The  lumen, or contents of our intestines, principally contains…Stomachache1

  1. What we ate (in some state of being reduced to absorbable nutrients),
  2. What we drank
  3. Digestive secretions to adjust pH
  4. Digestive secretions to enhance breakdown (enzymes), and
  5. Microbes (aka ‘beneficial bacteria’, but ‘beneficial’ yeasts live here too)

We intentionally add the first two without giving thought to adding the rest – and so it SHOULD be.   The microbes are already there (but perhaps dormant, see below), and the other secretions SHOULD be supplied during digestion.  So then why do people report feeling better when they add the rest -that is, taking their probiotics or their enzymes every day?   Somehow this supplementation practice doesn’t seem to address an underlying cause.  So you do no harm by taking probiotics and enzymes…unless they lull you into not finding and addressing the underlying cause.  There seems to always come a time when the cause-masking supplements stop working.  So what IS the underlying imbalance that is unaddressed by this practice?

Taking a probiotic is basically inoculating or seeding the GI tract with dormant microbes that come to life when their conditions are suitable.  This is like sowing seeds in the garden, which, from a common sense perspective, I wouldn’t repeat every day.  Why?   Because my soil is presumably suitable to support the growth of my first sowing.   AND FURTHERMORE, by design, the seeds will reproduce themselves and reseed themselves (if I don’t thwart their natural cycle).  So I don’t need to sow the same seeds in the same place every day.  So why would someone need to seed the GI tract every day?  Answer. Unsuitable terrain.

So then how is the terrain made suitable for the beneficial microbes, or ‘probiotics’ so that there is no need to keep planting them?   Well, let’s eliminate the so-called obvious.
It is NOT made suitable by the food we eat, which would be a bad design anyway.

FACTOID TO RECKON WITH:  Both enzymes and probiotics are sensitive to the pH of the terrain, and that is NOT controlled by food.  It is controlled by the acid from the stomach and the alkaline juices supplied from the liver and pancreas.

Good digestive capacity has sufficiently hot (acids) and cold (alkaline) contributions to the food in order to support the action of enzymes and maintenance of probiotics.

An analogy will be helpful here.   Older sinks had two valves – one handle for the hot water and one for the cold water – to control the water temperature coming out of the spigot.  The range of temps that you could get out of the spigot depends on (1) how hot the hot water supply was and (2) how cold the cold water supply was.   For example, if the hot water supply was 80 degrees max and the cold water was 50 degrees, then you can only adjust the spigot temp between 50 and 80 degrees.  Just 30 degrees.  That’s all.   But there may be some purposes (e.g. dishwasher) that cannot be accomplished inside that range BECAUSE they REQUIRE higher or lower temps.  On the other hand, if your hot water supply was 140 and your cold was 40, you have a greater range (100 deg) to work with, and could accomplish more tasks that require the water to be below 50 or above 80 degrees as in our first case.

So it is with digestion and lumen pH (lumen=intestinal contents).  Think of your stomach as supplying the hot acids (Hydrochloric Acid) (exit pH~1.5-3) and your liver and pancreas as supplying the cool alkalis (pH 7-9).   As digestion progresses, the lumen pH is intelligently adjusted according to the food received, BUT, it can only adjust within the pH range according to what the suppliers are capable of producing.  AND because enzyme and microbe activity occurs in proportion to their pH requirements, digestion may, or may not go well.  So if your hot is really hot, and your cold is really cold, then the range of foods that you can properly reduce without ill-effects is the largest.  You will have more enzyme activity and important microbes can come out of dormancy because the pH of the terrain is suitable, AND the ability of the probiotics to colonize (reseed themselves) and establish is improved, obviating the need to keep reseeding.

Our body, therefore, is designed to be self-regulating with regards to managing what is needed for digestion, namely, the gut lumen pH.

So as we approach closer to the root cause, one must ask:  Why isn’t my ‘hot’ so hot, or my ‘cool’ so cool?  According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (and my clients, and old time medical docs),  worry inhibits the production or release of stomach acid (see Hydrochloric Acid for all the important benefits).  Worriers can often feel a knot in their stomach and often report that proteins cause them problems, even forcing them to become vegetarians.  Those espousing the ‘therapeutic’ value of vegetarian diets are likely worriers.  But the problem is NOT with proteins nor with meat, nor even with enzymes and probiotics, but rather with worry.  It makes you not so hot!

The food enters the stomach from the top of the picture and first encounters the low pH (acid=hot) of the stomach (ideally). As the acid chyme moves into the intestines, higher pH juices (alkalizing=cool) from the pancreas and bile correct the pH for optimum digestion of what was eaten (ideally). So what could go wrong?

In our digestion, the cooling alkalis are released automatically in response to the hots coming from the stomach, so several imbalances can originate right here.

  • If the stomach has low acid from worry or acid blockers then little bile is released because it is not needed to manipulate the pH.  So your hot is kinda tepid.  (This means we are working only between 50 and 80 degrees, in our analogy.)  This is most unfortunate because the bile (cold) is needed for fat digestion AND is also a detoxification avenue for the liver.   Accumulation of bile can lead to gall stones.  This scenario accompanies constipation.
    In an attempt to lower the pH, digestive waste acids are used, but these are NOT near as potent as our HCl so we need a whole bunch more, depending on what was eaten.  That is what most people feel with acid reflux – a lot of low power acids attempting to lower pH so digestion happens.  That is why paradoxically the addition of HCl, or even betaine HCl relieves reflux.
  • If the stomach has sufficient acids but there is insufficient bile  or pancreatic supplies (cold), or the bile is very thick, then this can result in a low pH lumen (hot) resulting in ‘fast’ digestion and in severe cases even digestion of the mucus (protein) lining, diarrhea, and, with insufficient mucosal lining, ulcerations.  Thick bile develops from a diet high in carbs.

Worriers may want to begin a digestive scouring program using Betaine HCl (PDA) to clear out undigested proteins from the intestines and hopefully encourage bile flow and better digestion.  Simply begin with 3 PDA before each meal, or maybe 4 before a meal with a lot of protein.  You should know within a week if you have improved your digestion.

A visit to the liver post may elucidate other indicators of liver/gall bladder dysfunction (cold deficiency) and remedies for those.  There are numerous emotional issues that affect the digestive tract according to German New Medicine.  The Address the Stress post has many aides you can begin employing right away.  In the mean time you may consider oral Hydrochloric Acid therapy to help avoid serious diseases listed there.  And finally take your favorite herbs for stress, many of which are listed in the Address the Stress post.


5 Responses to Probiotics, Enzymes and Gut Lumen pH

  1. Judy Oleksik says:

    Had Chemo/radiation in 2011 and haven’t been able to get my PH in the correct zone. I take probiotic every day and don’t know what I am doing. Digestive enzymes since small bowel re-routed 12 years ago and I don’t feel any different.
    Interesting about Worry affecting digestion.

  2. Susan says:

    Hi Pat, I have my first appointment with you on 9/25. Since last Wed evening I have had a very intense burning from my adams apple to my breast bone. I have been drinking 2 ounces of kombucha daily and am wondering if I should or should not be drinking it. I am not diluting it. I was also wondering if aloe vera juice might help with the healing. Thank you, Susan

  3. barry says:

    I guess 99% of the earth population are worriers. So this means that everybody should take HCL drops, right?

    Timing of HCL is controversial, some say to take it right before meal, some say to take it in the middle of a meal, some say to take it right after a meal, some say to drink it from the beginning to the end of the meal…

    • PatBlockND says:

      If the liver is working well and not suppressed by meds or emotions, HCl production should be sufficient for all but the most gluttonous. So treat your liver, forgive your enemies, come to terms with the fact that you cannot control ANYTHING and don’t overeat – EVER.
      If used for digestion, the timing of HCl is not critical, provided the concentration is not excessively strong. Sipping it during the meal makes the most sense to me.

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