when food enters the stomach. The production of proteins during digestion increases the secretion of stomach acid even more. Once the contents of the stomach are emptied into the small intestine, the secretion of gastric acid is stimulated by distention of the small intestine. The stretching of the intestine is followed by inhibition of gastric activity.
Some conditions can alter the normal concentration of gastric acid. These include autoimmune disorders, use of antacids, pernicious anemia, stomach cancer, atrophic gastritis, radiation therapy, etc.
Stomach Acid Secretion
The condition of low stomach acid can give rise to numerous uncomfortable and irritating symptoms. Insufficiency of acid in the stomach leads to indigestion. Since, a good amount of broken food is left in the stomach, bacteria, and other micro-organisms start growing in number. This leads to an imbalance of probiotics and harmful bacteria, which in turn hinders your body's ability to absorb nutrients. In this way, low gastric acid does not allow the nutrients to get absorbed by your body, hence there occurs a deficiency of nutrients in spite of eating healthy food in good amount. Long-term deficiency of nutrients can cause more serious health issues, mostly arising from weak immune system. All other symptoms that are associated with low stomach acid arise due to the presence of undigested foods in the stomach. Following are some of them:
- A feeling of fullness even after eating little or nothing
- Indigestion (Diarrhea or Constipation)
- Food allergy
- Reduce the intake of sugar from your diet till you recover from the condition.
- Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, whole wheat products, etc., should be excluded from the diet.
- Fermented food and drinks are very helpful in retaining the acid level of the stomach.
- Avoid processed food items as they may aggravate the condition.
- Alcohol and caffeine should also be avoided in such condition.
- Yogurt is very helpful in improving the condition of your stomach in case of low gastric acid.
- Ginger helps the process of digestion and reduces bloating.
Excess Gastric Acid
Under the conditions of excess gastric acid, you are most likely to suffer from indigestion due to acidity and heartburn. The major digestive ailments that can be responsible for indigestion and heartburn are irritable bowel syndrome and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Another easily identifiable symptom includes sour taste. The sour taste in your mouth is due to regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus. Other common symptoms of excess stomach acid are
- Loss of appetite
- Burning sensation
- Excess formation of gas
- Stomach ache
- Avoid citrus fruits, chocolate, peppermint, caffeine, etc.
- Alcohol and tobacco consumption in any form should be stopped immediately.
- Avoid spicy and fatty foods.
- Garlic, onions, and legumes can aggravate the condition, hence avoid them as well.
- Drink lots of water and juices as it will neutralize the acid.
- Avoid dairy products in order to relieve heartburn. But a cool glass of whole milk absorbs the acid and helps in reducing the symptoms of high gastric acid.
- Mint is very effective in relieving the symptoms of acidity. You can just chew few leaves or can have mint juice.
- Avoid carbonated beverages as that can increase the acidic content in the stomach.