After you've polished off a hearty meal and the food has traveled from your esophagus down to your stomach, the digestive process continues. In the stomach, the food is further broken down by a mixture of stomach acid and a variety of enzymes such as pepsin.
Pepsin is a digestive enzyme that is released in the stomach when food is ingested. It functions to break down the proteins in the food you eat. It is initially released in an inactive form and gets activated when it comes into contact with the acid in your stomach (hydrochloric acid). Pepsin works best in a very acidic environment.
When stomach contents back up into the esophagus, you experience the irritation and discomfort referred to as heartburn, a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These stomach contents usually contain acid and pepsin, which can damage the esophagus.
Maintaining a less acidic environment will prevent the discomfort and damage of heartburn, and also keep pepsin in check.
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