Chemical Digestion

Gastric fluid carries out chemical digestion in the stomach. An inactive stomach secretion called pepsinogen is converted into a digestive enzyme called pepsin at a low pH. Chemical digestion of proteins starts in the stomach when pepsin splits complex protein molecules into shorter chains of amino acids called peptides. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach not only ensures a low pH but also dissolves minerals and kills bacteria that enter the stomach along with food.

Mucus secreted in the stomach forms a coating that protects the lining from hydrochloric acid and from digestive enzymes. In some people, the mucous coating of the stomach tissue breaks down, allowing digestive enzymes to eat through part of the stomach lining. The result is called an ulcer. The breakdown of the mucous layer is often caused by bacteria that destroy the epithelial cells, which form the mucous layer.

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