In part1 and part 2 of this series on understanding pH, we discussed the role of chewing and the role of the stomach. While those are the most important parts of the discussion, there is a key job that must be done here at the small intestine where food reactions can occur. What happens at the small intestine is one prime factor in understanding pH and alkaline blood. A real alkaline diet is more about a healthy gut and acidifying the gut lining than about trying to manipulate blood pH with specific foods and supplements. Further, when it comes to understanding what your body is doing with inflammation, bloat and weak digestion, this discussion will prove helpful.
To begin with, let’s discuss the chemistry of the small intestine a bit. There are two key relationships of interest:
- The upper most small intestine, known as the duodenum, should be pretty sterile without any flora growing in it. If there is poor stomach action or if there is not enough bile flow, friendly flora may creep up in there. This can cause dysfunction of the sphincter of Oddi and can even get into the bile and pancreatic ducts causing liver and pancreatic malfunction.
- In the small intestine, the acidic contents of the stomach is neutralized by the most alkaline substance secreted by the human body —bile. Bile neutralizes the contents, but the bowel wall, mucus membranes and glandular tissues are all acidic when they are healthy.
One challenge that comes out of this information is what to do with a person whose flora is distressed but who has also a poor functioning stomach or bile secretions? The introduction of flora supplements may make the overgrowth in the duodenum worse, rather than better. Some flora supplements are enterically coated and will only open in the large intestine. That would be one solution. In my practice, I usually recommend against flora supplements in the beginning, but I do occasionally recommend rejevelac enemas. We will pause here to interject a basic rejuvelac recipe and then we will move on.
Rejuvelac may be made with any true grain (true grains grow on grasses). It is best if it is healthy grain that could sprout so that its chemistry is well to start with. I usually use millet, but any grain will work. For weak and thin people, rye may be a better choice. I put one inch of grain in the bottom of a glass jar. This I cover with distilled water and let sit overnight either uncovered or with just a cloth over it on the counter.
In the morning, I pour off the water and discard it or water plants with it. Then I refill the jar with distilled water and I repeat, allowing it to sit this time 24 hours or until the following morning. By this time the water is smelly and bubbly. This is rejuvelac. This is the liquid that we generally use either as an enema or in a fruit and green leafy smoothie. Usually, only one cup of rejuvelac is needed per day and the rest can be stored quite a while in the fridge.
After pouring off the water the first time, I refill and repeat for the following morning. This can be done 3-5 times before the grain starts to fall apart so much that it is messy and kind of unpleasant. By the time I am done I also have a pretty good stock in the fridge. I usually recommend a two week daily use to restore flora, no matter which end it enters. People with dangerously low immune response should use caution or not use rejuvelac.
Let me repeat, in the beginning of a healing program, I do not use rejuvelac by mouth or any other flora supplement except one. This one is specific for acidifying the small intestine. It poses no threat to the duodenum and will help prevent a variety of abnormal flora problems. This is a Standard Process product called, Lactic Acid Yeast. This product is a single yeast that has but one behavior: it eats carbohydrates and produces lactic acid.
There is a poor man’s way to produce lactic acid in the gut. That is with raw sour kraut. The sour in sour kraut is a lot of lactic acid. When I have a person who cannot get Standard Process products for some reason, I have them chew up 1 tablespoon of raw sour kraut with the midday meal only. This, in conjunction with plenty of raw vegetables, is a recipe for a more acidic gut lining. In healthy people living natural lives without unnatural stressors, we would make plenty of our own sour kraut in the gut. That is not the world we live in, however, so we have to improvise.
This brings up the next point. When we are under high stress, the gut becomes alkaline and the blood becomes acidic. The digestion shuts down and the stomach stops working. Some people think that stress gives them too much acid, but acid reflux should not be confused with too much acid. The reverse is usually true. If there is enough acid in the stomach when food comes, there will generally be no acid reflux in most people. A few actually get the acid surge from acute stress but if the stress persists the reverse will be the problem.
Computer time also alkalizes the gut and lowers stomach function. There are interesting technologies to help prevent this—interesting, but nowhere near adequate. There is just no way to fix the fact that humans have no part of their design that suggests they should be in front of a computer for hours on end. Chewing is probably the single-most powerful way to keep the gut pH healthy. However, we also have yarrow tea, which is very helpful for the small intestine. This I give by the cupful 1 time daily.
When the gut is too alkaline, and difficulty digesting food comes in, problems may arise from poorly digested food fragments getting through the gut. The gut is susceptible to this leakage because it is not repairing properly per its high pH. Those undigested particles will invite immune involvement. This leads to inflammation and degeneration of tissues where the immune particles (called antibody-antigen complexes) settle.
Some foods seem to be not only hard to digest but hard to eliminate, particularly processed white flour. Here we see a problem that can get bigger. The gluten, which is a gluey protein, can cause more persistent immune reactions at the gut. This can cause a breakdown of tissues that results in what is an allergen-dependent autoimmune disease. This is known as Celiac’s disease.
In truth, all autoimmune diseases are allergen-dependent, it is just a cumulative effect, rather than a single allergen such as gluten in Celiac’s.
Whenever there is a long-term, persistent inflammation, even if indirect, such as when antigen-antibody complexes settle in a weak or previously injured tissue, there will be eventual breakdown of the tissues. When the tissues are actually damaged, then an auto-immune disease appears where the body creates antibodies to clean up those dying cells so that the DNA does not go make those cells somewhere in the body that they do not belong (like a knee growing in your lung—that would be inconvenient!).
Repair, then, of the small intestine and maintenance of it, is very important. Enter low pH of the gut and the two options for making lactic acid in the small intestine we mentioned earlier.
A good many people struggle in frustration or have intense carbohydrate cravings for lack of low gut pH. Many are (against my express counsel) using pH strips all the time, checking and feeling frustrated at acidic blood again. This is the end result of the gut pH and there is really no way to fix this. It is true, you can alkalize the blood with supplements or a strict food regime, but this is manipulation and is more like drug therapy than natural healing. We want the body to do the healing and use its innate intelligence. It is much smarter than we are. For this reason, we try to get the gut healthy and let the blood health follow.
When there is a lot of immune reaction to particular undigested food particles getting through the gut, the body gets specifically sensitive to that food. The result is known as a food reaction. It is not a full-blown allergy, though it is similar in what happens with the immune system. The difference is that it does not cause closing of the throat or trouble breathing as allergies might. It does cause inflammation and bloat, however. It also causes the release of endorphins.
The truth about food addictions usually involves endorphins that the body releases to help your brain deal with inflammatory reactions. The “happy” part of feeling “fat and happy” after a good meal comes from the endorphins. The “fat” part comes from the inflammation at the gut. Feeling “fat and happy” after a meal is never a good thing and should be avoided at nearly all cost. If any food will do it, the person might fast on water for a bit, maybe a few days or more. Then the person can try a very low inflammation, very simple diet that they chew well.
The small intestine absorbs the overwhelming majority of our nutrition. Proteins can be absorbed in the stomach and a few minerals and trace minerals may also be extracted from the sigmoid colon (only if it is raw vegetable matter in there), but the overwhelming majority of the nutrition we need comes through the small intestine. Thus instead of a bag of supplements, it is always a better idea to simply adjust the diet to one that is less inflammatory and that is simpler and chewed better. In my consults, I teach a low or zero inflammation diet.
I frequently take people off of their bag of supplements and I never see deficiency from it but quite the reverse. Complexity is the enemy of our day, not the shortage of supplements or some miracle nutrient. Such hastening to buy the newest exotic nutrient (as I see so often in my practice) is unwise and unbalanced, and does not ever produce real health.
The last point to cover is the relationship of normal gut activity to healthy thyroid and adrenal glands. Healthy thyroid function ensures proper cellular activity in every tissue of the small intestine. Healthy adrenal function helps insure control of immune reactions. Healing these does not fit here and will wait for another time, but some attention should be given to them in any case that is stubborn.
So we have covered the pH of the small intestine. Next time we will talk about the actual dietary choices that we need to follow to produce healthy pH of the gut and healthy gut function in our modern world.