Stomach acid, also known as gastric acid or gastric juices, are fluids produced by the lining of the stomach to help in breaking down the food that is taken in. Various glands around the stomach are triggered to secrete various types of digestive juices as soon as food is taken into the mouth.
The food in the mouth is chewed and mixed with saliva and swallowed. This bulk of mixture is called bolus. Various gastric juices are secreted by special glands in the stomach.
Glands that secrete gastric juices:
Each of these glands contain various types of cells that secrete different components of the gastric juices.
Components of gastric juice:
Gastric juice is made up of water, electrolytes, hydrochloric acid, enzymes, mucus and intrinsic factor.
What happens if level of hydrochloric acid is low or high?
Low levels of hydrochloric acid (HCl) cause symptoms like burping, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, indigestion, hair loss, gas, etc. Early stages of hypochlorhydria (low HCl levels) cause mild to moderate discomfort and lowered ability to digest food and absorbing nutrients that are essential for the body. However, if left untreated, low HCl levels lowers immunity, increases risk of infections and may result in chronic health issues.
High levels of HCl can lead to complications such as gastric ulcers, acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Symptoms are similar to those of low levels of HCl, and include abdominal discomfort that worsens when the person has not eaten for a longer time, decreased appetite, unexplained weight loss, etc.
Both low and high levels of HCl can be treated with dietary changes, supplements, antibiotics and surgery if any to treat underlying conditions such as tumors.