Stomach acids, also known as gastric juices, are a very important part of the digestion process in the body. They are digestive fluids that are synthesized in the stomach linings. The secretion of these juices is mainly coordinated by the nervous system and other hormones.
The main constituent of stomach acid is Hydrochloric acid. It works with other digestive enzymes in the stomach to break down food substrates and aid proper digestion.
When there’s a hormonal imbalance, the stomach can produce excess stomach acids that could cause a number of damages. Since there’s a need to keep the level of gastric juices low, consuming foods that reduce stomach acid is highly recommended.
PROCESS OF DIGESTION.
Digestion of food substance starts in the mouth when you chew. Two important digestive enzymes; amylase and lipase begin the process of breaking down carbohydrate and lipid substrates respectively.
When chewed food is swallowed, it moves down into the esophagus (a linking tube between the mouth and the stomach). The substrates are further broken down and formed into boluses before moving into the stomach.
The stomach contains gastric juices and other digestive enzymes that act upon the boluses as they are being grinded into tiny bits (oftentimes, in form of liquid). The grinded contents then proceed into the small intestine where more juices from the pancreas and the gall bladder further breaks them down.
Nutrients are then absorbed into the blood vessels through the microvilli on the small intestine. Leftovers that were not absorbed move into the colon and then acted upon by good bacteria. The colon absorbs the water and passes the waste contents into the rectum.
HIGH STOMACH ACID.
The body is said to contain high stomach acid when the acidic contents of the stomach are higher than required. Gastrin is the hormone that aids the secretion of stomach acids. When there’s an overproduction of Gastrin in the body, it automatically translates into increased stomach acid.
♦ Causes of High Stomach Acid.
There are different factors that could lead to the production of excess gastrin which results in excess gastric juices in the stomach. Common ones include:
• Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome: This syndrome is a rare condition developed in the body. A tumor known as Gastronomes is formed on the pancreas and small intestine. The tumor causes an increased production of gastrin that eventually leads to excess stomach acid.
Kidney failure: People with kidney failure in some cases produce excess gastrin due to dialysis. When this occurs, the acidic contents of the stomach increases.
Rebound acid hypersecretion: When you stop taking medications like H2-blockers used for reducing stomach acid, there’s a high probability that you experience a rebound. Stomach acid can begin to increase again once you’re off medications.
Helicobacter pylori disease: Helicobacter pylori is one of the bacteria that damage the stomach linings and can cause an ulcer. People who are infected with the bacteria oftentimes experience increased stomach acid.
Digestive tract blockage: When there’s no free passage in the digestive tract between the stomach and the small intestine, it can result in high stomach acid.
♦ Symptoms of High Stomach Acid.
Symptoms of high stomach acid are very similar to the symptoms of other digestive disorders. Some of them include:
• Weight loss,
• Loss of appetite,
• Abdominal pain.
♦ Effects of High Stomach Acid.
High stomach acid can cause the development of certain complications or other digestive disorders. The most common ones are:
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease,
• Peptic Ulcers, and
• Gastrointestinal bleeding.
GASTROESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is also known as GERD is a more severe condition of Acid reflux. Acid reflux is a digestive system disorder in which the acid juices in the stomach find a way to travel back into the esophagus and line up the tract thereby causing inflammation.
♦ Causes of Acid Reflux.
There’s no exact condition that causes acid reflux but there are different factors that can enable the development.
Some of these conditions or factors include:
• Eating certain foods; like spicy foods, beverages, fatty foods, chocolates, alcohol, etc.,
Eating late in the night,
Usage of aspirin and ibuprofen,
Hiatus hernia: A condition where the upper region of the stomach and the lower esophageal sphincters shifts above the diaphragm. The sphincters will no longer be able to keep stomach contents from returning into the esophagus.
♦ How Acid Reflux Occurs.
The esophagus is a long tube that connects the mouth and the stomach. It connects continuously with the pharynx directly attached to the back cavity of the mouth.
There are two special kinds of muscles at the ends of the esophagus known as the upper esophageal sphincter (UES) and the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). These sphincters are circular in shape.
The UES is located at the junction between the pharynx and the esophagus. It helps prevent food from returning into the mouth; while the LES is located at the junction between the esophagus and stomach and it helps prevent food in the stomach refluxing back into the esophagus.
The stomach has linings on its walls that protect it from the corrosive action of the gastric juices, but those protective layers are absent in the esophagus. When the food substances are passed into the stomach, they are being mixed with the gastric juices and other digestive enzymes. If they travel back into the esophagus, the acidic content attacks the walls of the esophagus and cause inflammation.
♦ Symptoms of Acid Reflux.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux can be mild or severe. In some people, these symptoms worsen at night or after every meal. Eating foods like chocolates, spicy foods, fatty foods, etc. can also worsen the symptom.
The common symptoms of Acid Reflux include:
- Dry Cough,
- Bad breath,
- Weight loss,
- Bloody Vomit, etc.
♦ Diagnosis of Acid Reflux.
There are three major ways of diagnosing acid reflux:
• Esophageal Manometry.
This diagnosis examines the regular muscle contractions in your gullet while you swallow. It furthermore deals with the coordination and power exerted by the muscles of your esophagus.
In this test, a thin, plastic tube would be inserted down your throat. The tube would have light and a camera (endoscope). It would analyze the insides of your esophagus in order to detect any form of inflammation that might be present.
Digestive tract X-ray.
You’ll be required to drink a chalky liquid when they’re about to take the X-ray of your digestive tract. The liquid will glaze the lining of your esophagus and run down into the intestine. The glazing will make it easier for the doctor to have a vivid picture of the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. From the X-ray, they’ll be able to detect parts of the tract affected by the acid reflux.
♦ Treatment for Acid Reflux.
There are different ways in which the symptoms of acid reflux can be managed. We can categorically place them in two parts: Non-surgical and Surgical.
- Non-surgical treatment.
For non-surgical treatment, one can decide to go with natural reliefs or over the counter medicines.
- Natural or Home Remedies: These are different medications that can be found in the home or other natural sources. They are easily accessible and can give quick relief from the symptoms of acid reflux. Some of these home remedies are baking soda, apple cider vinegar, milk, chewing gums, avoiding raw onions, sleeping with the bed slightly elevated, and many others.
- Over the counter medications: Over the counter medicines are simply drugs you can purchase without having a doctor’s prescription. You can easily walk into a pharmaceutical store and request them without presenting any form of prescription slip. OTCs are widely used for the treatment of acid reflux, some of them include antacids, milk of magnesia, lansoprazole, Omeprazole magnesium, cimetidine, ranitidine, nizatidine, etc.
- Surgical treatment.
Surgical treatment is recommended by the doctor in a more severe condition of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Common home remedies or over the counter medications might not suffice to manage the condition at that stage. Laparoscopic Anti-Reflux Surgery also known as Nissen fundoplication is the surgical procedure for the treatment of GERD.
STOMACH ACIDS REDUCING FOODS
One of the best ways to reduce stomach acid is through our daily diet. There are certain foods that reduce the gastrin hormones that synthesize the gastric juices in the stomach.
Low acid foods are highly recommended because they don’t add to the already present acidic contents in the stomach. Adding such foods to your diet help the reduction of stomach acid.
Some of the recommended stomach acid reducing foods include:
- Apple Cider Vinegar,
- Green vegetables,
- Ginger, etc.
TREATMENT FOR HIGH STOMACH ACIDS
Protein Pump Inhibitors, PPIs, are the major medications used to treat high stomach acid because they’re more efficient than H2-blockers. They reduce the secretion of stomach acid by inhibiting the gastrin hormone.
Surgery is only recommended for patients with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. The surgery is used to remove the gastronomes tumor.
Symptoms of high stomach acid should not be left unattended because it could lead to Ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and other complications.
After diet changes and symptoms of high stomach acid persist, one should see a doctor immediately for proper diagnosis.