As was already discussed in the first chapter, different foods require different digestive enzymes to be active in order to be broken down and properly digested. One enzyme might require an alkaline environment to work and another might require an acidic environment. A neutral solution or environment will not allow the optimal acti vation of either an acid-dependent enzyme or an alkali-dependent enzyme. Whenever digestive contents tend toward neutrality, digestion must proceed as best it can, without much assistance from either the acid- or alkali-activated digestive enzymes. Of course, such digestion is significantly impaired, but does still proceed as best it can. There are enzymes of lesser importance that can still be active in a pH-neutral environment.
When digestion is impaired for whatever reason, actual rotting of food can coexist with the digestive process. The amount of this spoilage will generally relate to how completely the physiology of digestion was offended. If the concept of having rotting food sitting inside your digestive tract somehow conflicts with your common sense, remember that the entire digestive tract is filled with bacteria. While much of the bacterial population has important and beneficial effects in the proper processing of food when digestion is proceeding properly, the opposite can easily occur when proper digestion has been impaired. Anyone's digestive tract, given the opportunity, is an absolutely perfect environment to promote bacterial growth far beyond its desirable level. The inside of the gut is warm and wet. When bacteria and undigested food are added to this environment, you have an ideal culture medium for most common bacteria. The bowel movements of some people can make a bathroom unusable for an extended period of time, while the bowel movements of other people are almost free of any significant foul odor. This illustrates the difference between good and bad digestion.
Similarly, stomach contents do not have to be foul smelling, although many people think that is the case. There are enough occasions in the practice of medicine when there is the need to empty the stomach through a tube. Hospital workers can all tell you that stomach contents do not always smell poorly. However, when one gets sick enough to vomit, the contents are usually putrid and malodorous. The urge to vomit is often directly related to the ongoing rotting of the stomach contents after the normal digestive process had been inhibited or already spoiling food had been eaten. The stomach represents the last point at which the body can easily rid itself of rapidly rotting food. If the stomach lets its contents into the duodenum and beyond, diarrhea will be the only mechanical way to get rid of the increasingly toxic food mass, but not before the very absorptive small intestine admits significant toxins into the bloodstream.
It is precisely because of this relatively delicate balance between the proper digestion of foods and the potential rotting of those foods that food combining principles are so important. If you research these concepts further on your own, you will also find that food combining has its very vocal critics. Of course, every health recommendation has its supporters and critics. I would advise you to let your body be your guide. If, after combining your foods properly, you find that your gas, belching, bloating, heartburn, and flatulence are lessening (or even disappearing!) for the first time in memory, I doubt that you'll be very interested in giving much consideration to what the critics of food combining have to say.
Most of the concepts of food combining are supported by the most basic of scientific principles, as well as by common sense. The enzyme ptyalin in the saliva is most active when in a medium that is very close to neutral in pH. Most salivas are normally very close to this neutral pH, which allows the ptyalin to function. Ptyalin is an amylase that initiates the breakdown of carbohydrates and starches into simpler sugars. If not interrupted before reaching the intestinal amylases beyond the stomach, this carbohydrate breakdown can be up to 75 percent complete just from the effect of this initial amylase in the saliva.
What will reliably interrupt this process is a strongly acidic environment. When unstimulated without the active secretion of its own digestive enzymes, the stomach can also be close to pH neutrality in its resting state. In this case, a starch that began its processing in the mouth can continue its proper digestion even after arriving in the stomach. However, when protein—especially animal protein—is eaten at the same time, the stomach rapidly produces acid and acid-activated enzymes. When the starchy food from the mouth then completely mixes with these acidic stomach contents, the ptyalin from the mouth stops working. The starch and carbohydrate then have a greater opportunity to ferment (rather than digest normally) before their proper breakdown can resume in the duodenum and beyond.
Whenever any stage of the digestive process is kept from doing its job properly, the food cannot proceed to complete digestion. Just because the small intestine also has enzymes that can break down carbohydrate and starch doesn't mean it has an unlimited capacity to compensate for a lack of digestion being properly started in the mouth and continuing in the stomach. Also, the enzymes of the small intestine cannot aid in the digestion of food before the food reaches the small intestine. This means that any fermentation or rotting that begins in the stomach cannot be reversed or neutralized when the food finally reaches the small intestine. In short, only food that has not yet decayed can continue its proper digestion in the small intestine.
Another principle that further promotes this abnormal digestive fermentation is that carbohydrate and starch by themselves will usually pass through the stomach much more rapidly than when combined with a high-protein food. When forced to sit around in the stomach longer than necessary, bacteria rather than enzymes get a greater opportunity to feed and metabolize upon such food. Bacterial counts are normally suppressed by the stomach acid, but these counts will not stay low indefinitely when the starch is not allowed to leave the stomach fairly promptly. Such fermentation not only interrupts the proper digestion of starchy food into glucose and other simple sugars, it also causes these starches to be converted to toxic organic compounds. The substances that are commonly formed from the fermentation of starchy foods in the place of their proper digestion are acetic acid, alcohol, butyric acid, and lactic acid. To further worsen this process, the presence of any of these organic acids in the stomach will lessen the subsequent secretion of the gastric juice essential to the breakdown of any protein eaten. When the stomach already senses the presence of significant additional acidity, it naturally thinks less additional acid needs to be produced, resulting in a decreased release of acid from some of the stomach cells. And to make things worse, the stomach cells that release the essential digestive enzymes needed to break down the protein are inhibited in this release by this extra acid. This means that the presence of more abnormal acids in the stomach either from highly acidic foods or from the process of fermentation results in a smaller total amount of stomach enzymes available to help the digestion. High stomach acid content alone does not digest food.
Of course, there are enormous individual variations in much of human physiology, and the ability to withstand the digestive stresses noted above will vary widely among different people. However, even if you feel that you digest food perfectly well now without respecting these principles, you will still be doing yourself and your immune system a big favor by following them anyway. Youth and good genes can overcome a lot, but a lifetime of digestive stress will just cause any immune collapse occurring later in life to be more profound and difficult to reverse.
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Gastroesophageal reflux disease is the medical term for what we know as acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when the stomach releases its liquid back into the esophagus, causing inflammation and damage to the esophageal lining. The regurgitated acid most often consists of a few compoundsbr acid, bile, and pepsin.