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Intestinal Toxemia

by David N Roderick(more info)

listed in colon health, originally published in issue 13 - July 1996

"Intestinal Toxemia" – Is it a fact or fancy? The student should be informed as to a general attitude of some authorities towards intestinal toxemia. A typical statement is: "Constipation and intestinal toxemia is a much overrated condition, used by quacks and vendors of stomach remedies to sell their wares by frightening the reader into images of toxins being absorbed into the bloodstream". There is, no doubt, a great misuse of information in this regard. However, this fact should not cause us to discount the existence of toxemia entirely. Its exact role in relation to health is difficult to determine. Let us discuss the subject.
The local environment of the intestinal tract – as previously stated – is not "within the body itself".

Although very important to general health, the environment of the intestinal tract has not received the attention it deserves from investigators. This is probably because although one can easily take blood or urine samples, or even biopsies of tissues and study them in the laboratory, the actual happenings in the intestinal tract itself do not lend themselves well to this type of analysis. The mysteries of the intestinal environment are still far from being solved.

A sensible attitude would be to apply common sense hygienic measures, attending to the "cleanliness" of the intestinal environment with at least as much concern as with external sanitation. Certainly, if reasonable care brings about a better feeling of general health, one cannot be critical of the origin of its mechanism. The "proof of the pudding is in the eating" and the participant is the best judge of the benefits that may mature.

There is probably no more common complaint heard by doctors than ones involving the gastro-intestinal tract. Many of these complaints he can diagnose, many he cannot. He may dismiss some complaints as "being too vague", others he may treat. In any event, a high degree of responsibility rests upon the patient's shoulders to select or follow a diet that will be most conducive to his welfare, which, in this case, concerns the local intestinal environment. There are many common sense nutritional practices that can be followed.
In order to take the best advantage of the diet in support of intestinal care, it is necessary to understand something of the workings of the intestinal tract. Let us take a brief sight-seeing journey along its course.
Food entering the mouth is chewed and moistened with saliva preparatory to swallowing. Swallowing consists of a series of muscular contractions in the throat (oesophagus) which propel the food into the stomach.

Before proceeding, let us not forget the nasal cavity. This is directly connected at the upper level of the oesophagus. When "catarrh" or postnasal drip (sinus drainage) is present, these secretions may drain into the throat to be swallowed. One should realise that this may be a source of toxins being introduced into the intestinal environment.

Food entering and leaving the stomach is regulated by two sphincters. A sphincter is a ring-like muscle which opens and closes a natural orifice. Imagine it as a drawstring on a cloth bag. Food entering the stomach is under the control of the cardiac sphincter. Food leaving the stomach is governed by the pyloric sphincter. These sphincters are controlled by the nervous system. There may be uncoordinated opening and closing of these sphincters which can be the cause of much discomfort.

In so far as the process of digestion is concerned, the stomach is not an important organ. It acts primarily as a reservoir for food, prior to its entrance into the small intestines where most digestion occurs. From a "nervous" or neurological point of view however, the stomach is often a cause of concern. Many cases of so-called "nervous indigestion" are caused by the entrapment of gas or food in the stomach, caused by failure of nervous control. The common practice of giving "stomach patients" a soft drink is based upon the principle that carbonic acid (CO) has a sedative effect. Ortho-phosphoric acid also has an effect which is beneficial in neurological control of the stomach sphincters.

In severe disruption of the stomach's coordinated movements, vomiting may occur. This is a reverse peristalsis. Lesser disruption may cause nausea or simply "butterfly cramps". Potassium often helps to relieve these neurological symptoms. Cream of Tartar, found in grape juice, is often beneficial. (Cream of Tartar is potassium bitartrate.)

Semi-solid food in the stomach is formed into a ball or bolus, and is gradually released into the small intestine. There it is acted upon by the gastric juices, pancreatic and liver secretions (bile) and digestive enzymes. It is in the area of the small intestine that the most essential functions of digestion and absorption occur. Let us examine this area closely.

If we examine a small section of the small intestine with the naked eye, it appears to be covered with an infinite number of small hair-like protuberances. It resembles and feels like a velvet cloth. However, when we examine this same tissue under a microscope, the living tissue presents an amazing field of intense activity. The protuberances are called villi. We see that each villi is independently changing shape. (Some have a pumplike action, others wave to and fro like wind blowing over a field of wheat.) All of this activity has but one purpose. It is to absorb the liquefied food products produced by digestion.

It is useful to think of the villi as tiny "rootlets" that feed upon the food we eat, just as the roots of a plant feed upon nutrients in the soil. Many of the influences that affect plant rootlets may also affect the rootlets of our intestinal tract, the villi. We know, for example, that the absorption of nutrients in the soil is dependent upon ionic exchanges. The same is possible for the villi. There are a number of other comparisons that might be made, but let us continue our journey.

Some constituents of food remain undigested in the small intestines. Cellulose, various other carbohydrates, proteins and fats may remain undigested. A small amount of undigested food is normal and to be expected. However, when the amount of undigested food becomes great there is a danger that it may act as a focus for bacteria – which are always present – and rancid, fermented, or putrefied end products may result.

The contents of the small intestine have been in a watery medium. The fluidity of its contents is necessary for digestion. Now, however, when the intestinal contents reach the colon, it becomes desirable to remove most of the water prior to the process of defecation.

The colon (large bowel) is admirably equipped to perform this dehydration process. The healthy colon will absorb only water from the mass. A diseased colon, however may absorb toxins as well Faeces is the result of the dehydration of the product.' of the intestinal tract after digestion. Of what does it consist?

Contrary to popular opinion, faeces is not simply undigested food, such cellulose. That is only a par of the composition. Faeces is about 25 to 30 percent solids, the remainder is water. Bacteria comprise about one third of the dry weight. Only a small amount of actual food residue is present. Mucous and cells shed from the intestinal mucous are present. There is also bile, fat and unabsorbed intestinal secretions With this composition of faeces in mind, it is easy to understand why bowel movements continue, even during a fast. It is also important to note that the bowel movements are not nearly so related to food intake as many people believe. Many factors other than food intake are concerned.

Food entering the stomach finds an acid medium (hydrochloric acid and other adds). In the intestines the medium is alkaline (bile and pancreatic juices). The desirable pH of the colon is slightly acid (7.0 to 7.5). The acidity in the colon is under the influence of the acidophilic (acid-loving) bacteria. These form lactic or formic acid as a result of their metabolism and are generally referred to as the "friendly bacteria". This is for the reason that adds they form tend to reduce the putrefactive processes.

The process of defecation is under neurological control. Both voluntary and involuntary nerve impulses are involved. The stimulus is provided by the presence of a bulky mass, acting somewhat in the manner of a pressure valve. Since, as we have explained, the contents of the colon are related to the food intake in only a minor way, the idea of "having a bowel movement after each meal" is an erroneous one. There seems to be no set pattern. Generally speaking, one bowel movement in 24 hours is to be expected. However, this rate varies considerably with individuals and longer intervals should ordinarily be no great matter of concern. Constipation should be more accurately reserved for those who have difficult bowel movements or suffer symptoms as a result of irregular evacuations.

Intestinal toxemia is another thing. It may have no relation to constipation. In fact, it is the other way around. Intestinal toxemia is more likely to result in diarrhoea. This is because intestinal toxins act as irritants and the body attempts to rid itself of the effects of this irritation.

Three types of toxins may be present in the intestinal tract. These are as follows:

1. PUTREFACTION – caused by the spoilage of protein. Guanidine, histamine and other organic toxins may be formed as a result of bacterial action.

2. RANCIDITY – caused by the spoilage of fats. This may occur either locally or from the ingestion of rancid fats. The end product of rancidity is peroxides which are harsh irritants.

3. FERMENTATION – caused by the production of gas by bacterial action. Carbohydrates are primarily concerned. Nitrogen is the principal component of intestinal gas. A certain amount of intestinal gas (flatulence) is to be expected in normal persons.

Nature is normally a good intestinal housekeeper. Both bile and hydrochloric acid have antiseptic effects. Digestive enzymes assist by keeping down the presence of undigested foods. Many foods have a beneficial effect in maintaining the intestinal environment. Some foods are to be watched with a suspicious eye.

Recently, a number of articles have appeared in medical journals reporting on malabsorption syndrome caused by the eating of a common food. The offending factor discussed is gluten. found in wheat. Gluten is the substance in wallpaper paste which provides it with its adhesive quality. It is a protein. Ordinarily it is digested, but some may have difficulty with its digestion and it may coat the intestinal tract. When we think of the vital work performed by the villi, we realise the seriousness of this invasion into the intestinal environment.

Milk is another food that may have this effect in susceptible individuals. The protein in milk is casein. Again, as with gluten from wheat, casein makes an excellent adhesive, casein glues being made from it. Does milk also coat the intestinal tract in certain individuals?

It is well known that milk and wheat products are high on the list of common foods to which people may become allergic. Yet, most all will agree that milk and wheat are good foods. What seems to be a logical answer? Perhaps it is the fact that both milk and wheat tend to become major items in proportion to other foods in the diet. Perhaps we simply eat "too much" of them. It would seem reasonable to limit both milk and wheat in the diet, at least where a coating of the intestines is to be suspected.

It is relatively simple to determine these effects for yourself. Just omit milk and wheat products entirely from your diet for a week or two. If appreciable benefits are noted, you have the answer. It may be a very rewarding experience.

Extracted from Nutritional Education Guidance Course by David N Roderick, President of Enzyme Process, USA. 1993.


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