One major detriment of consuming our food in a sympathetic state, whose effects trickle down the entire length of our digestive tract, is the under-production of hydrochloric acid {a condition known as hypochlorhydria}.

When proper amounts of hydrochloric acid are not present in the stomach, particular enzymes are not triggered at the necessary times, giving way to a situation where only partially digested (or altogether UNdigested), putrefied, and ironically, excessively acidic food enters the small intestines for further digestion and absorption.  Unfortunately, without the proper acidity, this additional digestion intended to take place in the small intestines is not prompted, eventually resulting in fatty acid deficiencies.  The presence of this acidic, improperly digested food in our intestines contributes to further irritation and inflammation.  This inflammation causes a decrease in the area with which our intestines absorb nutrients from our food and secrete protective antibodies- our body’s “first responders”.  It also causes a decrease in the number of beneficial bacteria that create a protective “army” along the lining of our intestines, digesting certain toxins and further breaking down foods.

This perfect storm of all-too-common events creates a scenario in which undigested fats (as well as proteins and carbohydrates) are able to slip through our body’s natural defense systems.  Once in the blood stream, these substances are unrecognizable and are labeled as foreign invaders, triggering our body to do what it does best to such shady characters.. tag and destroy them, via the production of antibodies.

Once these antibodies attach to the foreign substance (called antigens, in the medical world), taking them hostage, in a manner of speaking- they are escorted on a death march, through the bloodstream for elimination in the liver.  This system would be a pretty good one, if it worked.. However (and it’s a BIG “however”), our poor livers are probably the most overworked and underpaid organ in our bodies.  Between the innumerable toxic chemicals in our environments, the additives in our food, the junk we slather on our skin and hair, and even the toxins produced by cell and bacteria death within our own bodies, our livers are bogged down with jobs to do and, consequently, don’t do them very well.  As a result, many substances escape our liver’s best intentions, among other things, allowing these little packages of undigested substances, matched with their antibody (called antibody/antigen complexes), to run amok in our bodies, encouraging our immune systems to produce ever increasing numbers of these complexes (and even to attack structures in our body whose sole crime is to simply resemble the original undigested material), causing allergic responses that become more and more severe over time.

The result of these immune reactions can be as benign as a stuffy nose, to as severe as a coma.  They can affect anything from your skin (in the form of a rash), to your lungs (in the form of asthma), to your digestive system (in the form of ulcerative colitis), to your mind (in the form of anxiety and learning disabilities), to your entire being (in the form of arthritis and chronic fatigue).

Just a little side note- As if this weren’t enough, some of the undigested fats enter a lymph duct, rather than making their way directly into the bloodstream.  This takes them on a journey through the lymphatic system, where they clog up traffic.  Lymph glands are found throughout our bodies, but are particularly numerous in our adipose (or fat) tissue.  The congestion of lymph fluid in our fat tissue gives a rippled, or lumpy, appearance that we’ve come to know and love, as cellulite.

High fiber and low stomach acid don’t mix.

I’ve seen the villainous phytate decried time and time again, yet never read an explanation that delved deep enough to satisfy my skepticism (though I obediently soak and ferment anyway, and do notice a huge difference in the way I feel).  I also didn’t realize that fiber itself can be guilty of the same infractions I’ve always placed at the feet of phytic acid.  Phytates seem to be particularly talented at binding with a number of minerals, as they happen to be floating around our digestive tracts together.  As the pH of our stomachs increase.. and not even by much, in the case of particular minerals, these “bound up” complexes become very insoluble, very unabsorbable.. and begin to precipitate out of our bodies to be excreted.  This may beget a downward spiral, as our bodies become deficient in these minerals and are unable to heal and rebound from even a relatively innocuous bout of low stomach acid.

When a stomach is inflamed, parietal cells die.

As I’ve learned more and more about the numerous hazards of low stomach acid, I’ve been rattled by one really big elephant in the room- Why does this happen?  I’ve searched through books and google and PubMed’ed, but basically, the answer I come up with is “We don’t know”.  The majority of pieces avoid the topic altogether.  I actually wish that the authors had spent more time discussing the matter in this book, but one small section in Chapter 6 addressed the issue with an interesting specificity.  They referred to a Finnish study performed in the late 1970s, which verified that milk-intolerant infants who were continually fed milk, suffered severe damage to their mucosal linings and parietal cells, atrophic gastritis, and therefore severe hypo- or achlorhydria.  After being switched onto a less allergenic form of nutrition, it took these infants an average of SIX MONTHS to regain normal HCL production.. and this, in an organ that regenerates all of its cells every 1-4 days!

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