Doctor of chiropractic and licensed acupuncturist, Dr. Jeff Donahue is one of those extraordinary holistic practitioners who combines these disciplines of health with nutritional analysis and exercise physiology to balance the three dimensions of life and health: the physical, metabolic and energetic dimensions.
Dr. Jeff is the creator of the “Well Life Blueprint,” which is designed to increase your reserves of energy, which your body needs to heal from any issues, and for continued growth. His goal for his clients is to help maximize their lifestyles to enhance energy, creativity and intuition.
Dr. Jeff emphasizes client responsibility and teaches you how to take care of all aspects of your health and wellness. If you would like to speak to Dr. Jeff about your concerns, you may reach him at his office at 480.654.2920 or through his website www.DrJeffDonahue.com.
Making Sense of Digestion: Part 2
Let’s take an acid trip…
Welcome back to our voyage through the gut. This is a guide to help you better understanding this most essential element of our metabolic dimension, and how you can maximize its performance for your health and wellness.
At this stage in the process, we have finished thoroughly chewing. Our food has finished the last of its physical breakdown. From this point on we rely on chemistry and bacteria to complete the digestive process. This is all managed at an unconscious level by our autonomic nervous system. We trust in a system that we have no direct control over; we release chewed mush into the back of our throats where it is effortlessly carried down through this tube and extracts fuels our bodies need, all without a conscious thought or action.
The stomach’s job is to collect and process food for moving further down the tube, where absorption takes place. The stomach is the first stop for intense chemical breakdown of the food mush, and it does this by producing and releasing acid. It then slowly churns the slurry as it thoroughly mixes the acid with the food. Food will stay in the stomach for up to 5 hours, so this is a big mixing process
As you might remember from high school, acids and bases are opposites of one another, and are measured on a scale called pH. That scale ranges from an acid 0 to an alkaline 14, with 7 as the neutral balance point. Distilled water is supposed to test at that neutral pH of 7. Normal digestive tract tissue tests at 6.7- 6.8 pH, slightly on the acidic side. The stomach concentrates acid at a 2 pH. This is an extremely acidic environment and exposing these juices to any other part of the digestive tract will cause irritation, burns, and even scarring. The stomach is the only place where acidity can run that high without damage.
The acidity is essential to the digestive process in a number of ways.
First and foremost, the acid kills bacteria, viruses, and molds that might have been ingested with the meal. You don’t want to send bad critters to the absorption area without first being neutralized, and those foreign creatures can’t survive in a strong acid environment. I am told from friends who are bird people that buzzards have stomachs that concentrate acid at close to a 0 pH, which accounts for their ability to eat rancid meats without suffering the effects of these toxins.
Secondly, the acid starts the process of breaking down proteins that might be present in the slurry. Proteins in particular need the acid to begin the digestion of the chemical bonds before exposure to enzymes.
Third, the acidity is needed to ionize the minerals in solution, so absorption of needed electrolytes will be impaired if the amount of stomach acid is not enough.
Lastly, the stomach releases small packets of mush called boluses into the small intestine. This mush has been thoroughly mixed with the stomach acid, and the acidity of the bolus as it travels the rest of the tube has a direct effect on further digestive processes. This starts with the enzymes released by the gallbladder and pancreas in the upper part of the small intestine, and ends with keeping the right environment for the healthy bacteria in our large intestine.
General signs that you might not be producing enough stomach acid:
Heartburn, bloating, nausea, gas, allergies, run down immune system, muscle cramps, arrhythmias and heart palpitations, restless legs, trouble sleeping, anxiety, foggy head and memory loss, changes in bowel habits, brittle or cracking fingernails, and hair loss.
Tips for Better Digestion, Part 2
Don’t drink a large volume of water when you are eating a meal. Drink only enough to assist digestion. Too much water with meals dilutes the acidity of the stomach, and its effectiveness on your digestion. Hydrate your body outside of meal times.
If you experience digestive complaints on a regular basis, see if increasing your acidity helps with your symptoms. Squeeze the juice from 1/8 of a fresh lemon into a small glass of water, and drink this with each of your meals. Lemon juice contains acetic acid, which will help acidify the stomach environment. Try to notice what effect the acid has on your symptoms. If they get better, you are probably not producing enough stomach acid.
If the lemon makes your symptoms worse, you can get relief by mixing a teaspoon or two of baking soda in water and drinking that to neutralize the acidity.
You can supplement with a pill form of stomach acids called Betaine HCl (betaine hydrochloride) during your meals. If you decide that you benefit from adding the lemon to your water and increasing the acidity of your stomach during mealtimes, you can continue to use the lemon, but it has a detrimental effect on the enamel of the teeth with long-term use. Consider switching if this needs to be part of your regular health routine.
More to come about the continuing chemical breakdown of your foods into your fuels when we explore enzymes in next month’s article.