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Acids may belong to one of two groups: mineral acids, e.g. sulphuric, nitric, or hydrochloric acid; or organic acids, e.g. citric, tartaric, or oxalic acid. They are, as a rule, sour to the taste; but only the most dilute solutions can be tasted, as they are usually highly corrosive. They irritate the skin and when strong act as caustics if applied externally. They coagulate albumin, and may thus prove helpful in arresting bleeding by coagulating the blood externally. Weak vinegar is thus sometimes snuffed up the nose for epistaxis, it can also counteract the albuminous poison of jelly fish. Dilute solutions are cooling to the skin in fevers, as is shown by the refreshing effect of vinegar when it is added to the water used for sponging down a feverish patient.
Internally, acids increase the flow of saliva, and for this reason dilute solutions of acids, more particularly citric, acetic (apple cider vinegar) or tartaric, are given as refrigerant or cooling drinks in fevers. They also increase the amount of bile poured out of the liver and gall bladder. Acids give a sense of roughness to the teeth, and it is well to take medicine containing mineral acids through a straw or a glass tube. They render the blood less alkaline but never acid, and they slightly increase the acidity of the urine.
Hydrochloric acid is formed in the stomach as a constituent of the gastric juice, and it is a curious fact that if dilute mineral acids are taken about 20 minutes before a meal they have the effect of diminishing the acid naturally produced there, while alkalies have the effect of increasing it. This is known as Ranger's law, and has an important bearing on the treatment of indigestion (q.v.).

See Alkali; Antidote; Corrosive Poisons; Poisoning; Salt.
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ACIDITY: Acidity is an affection in which an excess of acid is present in the stomach; this may cause considerable pain and is liable to regurgitate into the esophagus, giving a burn ing sensation popularly referred to as heartburn and up to the mouth, setting the teeth on edge. It comes on one or two hours after a meal, and is most frequently due to a delayed and imperfect digestion of the food, with resulting decomposition and fermentation in the sugars, starches, and fats which are swallowed. The expulsion of gases usually follow.
This imperfect digestion is, as a rule, the result of a deficiency or an over dilution of the normal gastric juice. The burning fluid which is present in the stomach and which regurgitates into the mouth is composed of a mixture of hydrochloric, butyric, lactic and acetic acids. Gases may also develop in the stomach and increase the discomfort.
The lining mucous membrane of the stomach is extraordinarily tolerant to the presence of this acrid, sour fluid; but when this fluid accumulates, and there is distension with gas, eructations take place through the cardiac end of the stomach into the gullet, and perhaps the mouth, which are much more sensitive. Heartburn is frequently associated with the trouble known as flatulence.
Improper diet or the habit of drinking large quantities of fluid with meals may set up this form of indigestion. Other causes are insufficient teeth or mastication, irregularity of meal times, eating too frequently, and constipation.
There is another form of acidity which is found mostly in young and very nervous individuals. This is associated with the formation in the stomach of abnormally acid gastric juice at the time of digestion; the symptoms are most severe at the height of digestion, as the excessively acid juice irritates the walls of the stomach, causing a burning pain. This type of acidity would appear to be associated frequently with chronic appendicitis or other abdominal mischief. It is commonly found in association with ulceration of the stomach, and would appear also to be due sometimes to over-indulgence in the use of tobacco or alcohol.
The treatment of acidity must of necessity be directed to the removal of the cause from which the condition springs, but certain general principles for the relief of the pain and discomfort may be laid down. Every individual is a guide unto himself as to what he may or may not eat, and no rigid rule of diet can be laid down which will be suitable to all; but diet must be simple, and articles difficult of digestion must be avoided.
Pastry and fermented liquids are harmful, and large quantities of fluids should not be drunk with meals; the necessary liquids should be taken after or between meals. English beer should not be taken by sufferers from acidity, but lager beer is less objectionable. Starchy and sugary foods should be taken in strict moderation, but meat, fish and poultry can usually be taken without any bad effect. Baked fat meats, re-cooked hashes and fried foods are to be avoided.
On of the best preventions is to simply drink a large glass of water about 30 minutes before eating. In this way the stomach produces a natural coating of mucus for protection. Medicinally, calcium salts are used as an antacid, and is used on this account to check acid diarrhoea and counteract hyperacidity of the stomach.
A Palliative for Acidity Pains
One large dose of an alkali will in most cases give immediate relief of paing a teaspoonful of baking soda or potash will be found useful for this purpose, and if taken in soda or potash water will be even more efficacious. These substances neutralize the acid present in the stomach and arrest fermentation. Their habitual use is not to be recommended, but it is quite safe to take them for short periods. A combination of the carbonates of magnesia, sodium and potassium is often used and may be taken frequently. When the more acute symptoms pass off, a mixture directed to the soothing of the irritated lining of the stomach should be taken.