In a previous blog, I mentioned the book “Ultraprevention” by Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D. According to Dr. Hyman, there are Five Forces of Illness. The First of these Forces is what he calls the “sludge” factor. Sludge (from a process I like to call “sludging”) is a term that means the result of abnormal or incomplete digestion and absorption of food. Many of us are deluded into thinking that eating “right” i.e., eating lean meats, fruits, vegetables and cereals while avoiding fatty foods, means that we don’t have to consider the possibility that we are malnourished. This is unfortunately untrue. Diet is important, of course, but how your body processes food is as important as the food itself.
Digestion, the breakdown of food into its components is complicated and involves several key players – the most important being hydrochloric acid from the stomach, pancreatic enzymes and bile from the liver/gallbladder. If all of these digestive factors are working well, then there should be no fats, carbohydrates or proteins in the fecal material. If there is, then either the digestion or absorption process has gone wrong. Many individuals, for example, say that they eat well – but have digestive problems like chronic diarrhea, constipation or abdominal pain that is unrelated to an overt pathology.
It is now known that there is a process, called endothelial dysfunction, which occurs in the lining of the stomach and digestive tract, the lining of the arteries, the lining of the bones, the skin and the blood-brain barrier . The same factors that cause inflammation in the gut can also cause inflammation in these other areas. When a patient presents with symptoms on the skin (like psoriasis or eczema), autoimmune reactions or demonstrated arterial disease, the first thing that an ND suspects is a problem with digestion or absorption leading to a state of malnutrition. Malnutrition in this sense is the chronic lack of certain essential nutrients that are either not being supplied in the diet or less-then-optimally absorbed that are necessary for the optimum functioning of the system in question.
70% of our immune system is located in the gut because swallowing “germs” is one of their major entrance routes into the body. Any protein that is not recognized as yours is considered a potential invader and attacked. The last thing that you want is your body to react against a food component.
Incomplete digestion is the major contributor for the digestion of food sensitivities. Food sensitivities occur when a food (especially protein) is not digested fully. These incomplete breakdown particles can enter the circulation and create an antibody response because they are seen by the body as a foreign protein.
One of the reasons food sensitivities develop is a lack of hydrochloric acid (or HCL) production by the stomach or enzymes by the pancreas. HCL is necessary for the breakdown of proteins into single amino acids. Single amino acids don’t trigger an immune response where tripeptides (three amino acids bound together) can. HCL is also necessary for mineral absorption. This is why individuals that are taking a drug like Tecta for overacid conditions on a daily basis will eventually suffer from osteopenia or soft bones – due to the reduction in mineral absorption. It has also been related, I believe, to creating low thyroid conditions – probably for the same reason.
In summary, chronic health conditions are usually related to problems with “sludging” or abnormal digestion and absorption of foods. This “sludge” interferes with the cell’s ability to optimally function and is one of the first signs of the beginning of illness.
In the next blog, we will talk about Force 2: Impaired Metabolism or Burnout.