What is Acidity

How does acidity occur?

Every person has a little knowledge about heart because it is the major organ in the body, and if you do not take care of heart, it leads to heart attack causing death. However, do you ever heard of stomach attack. No, even if we abuse our stomach with our habits, it does not lead to stomach attack or death. Therefore, we are least bothered about our stomach.

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Gastric juice

Stomach secrets gastric juice every time when we have a meal. There is around 20 to 100 mL of gastric juice present in our stomach at any given point of time. This gastric juice contains enzymes, water, salts and hydrochloric acid. This hydrochloric acid secreted in the stomach aids in digestion of food, kills the ingested microbes, and converts pepsinogen into pepsin. This hydrochloric acid is what makes gastric juice extremely acidic in nature. The stomach lining is a specialized lining that can withstand the acidic pH of gastric juice.

The production of the gastric juice begins when we see, smell, taste or think of food. Even in the absence of food, the stomach contains small quantity of gastric juice called fasting juice. The secretion of gastric juice reaches maximum level about one hour after having meal than declines after four hours.

Production of hydrochloric acid

There are different cells in the stomach lining that secrets different component of gastric juice. Parietal cells present in the stomach secrete hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is the main component in the gastric juice. Hydrochloric acid forms when hydrogen and chlorine combine in the parietal cells of stomach. The pH of acid range about 2 to 3.5 that is strong enough to dissolve a metal.

The secreted hydrochloric acid converts inactive enzyme pepsinogen into active enzyme pepsin that helps in digesting proteins in the food. The produced hydrochloric acid is neutralized by the chemicals secreted in the intestine.

When does acid production begin?

When we smell, taste or think about food, signals are sent to the brain. The brain then releases neurotransmitters that stimulates secretion of gastric acid , mainly hydrochloric acid, and an enzyme called as pepsin, in the stomach. Additionally, these brain signals also cause release of a hormone called gastrin in stomach. Gastrin is a hormone that further increases secretion of gastric acid. . Approximately 30% of gastric acid is secreted in this phase. This phase is called cephalic phase.

The cephalic phase is followed by gastric phase. In this phase, food has enters and distends the stomach. in which gastrin The stomach distention ensures continued secretion of gastric juice. Approximately 50% of gastric juice is secreted in this phase.

In intestinal phase the partially digested contents of stomach, known as chyme, reach the small intestine. Hence, now further secretion of gastric juices is no longer required. When the chyme contains enough hydrochloric acid that the pH drops below 2 or if it contains enough lipids from digestion, gastric acid secretion is inhibited This is achieved in 3 ways: a) by sending signals to the brain, b) setting up local reflexes and c) by secreting some inhibitory hormones.

What happens in Heartburn?

When stomach secretes hydrochloric acid naturally to promote digestion of food, then why do we complain about acidity? Any disturbance in the natural process results in a disorder or disease in the body.

When we eat a meal, the food enters into the stomach through esophagus. The esophagus connects stomach with a circular muscle called lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter allows the movement of food from esophagus to stomach, and restricts the reflux or backward movement of stomach contents into esophagus.

In heartburn, the lower esophageal sphincter fails to restrict the back flow of stomach contents into esophagus in turn we experience burning sensation in the esophagus. The esophagus is not lined with the specialized, acid-resistant mucous layer that protects the walls from the low pH of gastric acid. Therefore, we experience severe heartburn when the acid enters the esophagus.

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Several other factors that trigger the acid secretion in stomach causing acidity include

Imbalance in the daily food plan: Usually we follow a particular timetable for eating food.Sometimes we break the time table because we are busy with some work. However, out of habit and as the sensation of hunger arises, the stomach starts secreting gastric acid. Without food within the stomach to digest, we begin to experience acidity.

Stress, diseases and overeating also cause acidity in the stomach.

Consumption of alcohol, eating spicy foods, smoking, and obesity develops acidity

Drugs: Some drugs like painkillers tend to inhibit the prostaglandins that protect the stomach from the acid. In addition, some drugs have the ability to damage the protective stomach lining. Due to lack of protection to the stomach, we experience acidity.

What is GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease)?

GERD is one of the more common conditions, which most of the people are experiencing these days. Also known as heartburn, GERD is a condition in which the stomach acid refluxes back into esophagus due to problem in lower esophageal sphincter. This condition occurs on a regular basis, which when untreated leads to tumors in the digestive tract.

Signs and Symptons of Acidity

In initial stages person usually experience pain and discomfort in the stomach.

The symptoms, which are also associated with acidity, include headache and nausea.

In heartburn, person experience discomfort and burning sensation up to middle of abdomen and chest.

Another common symptom of acid reflux is regurgitation. In which the person feel that the acid, which has a distinctive sour taste, is backing up into throat and mouth, and experiences nausea.

Few people experience the symptoms of dyspepsia in acid reflux. These symptoms include burping, nausea after eating, bloating and upper abdominal pain.

People who experience frequent acid reflux, most often develop GERD

When do we experience these symptoms?

  • Usually after eating a heavy meal

A person should often notify that how many times and when the he is experiencing acidity and how severe it is

  • Heartburn several times a weak
  • Heartburn that returns soon after the antacid wears off
  • Heartburn that disturbs your sleep
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Regurgitation of blood or black material