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Why Does Stomach Acid Not Affect The Stomach Lining

Why Does Stomach Acid Not Affect The Stomach Lining

Last Reviewed : 01/11/2021
Why Does Stomach Acid Not Affect The Stomach Lining

The stomach produces gastric acid, which it uses to activate the enzymes required to break down and digest the food we eat.

Among other important functions, gastric acid also acts as a first-line defense mechanism against microorganisms that enter the gut while we eat and breathe.

Gastric acid contains high proportions of hydrochloric acid (HCl), sodium chloride (NaCl), and Potassium chloride (KCl). Hydrochloric acid, in particular, is a strong acid with a pH in the same range as battery acid, which can melt down metals.

How then is the stomach lining able to tolerate this acid’s strong corrosive effects?

 

How is the stomach lining protected from acid?

The strength of an acid is measured as pH, on a scale of 1 to 14. Acidity is inversely proportional to the pH value. The lower the pH value, the

stronger is the acid, with 0 being the most acidic, 7 being neutral, and 14 the least acidic, or more alkaline.

The normal gastric acid’s pH ranges from 1 to 2, which is similar to battery acid.

Hydrochloric acid is formed and secreted into the gastric cavity by the parietal cells that are found on the inner lining of the stomach. So what protects the stomach lining from the gastric acid?

Goblet cells, a form of specialized epithelial cells in the mucosa, which is the covering that line the intestines, secrete large quantities of mucus that forms a protective layer on the stomach lining.

The mucus layer acts as a barrier against the corrosive effects of gastric acid. Bicarbonate, an alkali, that is present in the gastric lumen neutralizes the hydrochloric acid as it penetrates the mucosa. The mucus layer also protects the mucosal lining from the digestive enzymes present in the gut lumen.

 

What happens when the body produces too much gastric acid?

Due to genetic predispositions, some people tend to produce too much gastric acid. The excess gastric acid can overwhelm the protective mechanism of the mucus layer, which damages the gastric mucosal lining.

The damage to the stomach lining is what presents as the mucosal defect we commonly call stomach ulcers.

The protective lining can also be disrupted by various factors, like smoking, alcohol consupmtion, spicy foods, and a bacteria called helicobacter pylori, which ultimately damages the mucosal lining of the stomach.

Gastric ulcers present with many symptoms, including abdominal pain, heartburn, and acid reflux. Seek your physician’s advice if you develop any such symptoms.

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