Stomach acid – an important digestive aid for our stomach
What exactly is gastric acid? Various cells in the stomach mucosa produce two to three litres of digestive fluid every day, the so-called gastric juice. This consists of various components, including water, mucous substances, digestive enzymes, the so-called intrinsic factor (which is important for the absorption of vitamin B12), bicarbonate and hydrochloric acid, i.e. stomach acid.
Our food enters the stomach chopped up and mixed with saliva – depending on our chewing behaviour, well or slightly pre-chewed. But this is not nearly enough preparation for the food components to be optimally broken down and utilised in the further digestive process. And this is where the aggressive stomach acid comes into play: it becomes active as soon as ingested food enters the stomach, but also when we smell a meal or even just think about it.
In response to these stimuli, our gastric epithelial cells, which are special glandular cells in the stomach lining, produce hydrochloric acid and bicarbonate. To prevent the aggressive stomach acid from attacking the stomach itself, there is another important protective mechanism: the gastric mucosa. Bicarbonate is also stored in the mucous membrane, it neutralises the hydrochloric acid and thus also protects the stomach mucosa.
The stomach acid breaks down food into its individual parts and prepares it optimally for further digestion. In the process, important substances are released from the food, for example iron, calcium and vitamins such as vitamin B12.