Stomach acid, also known as gastric acid, is a digestive fluid that is produced and used by the body to break down the foods we eat.
It is composed of hydrochloric acid (HCI), potassium chloride (KCI) and sodium chloride (NaCI).
Produced by the cells that line the stomach, its role is to break down proteins in the foods we eat by triggering digestive enzymes in the body.
In order to prevent the stomach from becoming too acidic, other cells in the stomach produce bicarbonate, which is a base in order to balance the stomach acid as well as mucus that lines the stomach in order to protect it from the acid.
In a healthy individual, the pH of stomach acid is typically 1.5 – 3.5. This acid is naturally neutralized by sodium bicarbonate when the pH in the duodenum falls below 4.5 – 5.0.
However, in some cases if the stomach acid is overly acidic it is not effectively neutralized.
This becomes a problem for those suffering from acid reflux, as the acid in the stomach backs up into the esophagus, causing a burning pain in the chest and can cause damage to the area.
When the natural bodily process does not provide enough relief, there are many ways to help your body neutralize stomach acid. These options include both natural remedies as well as medications that can help.
According to a study produced in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, drinking water was found to be the fastest method for increasing the pH of stomach acid. Participants in the study were given a glass of water, an antacid or one of four prescription medications. Their stomach pH was then recorded for the six hours following ingestion.
Water showed results in only one minute, while antacids took about two minutes and the prescription drugs took over two hours. However, even though water and antacids produced the fasted results, the prescription drugs that took longer to work lasted significantly longer. It should be noted though, that this was a small study and its results are interesting but not conclusive.
Baking soda can reduce the symptoms of acid reflux almost immediately since it is a base substance with a pH higher than 7. By neutralizing the stomach acid, if you suffer from acid reflux, the substance coming back up won’t be acidic, thus not producing a burning sensation.
To try this method, one would mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 8 ounces of water, stir thoroughly and drink. This can be done up to 3 times per day but should not be done consistently long term as it can have negative side effects due to its high salt content, including swelling and nausea.
Some studies have shown that chewing a piece of sugar free gum after a meal for 30 minutes can help to neutralize stomach acid and reduce the symptoms of acid reflux. It is believed that it is because chewing gum stimulates the salivary glands, which increases saliva. This increased saliva dilutes the acid in the stomach, making it less acidic.
Changing Eating Habits
Changing your eating habits to neutralize stomach acid is a multi-part approach. One should eat smaller meals and eat slower. The faster we eat the more stomach acid our bodies need to produce in order to digest it. Therefore, eating slower and giving our body’s proper time to digest food can minimize the acidity in our stomachs.
The same is true with the amount of food we eat; the larger the meal is, the more acid that will be produced in order to digest it. Eating smaller portioned meals will help the stomach from becoming overly acidic.
Remove acidic foods from your diet
Some foods are naturally acidic and should be avoided into order to prevent the stomach acid from being overly acidic. These foods include citrus, tomatoes and spicy foods.
Incorporate naturally basic foods into your diet
Just as there are certain foods to avoid, there are many foods which are naturally basic and should be incorporated into one’s diet to neutralize stomach acid.
These foods include:
- Apples and bananas – eating one ripened banana or apple per day can naturally neutralize stomach acid
- Mustard – since it is an alkalizing food, eating 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard will naturally neutralize one’s stomach acid
- Almonds – some recommend eating 2 – 3 raw almonds after every meal or snack to neutralize stomach acid
- Apple Cider Vinegar – this should be mixed with water when ingested
- Sweet Potato
If natural methods do not work effectively enough to neutralize one’s stomach acid, there are medications that can help the process. The most common medications used are antacids, which work directly to neutralize stomach acid.
These over the counter drugs are commonly known as Maalox, Tums, Rolaids and Mylanta. However, overuse of antacids can have significant negative side effects, including diarrhea and constipation.
While the information here is intended to be informative and helpful, it should never take the place of a medical professional. If you are experiencing symptoms of acid reflux, always discuss your concerns with a medical professional for a proper treatment plan.