How does the stomach acid break down food?

The stomach needs to break down food for healthy digestion. The stomach acid or gastric acid contains elements that help in breaking down food. This mainly comprises of hydrochloric acid, along with sodium chloride and potassium chloride.

Benefits of stomach acid
The acids in the stomach have a pH range between 1 and 2, which may get higher at times. Gastric or stomach acids function in tandem with enzymes. They break down food for providing nourishment to the body. They separate waste products from food so that those can be discarded. You may be surprised to know that this strong acid has the potential to burn through wood if used undiluted. However, the lining of the stomach is very tough and offers protection to the vital organs from the same.

FoodThe gastric or stomach acid offers safety mechanism by protecting the body from harmful bacteria. The highly acidic environment kills many dangerous bacteria and micro-organisms. It acts as a defense mechanism for the body.

Excretion of acids
Cells named oxyntic or parietal cells excrete stomach acid. They increase acidity levels in the stomach leading to interaction with food. Acid breaks down proteins in the food resulting in exposure of peptide bonds. They activate a vital enzyme named pepsinogen that turns into pepsin. This results in breaking the bonds that link various amino acids for easier consumption.

How stomach acid can be dangerous?
The highly acidic environment requires the body to have some defense mechanism to protect itself. Production of bicarbonate constantly helps in coating the stomach with layers of mucosa. Bicarbonate aids in neutralizing the acidity levels in the body. Any acid touching the mucosa is contained within the levels. In case of excess production of acid, attack of bacteria Heliobacter pylori, or lack of blood supply, this mechanism can fail leading to gastric ulcer.

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