One of the wonders of our digestive system is the way our stomach wall resists chemical attack. The stomach can dissolve beef and gristle that is far tougher than the stomach wall itself.

The average adult stomach holds about three litres of gastric fluid, which comes from glands in the lining of the stomach. Gastric fluid is concentrated hydrochloric acid! Hydrochloric acid is so corrosive that it can quickly dissolve metals and eat right through a piece of wood.

If, like me, you occasionally enjoy some tripe or sausage, you are actually digesting animal stomachs and intestines. You would have to boil such things in strong acid for a considerable time to do what the stomach does quickly at the body’s normal temperature.

So how does the stomach keep from digesting itself? The lining of the stomach produces not only hydrochloric acid, but also some equally powerful alkaline substances, like ammonia and bicarbonate. These substances are called bases, and they neutralize the acid secreted by the cells in the stomach wall. It is the continuous supply of such alkaline substances that protects the stomach from digesting itself. In some people an over production of acid can overwhelm the alkaline defense system, and the result is a gastric ulcer.

So next time you enjoy a large steak, be grateful you have an acid stomach.