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Intestinal Health

Sites of Nutrient Absorption of the Gastrointestinal Tract




Salt is one of the most necessary nutrients to the human body that there is. Salt is involved in thousands of metabolic processes, and, without enough of it you will get sick and then die. One of the most noteworthy salt-related processes of the human body is the production of stomach acid. The molecular structure of salt is NaCl - sodium chloride. The molecular structure of stomach acid is HCl - hydrochloric acid. Your body gets the chloride molecule it needs to keep its stomach acid strong and healthy from salt (calcium is also an important player here). If you don't have enough salt, your stomach acid will be weak. If your stomach acid is weak, you cannot digest your food completely. If you cannot digest your food completely, you develop nutrient deficiencies. Nutrient deficiencies are the MAIN CAUSE of all chronic disease. Therefore salt is IMPORTANT! When your stomach acid is weak (from a lack of salt), you develop heartburn! Heartburn is caused by NOT ENOUGH stomach acid - not too much. Start salting your food to taste and your heartburn will disappear in about 3 weeks.


The foods important to life are basically protein, carbohydrate and fat. But these nutrients are useless without the process of digestion. This brief review of digestion--the breakdown of foods into small components to be absorbed for use--demonstrates how incredibly effective this process is. The digestive tract was designed to accomodate all manner of natural foods. There is reason and order in the process. For instance, food undergoing preliminary digestion in the stomach leaves through the pylorus to the small intestine in an organized manner: First, carbohydrate; second, protein and third, fat. This makes sense, since carbohydrate requires more splitting work in the small intestine and is first to leave the stomach. Much protein breakdown occurs in the stomach, so it is second to leave. Fat needs a lot of digestive action and takes the longest (especially in the small intestine), so it is reasonable that they travel the slowest. The digestive tract has a wonderful system worked out so that we don't have to even think about it other than feeding it good, wholesome and natural foods.

The digestive system can and does routinely handle protein, carbohydrate and fat. Many natural foods contain all three. The digestive system is capable of breaking down most foods, the only exception is devitalized foods...overly cooked, processed, chemicalized, altered or hydrogenated. The body can't use such "foods" and can't digest them as normal foods. All it can do is break them down to some degree and try to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Any defect in one phase of digestion hampers another. As an example: Eating between meals not only increases stomach emptying time, but also confuses the colon so that the defecation schedule may be altered, resulting in constipation. Certain substances may be absorbed without any digestion; these are water, monosaccharides (glucose, etc.), and inorganic ions. The lipids, di- and poly-saccharides, and proteins must be broken down into more simple constituents before they can be absorbed. With natural, wholesome and unaltered foods, sufficient hydrochloric acid and other digestive juices can be produced which even clean up unwanted bacteria and other toxic by-products. The key, then, is consuming good, whole, natural foods--with minimal cooking or alteration.


Food Combining and Timing



The chemistry of digestion is really simple; with all the three major types of foodprotein, carbohydrate and fatthe same basic process of hydrolysis is used. Hydrolysis is a reaction involving water so that chemical decomposition takes place. The chyme (partially broken-down food with stomach juices) is split into simpler compounds. The only differences in the digestion of protein, fat and carbohydrate are the enzymes needed to stimulate the proper reactions for each type of food.


Hydrochloric Acid

Chemically speaking, hydrochloric acid is hydrogen chloride (HCl) in a water solution. It’s found naturally in our own gastric acid.


If your hydrochloric acid levels are up to par, you’ll experience good digestion and good nutrient absorption, and you’ll be protected from harmful pathogens and parasites. But if your HCL levels are low, you may show such symptoms as fatigue, hair loss, impaired digestion, candida, gastritis, slow healing and vitamin B12 deficiency and a host of other maladies. That’s how much HCL affects your health.


Ample organic sodium in the stomach is necessary to protect stomach cells from hydrochloric acid. If that protection isn’t available, the body’s natural protection systems inhibit HCL production so as to protect the stomach lining.


As digestion uses up the stomach’s organic sodium, it begins ‘stealing’ needed sodium from elsewhere in the body. This can weaken muscles and even, over a long term, promote arthritis. Indeed, want of certain minerals—organic sodium among these—can mark the beginning of old age.


HCl is produced in the parietal cells of the stomach and is needed for the absorption of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, folic acid and the B vitamins. Sufficient stomach acid is imperative for destroying certain microorganisms, bacteria, fungi and parasites.


If you want to ensure adequate HCL production, or increase production, you can go about this in a few ways.


Consuming adequate organic sodium is essential. People placed on a sodium-restricted diet will have a hard time making enough hydrochloric acid. Celery is a great way to get organic sodium. Include it liberally in your diet, especially in vegetable juice. Wheatgrass is also extremely high in organic sodium. Seek out other sodium-rich foods, too, such as any of the sea vegetables, aloe vera, or barley grass juice.


A B12 deficiency may be directly related to your body’s ability to produce sufficient hydrochloric acid in your stomach.


General allergies and, specifically, food allergies are correlated with low HCl. Poor food breakdown and the "leaky gut" syndrome are associated with food allergies. More than half the people with gallstones show decreased HCl secretion compared with gallstone-free patients. Diabetics have lower secretion, as do people with eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, vitiligo, and tooth and periodontal disease. With low stomach acid levels, there can be an increase in bacteria, yeasts, and parasites growing in the intestines.


Hydrochloric acid supplementation is available primarily as betaine hydrochloride. When a 5–10 grain (1 grain = 64 mg.) tablet is taken before, during, or after meals, it should help proteins break down into peptides and amino acids and fats into triglycerides. Glutamic acid hydrochloride is used sometimes in formulas, but this amino acid is only mildly acidic and does not work as well as betaine hydrochloride. Betaine may be used alone, in supplements, or along with pepsin or other digestive agents.


HCl is a stimulus to pancreatic secretions, containing the majority of enzymes that actively break down foods. The poor digestion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates then further contributes to poor assimilation and nutritional problems. Thus, when they are needed, supplemental support of digestive enzymes may be even more important than HCl.


Enzymes are large protein molecules that act as catalysts or inducers of chemical changes. They trigger and speed up the chemical reactions included in digestion, so that food substances are broken down into simpler substances. A human being is not maintained by his food intake, but rather, by what is digested. Enzymes are involved in every process of the body. Life could not exist without them. Enzymes digest all of our food and make it small enough to pass through the minute pores of the intestines into the blood. Enzymes in the blood take prepared, digested food and build muscles, nerves, blood and glands. They assist in storing sugar in the liver and muscles, and turn fat into fatty tissue. Enzymes aid in the formation of urea to be eliminated as urine and also in the elimination of carbon dioxide in the lungs. There is an enzyme that builds phosphorus into bone and nerve tissue, and one to help attach iron to red blood cells. Male sperm carries enzymes that dissolve the tiny crevice in the female egg membrane, so it may gain entrance into it. These few examples exemplify the importance of enzymes to our everyday body functions.

The enzymes in raw food actually digest up to 75% of the food without the help of the enzymes secreted by the body. There are three major classes of enzymes: metabolic enzymes (enzymes which work in blood, tissues, and organs), food enzymes from raw food, and digestive enzymes. We inherited an enzyme reserve at birth and this quantity can be decreased as we age by eating an enzyme-deficient diet. Nature has placed enzymes in food to aid in the digestive process instead of forcing the body's enzymes to do all of the work. Once we cook food at high temperatures, the enzyme is destroyed. It no longer carries on its designated function. By eating most of our food cooked, our digestive systems have to produce all of the enzymes, thus causing an enlargement of the digestive organs. To supply such enzymes, the body draws on its reserve from all organs and tissues, causing a metabolic deficit. One can live for many years on a cooked food diet but eventually this will cause cellular enzyme exhaustion which lays the foundation for a weak immune system and disease. Although the physical protein molecule is still present, it has lost its life force. Much like a battery that has lost its power, the physical structure remains but the electrical energy which once animated it is no longer present. A protein molecule is actually only the carrier of enzyme activity. Just as a light bulb can only light up when you put an electric current through it. It is animated by electricity. The current is the life force of the bulb.

Digestion Of Protein

Protein--like meat, fish, eggs, milk products, some vegetables, nuts, etc,--are long chains of amino acids. The types and arrangements of these amino acids determine the characteristics of the protein. The important digestive enzyme of the stomach, pepsin, is most active at a pH of about 2 and totally inactive at a pH above approximately 5. So, for pepsin to affect any digestive action on protein, the stomach juices must be acidic. Hydrochloric acid provides the acid environment. It is excreted by parietal cells at a pH of about 0.8, but after being mixed with the stomach contents and secretions of other glandular cells of the stomach, the pH ranges around 2 or 3. This is ideal and imperative for pepsin activity. Pepsin can essentially digest any protein in the diet. Even collagen, present, for example, in connective tissue of meat, can be digested by pepsin even though other digestive enzymes cannot affect it. Collagen fibers must be digested before the cellular protein of the meat can be digested. Lacking sufficient hydrochloric acid or pepsin, protein foods are poorly penetrated by other digestive enzymes further on and are thus poorly digested. After leaving the lower stomach, protein has been broken down from long protein molecules into shorter strings of amino acids (the building blocks of protein). As soon as these partially broken-down products enter the small intestine, they are "attacked" by pancreatic enzymes like trypsin, chymotrypsin and carboxypolypeptidase. These enzymes break down the protein even more, some to even the final stage of individual amino acids. Simply, it would be like taking apart, piece by piece, a child's toysseparating the combination of pieces. The walls of the small intestine contain and use several different enzymes for final breakdown.

All the proteolytic (hastening protein breakdown) enzymes--including those of the stomach, pancreatic juice and intestinal lining--are very specific for the breaking down of individual protein combinations. A specific enzyme is needed for each specific type of amino acid-linkage. That's why there are so many enzymes and why all the digestive enzymes are needed. When food is properly chewed, not eaten to excess at one time and the digestive juices are allowed to function as they should, about 98 percent of all protein is totally broken down to individual amino acids or pairs or short strings of them (polypeptides). Now the intestine can absorb them. The enzymes in the small intestine require a slightly alkaline environment to work. Since the food coming from the stomach is (or should be) an acid mix, the pancreas pours a strongly alkaline juice into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine).

Absorption Of Protein

Most protein is absorbed in the form of single amino acids (the building blocks of protein), but some are absorbed as two or three amino-acid combinations. The different types of amino acids are absorbed selectively, and absorption is rapid; as soon as "free" individual amino acids are isolated or fractionated, they are absorbed.

Digestion Of Carbohydrate

One of the primary goals of the digestive process is to provide every body cell with sufficient amounts of energy to sustain itself and remain alive. Many of the vital chemical reactions that take place in the cell require energy, which is derived from the oxidation of the glucose, within the cell. Glucose is carried to the cell as the end product of carbohydrate metabolism.

There, in the presence of enzymes and oxygen, the glucose is converted into carbon dioxide, water and energy. The carbon dioxide and water are non-essential by-products of this reaction; the important product is the heat energy, which is derived from the glucose.

glucose + oxygen = carbon dioxide + water + heat

(enzyme) (energy)

The oxygen used in this chemical reaction is brought from the lungs to the cells by the red blood cells, containing hemoglobin. The hemoglobin and oxygen combine chemically until enzymes in the cell separate them for the oxidation process. Glucose is one of literally hundreds of chemical compounds called carbohydrates or saccharides. The molecules of all carbohydrates are made up of building blocks called simple sugars. Carbohydrates may be subdivided into three groups:

Monosaccharides, like glucose, consist of a single sugar building block.

Disaccharides, like common table sugar (sucrose) consist of two simple sugar building blocks.

Polysaccharides, like starch and cellulose, consist of many simple sugar building blocks joined together in a long line in daisy-chain fashion.

It appears that the only carbohydrate of any chemical value to the body is the simple sugar or monosaccharide called glucose. Therefore, one of the major goals of the digestive process is to extract the glucose from the various carbohydrates that we ingest every day. Carbohydrate sources are primarily starches (like grains) and sugars (like cane sugar, milk sugar, fruit sugar). The enzyme ptyalin or amylase in the saliva begins to break down the food in the mouth. Food does not stay in the mouth long enough for ptyalin to complete the breakdown of starches. Yet the action of ptyalin continues for several hours after food has entered the stomach...until the food is mixed with the stomach secretions. Once the pH of the food's environment falls below approximately 4.0, as will occur in the second portion of the stomach, this enzyme becomes nonactive. But, before this happens, 30 to 40 percent of the starches will have been changed into maltose and isomaltose. They are now ready to enter the small intestine as part of the chyme. When muscle tone and other factors are normal, the result is a beautifully timed and regulated pumping. With each strong wave of movement, several milliliters of chyme are forced from the stomach into the duodenum. This stomach and intestinal reflex is especially sensitive to the presence of irritants, breakdown products of protein digestion, proper concentration of fluid and to substances too acid or too alkaline.

As covered previously, this emphasizes the need for sufficient hydrochloric acid and other gastric secretions, the importance of drinking water before eating and the avoidance of antacids or other drugs that would interfere with or halt digestion. As much as 30 to 40 percent of starches have been changed (broken down) into maltose and isomaltose (combinations of simple sugars) before reaching the small intestine. After the chyme enters the duodenum and mixes with pancreatic juice, starches, not yet split, are immediately digested by amylase. Like saliva, pancreatic secretions contains large amounts of amylase, acting identically to the amylase in saliva, splitting the starches into maltose and isomaltose. Carbohydrate, split down into simple sugar combinations (disaccharides), lactose, sucrose, maltose and isomaltose, are then split even further into just simple sugars (monosaccharides) by enzymes from the cells lining the small intestine. These simple sugars (galactose, glucose, fructose) are then absorbed into portal blood...that is, on their way to the liver. About 80 percent of the final products of carbohydrate digestion is glucose. Blood sugar is glucose.

Absorption Of Carbohydrate

As mentioned, most all carbohydrate is absorbed as simple sugars. Transport through the intestinal membrane is selective; each type of simple sugar has its own maximum rate of transport. Competition for transport can exist between certain sugars, and transport can be blocked by numerous processes. A complex but impressively efficient system!

Digestion Of Fat

Fat in the diet is most commonly triglycerides or neutral fat found in both animals and plants. Cholesterol, cholesterol-compounds and phospholipids also are normal fats in foods. Because a large quantity of fat dumped into the blood stream at one time is deleterious to health and might fatally clog the circulatory system, a mechanism for retardation of stomach emptying of fat is present. When a bit of fat enters the duodenum, a chemical message is sent to the brain which then signals the stomach to cease releasing more material into the duodenum until it has taken care of the fat. Fat may stay in the stomach for four hours or longer, producing at the time a sensation of satiety (filled up) but rendering fermentation more likely. Since fermentation products irritate the stomach, and an irritated stomach subsequently evokes a greater sensation of hunger, the practice of eating fats for satiety is self-defeating. Fats clog the digestion. Much pain and indigestion have their origin with fats eaten. Only a small amount of fat is digested in the stomach by gastric lipase, a fat-splitting enzyme. Essentially, most fat digestion occurs in the small intestine. First, the fat globules must be broken into small sizes so enzymes can act. This emulsification is accomplished under the influence of bile, a secretion of the liver. Bile is stored in the gallbladder and drawn upon as needed. Bile contains a large amount of bile salts, the main function of which is to make fat globules break down. This is similar to the action of some household detergents that remove grease.

The "detergent" function of bile salts is essential to fat digestion, for the lipase (fat-splitting enzymes) can "attack" the fat globules only on their surfaces. The smaller the fat particles, the better digestion. Pancreatic lipase is the most important enzyme in fat digestion. In concert, the epithelial lining of the small intestine also releases a small amount of lipase. Both lipases (pancreatic and intestinal) act to digest fat. Bile salts also form micelles, small sphericle globules. These micelles help remove the end products of fat digestion so further fat digestion can continue. These little micelles transport their cargo to the lining of the small intestine, where they're absorbed. The bile salts then return for more cargo, thus providing a "ferry service." So important are bile salts that, when in adequate supply, about 97 percent of fat is absorbed. If insufficient, only 50 to 60 percent is absorbed.

Absorption Of Fat

Upon contacting the membrane lining of the small intestine, the end products of fat digestion become dissolved in the membrane and diffuse to the interior of the cell. As the split fat molecules enter the lining cells, intestinal lipase (enzyme) helps to further digest them. Triglycerides are formed in these cells and, along with cholesterol and phospholipids (other absorbed fat), they are given a protein coat. Thus "dressed," these final fat products pass into spaces between the cells and into the villi. Most of these fatty acids are then propelled, along with lymph (a fluid) by the lymphatic pump system. About 80 to 90 percent of digested fat is absorbed in this manner. Small amounts of fatty acids are absorbed directly into the blood going to the liver.


The whole digestive tract needs many nutrients, similarly, from mouth to anus. Vitamin A-complex, for example, is imperative to mucous membranes and any lining surfaces of the gastrointestinal tract. Vitamin A deficiency could increase lining irritability and tendency to inflammation, thus a factor in ulcers (peptic, gastric or duodenal), gastroenteritis, etc. Inflammation of the small intestine and cecum is frequent in vitamin A deficiency. (British Medical Journal, 1:99, Jan. 19, 1935, M.B. Richards) "When deficiences are present in an advanced degree they have been invariably associated with characteristic changes in the small intestine." Other nutrients, when deficient, give similar indications (JAMA, 104:613, Feb. 23, 1935, Mackie and Pound). Vitamin B-complex is an important factor in maintaining muscle tone (like at the ileocecal valve) and a deficiency results in a dilation of vascular walls through an effect upon the muscular layer. With vitamin B deficit, muscular walls relax (loss of appetite) and intestinal walls enlarge. Deficiency also leads to a tendency for intestinal immobility, lack of gastric secretions, ulcers, lowered appetite and impaired digestion and absorption of digestive juices is inhibited. Thus, B-complex is absolutely essential for neurological control. Vitamin C complex(not ascorbic acid) is essential to the health of mucous membrane linings and blood vessels. Results of deficiency include ulceration of the intestine, mucous membrane hemorrhages and intestinal enlargement--early signs of scurvy.

Insufficient vitamin E complex can lead to a wasting of muscles in the digestive tract, but is also essential to a healthy mucous membrane. All the amino acids(the building blocks of protein) are important to digestion and the digestive tract. Deficiencies of various amino acids have been associated with duodenal and gastric ulcers; nausea; lack of growth, maintainance or repair of tissue; excessive inflammation; impaired secretion of gastric juices; loss of muscular tone, etc. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc and others are required by the gastrointestinal tract also. Reported benefits to disorders like ulcers, reflex reactions (contractions, etc.), malabsorption, nerve balance, are numerous. Digestive aids are often needed until health of the digestive tract is improved to the point where digestion and absorption can be handled without added assistance. They tend to preserve the normal pH, maintain elasticity of connective tissues, and promote repair and healing reactions. They supply essential trace minerals, digestive enzymes, intrinsic factor (for absorption of B12) and detoxifying substances as well. These supplements have been reported as effective in ulcerative lesions (as in gastric or duodenal ulcers), indigestion, intestinal irritations, and so on. People are never "allergic" to natural foods.

Normal yeasts, bacteria and other "microorganisms" found in healthy bodies do not suddenly attack nor grow uncontrollably through the body. Imbalances and harmful progressions occur only when natural, normal systems have been ruined by poisons, toxins or unnatural "foods" perpetrated by man. Your cells know "you are what you eat." Attractive, happy surroundings in an atmosphere of gratitude to the Creator increase the efficiency of digestion and assimilation. Negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and discontent have an inhibitory effect on the functions of secretion and peristalsis. Thoughts affect the hypothalamus, which influences the autonomic nervous system to bring about these inhibitions. A prayer of thanksgiving before a meal, however, has a salutary effect on digestion.


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