What is stomach acid for?

What is stomach acid for?

In France, 6 million people[1] are affected by acid reflux. Why does it occur and what simple healthy lifestyle advice can you follow?

Stomach: a protected closed vessel

To break down food and stimulate digestive enzymes, the stomach produces a large amount of hydrochloric acid. Its pH (the unit of measurement of acidity) is between 1 and 3 while the neutral pH is set at 7. This shows how unique this particular microbiota is!

Of course, the mucous membrane of the stomach is protected from this acidity by a specific mucus composed of bicarbonates, which neutralise the effects of the acidity.

This acid level also explains why the stomach is hermetically separated from the oesophagus by a sphincter preventing acid reflux.

Throat and oesophagus concerned

cases, the sphincter barrier may be less effective. Part of the stomach contents enter the oesophagus, sometimes reaching the throat and mouth. Unlike the membrane of the stomach, the membranes of these organs are not coated with the same protective mucus. They can become sensitised by the presence of acid from the stomach or bile passing through the stomach[2-3-4]

Good habits to protect against acid reflux

The causes of acid reflux can be simple reactions to mechanical compression such as wearing too tight clothing, bending over or lying down, or pregnancy. Stress also affects the digestive ecosystem[5-6].

Simple steps can be taken to prevent acid reflux and stop it coming back:

  • Eat slowly, eat lighter meals and lose weight.
  • Avoid lying down, bending over or exercising immediately after a meal.
  • Reduce intake of coffee, orange juice, sodas, alcohol, oily/spicy foods…
  • Reduce tobacco use.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing.
  • Raise the head of the bed by about 15 cms.

Bibliographic references

  • Société Nationale Française de Gastro-Entérologie. H. Joubert. Reflux gastro-oesophagien (RGO). Février 2018.
  • Karamanolis, G. P., & Tutuian, R. (2013). « Role of non-acid reflux in patients with non-erosive reflux disease.» Annals of gastroenterology, 26(2), 100–103.
  • Sifrim D. (2013). « Management of bile reflux. » Gastroenterology & hepatology, 9(3), 179–180.
  • Lillemoe KD, et al. « Role of the components of the gastro – duodenal contents in experimental acid –esophagitis. » Surgery 1982 ; 92 : 276 84.
  • Song, E. M. et al. “The association between reflux esophagitis and psychosocial stress.” Digestive diseases and sciences vol. 58,2 (2013) : 471-7.
  • David Kiefer, Chapter 42 – Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Editor(s) : David Rakel, Integrative Medicine (Fourth Edition), Elsevier, 2018, Pages 433-438.e1, ISBN 9780323358682.