Digestion is one of the most critical functions that affects aging, in the human body. To understand aging and how to keep your body from prematurely aging, you need to know how a healthy digestive process works.
Healthy Digestive Process
When nutrients enter the mouth, they are masticated and mixed with Saliva. Saliva refers to the complex mixture from the salivary glands. Saliva is approximately 99% water, it contains a variety of electrolytes and proteins, immunoglobulin’s and other antimicrobial factors. There are also glucose and nitrogenous products, such as urea and ammonia, in saliva.
A healthy person’s mean daily saliva production ranges from 1 to 1.5 Liters. Saliva is critical for preserving and maintaining the health of oral tissue. Mucins in saliva forms a lubricant, in the mouth that protects the oral tissue, against irritating agents, it also helps prevent oral dehydration. The normal salivary pH in healthy adults is from 6 to 7.5 pH and varies according to volume produced.
Saliva contains a spectrum of immunologic and non-immunologic proteins (IgA, IgG, IgM) with antibacterial properties. Saliva is responsible for the initial digestion, of starch and has little effect, on consumed proteins. Starch digestion, is mainly caused by the presence of the digestive enzyme Amylase (ptyalin), in the saliva. Amylase divides starches into maltose, maltotriose, and dextrins (converts starches to sugar). Amylase is not active in the acid environment of the stomach and digestive tract, it’s activity is limited to the mouth.
When the bolus, of nutrients, enters the stomach, it is mixed with hydrochloric acid (HCL) pepsin, the intrinsic factor and a host of other enzymes. The increased HCL production and the presence of food in the stomach, causes the stretch muscles, in the stomach, to notify the enteric nervous system, to increase peristaltic contractions. The peristaltic churning and hydrochloric acid breaks down the nutrients, into a thick semi-liquid mass, called chyme. During this process many bacteria and pathogens are destroyed by the strong HCL. The normal gastric pH of a healthy adult ranges between 1.0 to 1.3 pH. The Peptic enzymes break down and converts proteins, into proteoses and peptones. Peptones are the building blocks for the amino acids, necessary for sustaining life. The peptic enzymes are most active in converting proteins, when the pH of the HCL is a 1.0 to 1.3 pH. At this pH level, protein allergens are broken down and destroyed, preventing allergic and inflammatory reactions, when the chyme is moved into the small bowel.
The intrinsic factor (a glycoprotein) necessary for the absorption of B-12, in the small bowel, is only produced, in volume, when the strength of the HCL is at 1.0 to 1.3 pH.
The digestive system is endowed with its own, local nervous system, referred to as the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system, along with the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system make up the autonomic nervous system.
When the nutrient are broken down, sterilized and converted, they are transported by the action of peristalsis out of the stomach, into the small bowel. Control and regulation of the digestive process is done by the Autonomic Nervous system.
Though receptor cells in the stomach and upper duodenum, the transfer of chemical ions, to and from the enteric nervous system, controls how and when the nutrients are released from the stomach, into the small bowel. When the nutrients in stomach are completely broken down and converted, the pH of the chyme moves toward the neutral side. At pH range of 4.5 to 5.0 (average), the pyloric sphincter starts to relax and allow passage of the nutrient into the small bowel.
At this point in time, the nutrients entering the small bowel are void of bacteria, pathogens and allergens, because of the sterilization and conversions process that occurred in the stomach. Optimal absorption can now occur in the small bowel, by the tight junction of the paracellular route (isosmotic absorption) and transcellular route (active transport, or diffusion). A healthy digestive process will always aid in increasing longevity and maintaining a healthy immune system.
Unhealthy Digestive Process (Ageing)
Strong Hydrochloric acid (HCL), in the stomach, is absolutely necessary in maintaining a healthy digestive process. HCL is necessary, for maintaining a sterile environment, breaking down nutrients, and assisting the Peptic enzymes, in the stomach. As part of the aging process, many people will experience a reduction in the strength of the HCL (Hypochlorhydria) produced, by the stomachs parietal cells. A reduction in the HCL strength (Hypochlorhydria) can also be caused by certain medications like: antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s), antihistamines, mucus reducing medications and a host of other chemical medications. The parietal cells that produce the HCL can also be damaged by bacteria like, H. pylori, or Campylobacter bacteria.
Hypochlorhydria is a common condition that occurs in people over the age of 40, but it is not limited to any age groups. Sedentary lifestyle in younger people can also cause Hypochlorhydria When the strength of the HCL is diminished, the environment of the stomach is no longer sterile and malnutrition occurs. Nutrients entering the stomach are no longer completely broken down, or sterilized and bacteria, in many instances, are no longer destroyed.
Pepsin the enzyme responsible for the breaking down and conversion of proteins, becomes less active, as the strength of the acid decreases. Many proteins are allergens and will cause allergies and inflammation, if they are not destroyed, by the strong HCL and peptic enzymes. At pH 5.0, the Peptic enzymes are completely inactive in destroying allergens, in proteins. Because hypochlorhydria causes the strength of the HCL to become neutral, or alkaline, the enteric nervous system signals the pyloric sphincter, to relax. The pyloric pump now pumps the unsterilized and unconverted contents, of the stomach into the small bowel. When the raw contents of the stomach is prematurely dumped into the small bowel, allergic reactions and inflammation can result, because of protein allergens, bacteria and pathogens.
The premature dumping, of raw nutrients, will inhibit the body’s ability to absorb many vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients, necessary to support the immune system and body functions. Vitamin B-12 is no longer absorbed in the small bowel. because of low stomach acid. The acid producing cells, in the stomach, also produce the intrinsic factor (a glycoprotein), necessary for the absorption of Vitamin B-12, in the small bowel. When the cells are not producing strong HCL, they also stop producing the intrinsic factor. Hypochlorhydria reduces the absorption of many vitamins and minerals necessary to keep the body healthy. This is the primary cause of malnutrition. Hypochlorhydria also causes a reduction in peristaltic activity, which can reduce motility, of nutrients through the alimentary canal.
As the strength of the hydrochloric acid continues to decrease, hypochlorhydria now, becomes Achlorhydria (no stomach acid). There is no sterilization, or conversions, of nutrients consumed and bacteria and pathogens are allowed to flourish in the digestive tract. The immune system has no support and anemia will develop. Achlorhydria causes an extreme case of Malnutrition. There is no support, for many of the body functions, left untreated many of the body functions will cease to operate. Achlorhydria is not uncommon in the 70 and up age groups. Achlorhydria can occur at any age, if a person with Hypochlorhydria is prescribed Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), or other medications that are H2 antagonist.
Hypochlorhydria and Achlorhydria are two of the major causes of premature aging. In all cases Hypochlorhydria and Achlorhydria will cause malnutrition. Correcting these conditions will always improve absorption, of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, necessary to support the immune system and body functions. The key to increase longevity, and anti-aging is maintaining a healthy digestive, and immune system
The most accurate and effective methods of diagnosing Hypochlorhydria and Achlorhydria is with a pH Diagnostic test, pH Gastrogram test, or pH Capsule test.