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Digestion

Making sense of it all

Digestion begins in the mouth chewing food. Saliva is added to the mixture and contains digestive enzymes secreted from different glands.

As food is swallowed, digestion continues in the upper portion of the stomach with salivary enzymes and enzymes found in raw food. Dr. Edward Howell, the pioneer of enzymes said the upper part of the stomach is a pre-digestive stomach in humans. A reading of his work is essential in understanding enzymes and the importance of digestion

Most believe the stomach is a hollow pouch in which food drops into thanks to ant-acid commercials. In fact, our stomach is a flat muscle. It remains flat until food enters causing a stretching of the walls. It expands and churns during digestion. Digestion continues in the upper portion for 30 to 60 minutes. Here as much as 85% of our food can be digested.

The Importance of Hydrochloric Acid

The stomach produces hydrochloric acid (HCl). HCl is produced inside the stomach “parietal cells” by mixing chlorides and hydrogen from the blood. There must be enough chlorides from sodium chloride (salt) for this. Consuming sea salt is a food imbued with dozens of trace minerals. Regular table salt has negative affects. This is why performing a 24-hour urinalysis is essential. It measures of the amount of chlorides (salt) the person is ingesting. Not consuming enough salt may lower HCl production affecting protein digestion.

After HCl is produced the pH of the stomach drops from about 5.7 to about 2.0, making it very acidic. pH determines acid and alkalinity. HCl is mistakenly thought to digest protein. It does not digest anything. The chief cells of the stomach make an enzyme known as pepsinogen. Pepsinogen is the inactive enzyme form. Hydrochloric acid drops the pH of the stomach, which converts this inactive enzyme pepsinogen to the active form known as pepsin. It is pepsin that digests protein into smaller peptides and amino acids.

Once food, known as chyme, is passed into the duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine), the body must alkalize the chyme. This is done with bicarbonates (yes, like Arm & Hammer sodium bicarbonate). This changes the pH from 2.0 (very acid) to about 7.2.  The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes at this point. However, Dr. Howell found the pancreas of the average person is 2-3 times larger and heavier (hypertrophy) than what it should be. This is because of the burden placed on it to supply 100% of the enzymes to digest cooked food.

The Roles of the Pancreas and Liver

The pancreas secretes exactly the right amount and types of enzymes to finish digestion. This is determined by how much digestion took place in the stomach. The more digestion taking place in the stomach the less of a burden for the pancreas.  It will not hypertrophy (grow larger & heavier). Not only the pancreas, but the liver and gall bladder are spared the burden of extra work.

The liver converts up to 57% of protein in any given meal into glucose. Glucose is the preferred form of sugar by the brain and muscles. Glucose can be stored as glycogen in the muscles and used later for energy. The liver makes bile  and stores it in the gall bladder. It is released into the duodenum when fats are present in food. Bile emulsifies fat – it de-greases oils and fats breaking them into smaller molecules. This allows fat digesting enzymes to break the bonds converting fats into essential fatty acids.

The Small Intestine – A Sugar Converting Workhorse

The final stage in digestion occurs in the second part of the small intestine – the jejunum. Protein and fat digestion is all but completed here and the absorption of these essential nutrients takes place. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, must go through another process. Pancreatic amylase cannot completely break the complex bonds found in carbohydrates. They enter the jejunum as disaccharides – two simple sugar molecules – such as lactose (from milk), maltose (from grains) and sucrose from white sugar and flour.

The small intestines has micro hair-like fiber called micro-villi. This is where the enzymes lactase, maltase, & sucrase are made to finish digestion of disaccharides into glucose. Digestion is completed here. Nutrients amino acids (from protein), essential fatty acids (from fats & oils), and monosaccharides (from carbohydrates) are absorbed into the blood and lymph to be carried to the cells to nourish the body.

The Large Intestine – Waste Removal at Its Best

Finally, the cells must either utilize what has been digested or the body must eliminate it. The large intestine (colon) is the major sight of elimination of solid material. Over 90% of bacteria live inside our colon. If food has not been properly broken down into micro-sized particles it becomes “food” for pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungi capable of living inside the colon.

The micro-flora of the colon is a highly interactive population.  They are influenced by what we eat while we are affected by what lives inside us. They obtain nutrients from our body and what we eat. We receive special nutrients in the form of vitamins and fatty acids. Depending upon what we ingest, the bacteria will be beneficial or pathogenic. A 1980’s article in the Saturday Evening Post related a study from the New England Journal of Medicine about the high incidence of breast cancers in women with a history of constipation. When we cannot eliminate waste properly toxins produced by pathogenic bacteria are re-absorbed back into the blood.

This happens begins when we do not correctly break down food into smaller components. Many advocate detoxification programs including colon irrigation with herbal formulas to relieve constipation. If the body is digesting food then waste material is eliminated. If digestion is impaired it sets up a vicious cycle with body’s attempt to detoxify is undermined.

Intestinal Toxemia – The Origins of Many Diseases

Dr. J. H. Tilden, MD wrote in the early part of the last century, “There is no disease per se. What is called disease is impaired health, and brought on from retention of waste products in the blood, to the extent of breaking down resistance. These waste products are called toxins, and, in normal and limited amounts, are natural and give needed stimulation. But, like all stimulants, when an excessive amount is retained in the system, they create over-stimulation, resulting in enervation and systemic drunkenness – Toxemia.”

Auto-intoxication (Indicanuria) has been proposed as one of the root causes of disease. Below are  a few of the symptoms of Indicanuria listed according their respective bodily system:

Cardiovascular:   Cardiac arrhythmias, Migraines, Tachycardia
Gastrointestinal:  Gas & bloating, Constipation, Diarrhea, Food allergies, Gastritis, Hiatal Hernia, Halitosis (bad breath), Indigestion, “Leaky gut syndrome”, Inflammatory Bowel disease (Irritable bowel syndrome)
Endocrine System:  Breast pathology, Eclampsia, Thyroid Goiter
Muscular-Skeletal:  Arthritis, Low back pain & sciatica, Fibromyalgia
Nervous System:  Depression & melancholy, Epilepsy, Loss of concentration & confidence, Mental sluggishness & dullness, Schizophrenia, Senility
Respiratory:  Asthma Irritability, Chemical Sensitivities, Air-born allergies
Sinuses-Nose-Ears-Eyes:  Eye strain, Diseases of the nasal cavities, Sensory poly-neuritis, Diseases of the middle & inner ear

Digestive Leukocytosis – Daily Immune Assaults

The digestive tract has a protective mucous barrier beginning in the stomach and ending in the colon at the rectum. When the food is not broken down efficiently, waste products continually irritate this barrier destroying the mucous cells. The barrier becomes compromised allowing undigested food to pass into the blood. Food allergies can result. This allergic response is known as digestive leukocytosis. It is a pathological condition found in poisoning, infection, and intoxication. It relates to an increase in white blood cells (leukocytes) and their activity.

Leukocytes have great stores of enzymes. They are forced into the blood to finish the digestion that should have taken place in the stomach and small intestine (from pancreatic enzymes). Since the early 1800’s, scientists have thought this to be “normal”. However, in 1930, Dr. Paul Kautchakoff proved that this phenomena only occurred with cooked food and not with raw food.

He classified the results into 4 groupings:

Raw or frozen food did not produce any increase in White Blood Cells (WBC’S) count
Commonly cooked food produced a mild WBC’S increase
Pressure-cooked or canned food caused a moderate WBC’S increase
Man-made foods (devoid of enzymes), such as alcohol, carbonated beverages, white sugar, flour & vinegar cause a severe WBC’S increase

Kautchakoff showed how cured, salted meat produced a violent reaction such as seen in food poisoning.

The Problem of Circulating Immune Complexes

Circulating immune complexes are antigen/antibody/allergen complexes that circulate in your blood and lymph 24 hours a day. They come from food that was not completely digested and have slipped through an incompetent mucous barrier. This is what is called “Leaky Gut Syndrome”. When the mucous barrier has become too permeable, undigested remnants of food get through and trigger an immune response. This is how food allergies are formed. Fibromyalgia, Chronic fatigue syndrome and many of the “newly” discovered 20th century diseases are simply an inability to digest food.

When we remember all functions in the body require enzymes, is it not too simple a remedy? Plant enzymes used in Enzyme Therapy offers a unique role in nutrition because they:

digest food in the pre-digestive portion of the stomach before Hydrochloric acid is  secreted
deliver nutrients past an incompetent digestive system
are capable of digesting food in an acid medium, whereas animal enzymes cannot
completely digest food not allowing waste products to accumulate in the blood creating circulating immune complexes and disease.

When we completely digest food and deliver the nutrients, the body heals itself. Just because we eat organically grown food or take herbs and nutritional supplements does not guarantee us health. If we cannot digest our food, we cannot benefit from what we ingest, whether it is nutritious or not.

Portions of this information were obtained from Dr. Howard F. Loomis’ book, “Enzymes: The Key to Health”.

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