what happens to stomach acid?
I have an odd question. I was thinking to myself: all that acid in your stomach to process food, where does it go when it's done? Wouldn't it burn a hole if it left the stomach? Thanks.
This is the type of question that results in my spending hours researching all kinds of over-my-head stuff like chemistry and quantum physics. It's really too bad that I can't get a degree in medicine through Poop Report. I could end up on the Oprah show...
Gastric acid is secreted by the stomach along with several different types of enzymes. The gastric juice itself consists of mostly hydrochloric acid, but also contains small quantities of potassium chloride and sodium chloride. Sounds like the makings of a good bomb. That explains a lot to me, having IBS and all.
I could go into great detail about the pH levels of the intestinal lumen, and the variances in the acidity and alkalinity of the gastric juices which are affected by fluid intake, food consumption, and other contributing factors. But instead, I will just try to get to the bottom of this question as quickly as possible.
We are all aware of our protective covering on the outside of our bodies called skin. Most people think that once they breathe in air, or take in food or drink that it has gone "inside" the body. This is not really the case.
Everything from the snout to the out of our bodies internally has another "skin" so to speak. This is called the mucosal membrane. The food that we eat goes into the stomach making it seem as though it is inside our body, but until it is broken down and absorbed into the blood stream it is really just simply contained within the boundaries of the internal skin. And the poop that is on the way out is also not really "inside" the body. This is why it is such a medical emergency when there is a breach of the border such as a perforation of the bowel or a bleeding ulcer that has allowed things to go into the body where they were not intended to be.
The mucus that is secreted in the stomach lining provides a protective barrier against the acid. If the mucus membrane is irritated, resulting in the mucus not being able to perform its function effectively, the acid can indeed cause damage. This is known as an ulcer. Acid can also flow upwards past the esophogeal sphincter and cause buring in the chest/throat area. This is what's referred to as acid reflux, or heart burn.
When you get a bad case of diarrhea, and the body just doesn't have the time or ability to properly absorb, adjust pH levels or slam shut the gates that normally contain the stomach acid within the stomach where it belongs, then you will notice the burning sensation at the exit door along with the loss of a few nostril hairs upon smelling it. If left on the old bung hole for too long, it would surely begin to cause some damage eventually. This can range anywhere from a mild burning to a severe rash and even skin ulcerations depending on the amount of acid and length of exposure to it.
Thanks for asking Motherload!
Motherload is a Certified Nurse Assistant as well as an IBS sufferer, which means she knows a lot about poop. Got a question for her? Ask it here.