For understanding the role of acid in the stomach, firstly we need to know about the simple anatomy of the stomach.
The stomach is a sac like J shaped organ of the alimentary tract, between the esophagus and small intestine.
It is situated in the epigastric, umbilical and left hypochondriac region of the abdominal cavity.
Stomach is mainly divided in three regions
Acid “An acid is defined as any substance which contains hydrogen which when dissolved into water gives hydrogen ion. (H+)
This material can be very corrosive and which should only be handled with protective gloves and safety goggles. This substance can also be found inside our bodies. Among the different types of acids, Hydrochloric acid is the one which is found in our body.
Its molecular formula is HCL and its pH is 1-2 which denotes it as a very strong acid. It has 2 important roles, since its very acidic with low pH, it helps to denature consumed proteins by breaking down its globular structure.
Gastric acid (HCl) helps to provide an acidic medium to the stomach which is required to convert inactive pepsinogen into active pepsin which is further used for the breakdown of proteins into amino acids. The inactive pepsinogen is secreted by the gastric gland and later in the presence of gastric acid, it is converted to active pepsin.
The secondary function of the acid is destroying the microbes or bacteria that is present in the consumed food and also helps in softening of the consumed food
Hydrochloric acid also activates a few digestive enzymes such as proteases and lipases. These enzymes can only function at a very low pH. Proteases help to breakdown the long amino acid chain into smaller chains and even further into amino acids to get ATP (Adenosine triphosphate). Lipases help in breaking down the lipid or fat molecules.
The one question that may arise in your mind that how our stomach holds such a powerful acid with 1-2 pH?
The answer to this question lies in the type of cells that is found in our internal stomach lining. The cells found in the stomach’s inner lining secrets mucus which protects our stomach from Hydrochloric acid.
But when the quantity of Hydrochloric acid increases or when it is pushed up towards the esophagus it causes a medical condition known as acid reflux. This is a condition of cardiac sphincter refusal at its work due to increased quantity of acid and food content.
This happens due to an excessive amount of food being consumed in a short period of time or due to several types of food such as acidic or spicy food or food with high-fat content. Considering that this is caused by excess stomach acid/hydrochloric acid/ gastric acid in the stomach.
How do you think, can it be neutralized, or what is the treatment for this medical condition?
The only treatment for this medical condition is consuming something alkaline. This helps to neutralize the acid in the stomach and helps to relieve the burning sensation caused by the acid. This process is an example of a real-life acid-base neutralization reaction. Antacids are a possible treatment for this medical condition and are easily available at pharmacies or supermarkets.
Depending on the brands of acid it could contain the following substance.
- CaCO3 – Calcium Carbonate
- MgCO3 – Magnesium Carbonate
- NaHCO3 – Sodium Bicarbonate
Talking CaCO3 as an example
While reacting CaCO3 with HCL it gives CaCL3 with water and Carbon dioxide.
In this way, we can understand the role of hydrochloric acid in the stomach for digestion and breakdown of food.