- Water: Water does not affect the pH of the stomach, but it does serve to provide enough liquidity so that food, enzymes, and acids can mix easily. Some enzymes require water to function.
- Mucus: Mucus (or mucus) is produced by cells in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. It facilitates the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract and protects the lining of the stomach from acid attack. Neck cells also secrete bicarbonate, which buffers acid and controls pH.
- Hydrochloric acid: this powerful acid is secreted by the parietal cells of the stomach. It kills bacteria and other potential pathogens in food and converts the enzyme pepsinogen to pepsin, which breaks down secondary and tertiary proteins into smaller, more digestible molecules.
- pepsinogen: pepsinogen is secreted by the chief cells of the stomach. Once activated at low pH, it helps digest protein.
- hormones and electrolytesGastric juice also contains hormones and electrolytes, which help in organ function, digestion of food, and absorption of nutrients. Enteroendocrine cells secrete multiple hormones.
- gastric lipase– This is an enzyme produced by the main cells of the stomach that helps break down short-chain and medium-chain fats.
- intrinsic factor: The parietal cells of the stomach secrete intrinsic factor, which is necessary for the absorption of vitamin B-12.
- Amylase: Amylase is an enzyme found primarily in saliva, where it acts to break down carbohydrates. It is found in the stomach because saliva and food are swallowed, but the low pH inactivates it. Additional amylase is secreted in the small intestine.
The mechanical churning action of the stomach mixes everything together to form what is called chyme. Eventually, the chyme leaves the stomach and is processed in the small intestine so that the acid can be neutralized, digestion can continue, and nutrients can be absorbed.
How strong is stomach acid?
Stomach acid does many things on behalf of the body. It breaks down the food we eat into easier-to-digest particles. It also acts as the first line of defense against pathogens and microbes that could make us sick. These actions require a fairly acidic liquid. But how acid is it?
To really understand how strong stomach acid is, we’ll first need to know how the acid level of a liquid is measured. Acidity is measured on a pH scale. This scale runs from 0 to 14. The lower the pH level, the stronger the acidity level of the liquid.
For example, less acidic fluids are at 14 and are called alkaline fluids. In the middle, at 7.0, are neutral fluids, like pure water. Stomach acid has a pH between 1 and 2. So it is quite acidic. Keep in mind that stomach acid, with its pH balance only one or two points higher than battery acid, can also do a great deal of damage to some of the strongest materials, like bones and teeth. .
Symptoms of low hydrochloric acid
It is normal for the level of acidity in the stomach to fluctuate from time to time. Certain situations, such as medication and stress, can interfere with this important fluid. That can prevent the body from making as much hydrochloric acid.
Symptoms of Low HCl Levels
When this happens, we may begin to experience symptoms such as burping, bloating, upset stomach, heartburn, diarrhea, indigestion, nausea with vomiting, gas, or hair loss. But if stomach acid is chronically low, we may have a condition called hypochlorhydria.
Complications from chronically low acid levels can be quite significant. The early stages of this condition can result in difficulty digesting food and absorbing the nutrients your body needs to function properly.
If left untreated, it can damage the gastrointestinal system and increase the risk of infections and chronic health problems.
Treatment for low levels of HCl
The exact treatment for low acid gastric juices will depend on the likely cause. Your doctor may prescribe a hydrochloric acid supplement to increase the pH level of your stomach acid. You can also prescribe medications with the enzyme pepsin, which is the enzyme responsible for increasing stomach acidity.
Other treatments include antibiotics to treat an underlying infection, improved diet and increased supplementation, medication management, or stress reduction techniques.
High Hydrochloric Acid Symptoms
If the level of acid in the gastric juices is too high, the mucus in the stomach can no longer be effective. High levels of stomach acid can lead to a number of complications such as gastric ulcers, acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Symptoms of high HCl levels
The most obvious symptoms of high stomach acid levels are:
- nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal discomfort (may worsen on an empty stomach)
- Decreased appetite or unexplained weight loss.
Treatment for high levels of HCl
High stomach acid is most commonly treated with medication. Proton pump inhibitors work to reduce stomach acid. Your doctor may prescribe these inhibitors alone, but they are sometimes prescribed with other medications.
Other treatments will depend on the suspected cause of these high acid levels. These treatments may include antibiotics, changes in diet, or surgery to remove tumors, part of the stomach (gastrectomy), or the vagus nerve (vagotomy).
Causes of changes in the pH of the stomach
A number of conditions, medications, and lifestyle factors can cause fluctuations in the acid level. Although some fluctuations are normal, not all are.
Additionally, chronically low or high acid levels can be problematic for health and wellness. Seeking treatment can prevent long-term complications.
Low HCl levels
Certain conditions increase the risk of low acid levels. These risk factors are:
- Premature birth
- Being over 65 years old
- Undergo stomach surgery
- Experiencing high levels of stress
- Nutrient deficiencies, especially zinc
- Having an infection caused by H. pylori
- Chronic illness
High HCl levels
There are also certain factors that can increase your chances of having high stomach acid levels. These include:
- Overproduction of certain hormones that are known to trigger the production of stomach acid
- Rebound stomach acid production after stopping medications to reduce stomach acid
- H. pylori infection
- Gastric outlet obstruction
- Tumors (but this is rare)