Digestion, Intestines (Bowel), Liver, Gall Bladder, Pancreas
When chewing food, the length of time it stays in the mouth and the size of the food particles matters. During the chewing process, the body adds two digestive enzymes that are not introduced anywhere else in the body, which begins the digestive process. It is also important to macerate the food into a paste-like material, which allows the next stage of digestion to work more efficiently in the stomach.
The body uses hydrochloric acid and salts (potassium chloride and sodium chloride) in the stomach to essentially dissolve food into sludge, kill unsupportive bacteria and emulsify fat further on in the digestive process. Hydrochloric acid is an extremely strong acid and is often used in industry to burn through metal or clean concrete. However your stomach is the only part of the anatomy (other than the duodenum) that produces a thin mucus coating, preventing the acid from eating through the stomach wall — incredible really!
If food remains too acidic further in the digestive process — into the small intestines and colon — it can lead to gastric ulcers and Crohn’s disease.
One of the main functions of the stomach is to temporarily house food until dissolved enough to pass onto the duodenum. If not for this, you would have to eat continuously, but fortunately, the stomach houses enough food for one to two hours and progressively allows enough food through to the bowel for digestion, leaving the remainder until later.
Simply seeing, smelling and tasting food triggers cells on the stomach wall to release hydrochloric acid and digestive salts so the digestive process can start immediately, so be careful of fast food advertising on TV, which designed to stimulate a response. The stomach produces a little over 1 litre (2.2 pints) of hydrochloric acid every day. Many people mistakenly believe the stomach has a pool of hydrochloric acid into which the food drops.
When the food is adequately liquefied by the mouth and stomach acid, a valve called the pyloric sphincter at the bottom of the stomach lets the acid / food mix through to the duodenum, the first of three stages of the small intestine. The duodenum is about 23 cm long (9”) and is horse-shoe shaped, cradling the pancreas.
Much of the iron and calcium in food is absorbed through the duodenum, which also regulates the rate of emptying of the stomach through hormonal pathways.
Here the highly acidic mix is blended with sodium bicarbonate released from the wall of the duodenum and bile from the liver and gall bladder, as well as bicarbonate and salts from the pancreas. The pancreas also releases insulin depending on the blood-sugar levels and digestive enzymes from activity and food eaten 15–60 minutes ago.
This mix of food, acid, bile, bicarbonate and insulin is churned around in the duodenum to form a caramel-brown liquid called ‘chyme’. Chyme has the colour and consistency of gravy. The brown colour comes from the greenish-yellow bile, which gives faeces its brown colour and urine its yellow tinge.
Bicarbonate Neutralises Acid
If you know much about basic chemistry, you’ll know that bicarbonate neutralises acid. You may have seen car batteries with white or green growth (acid) on the terminals. When you add bicarbonate of soda, the growth fizzes and dissolves (neutralises) and is rendered harmless. The same happens when bicarbonate is added to the acid mix from the stomach — it neutralises the acid so the chyme can advance further without being too acidic and burning into body tissue.
If your liver or pancreas are diseased or dysfunctional, or you’ve had your gall bladder removed through surgery, your body is likely to add less bicarbonate, therefore allowing the chyme to remain more acidic, creating a more acidic environment for your organs to function in.
It’s been shown that cancer thrives in an acidic environment. Cancer has been shown to regress and sometimes disappear when the body is made more alkaline through better food, water, thought (stress reduction and attitude) and supplementation choices.
The next two sections, the jejunum and the ileum are commonly known as the small intestine; however, coupled with the duodenum, all three parts officially make up the small intestine.
Overall, the small intestine is around 5.4 to 6.4 metres (21 ft) in length and is about 38mm in diameter (1½ in).
It’s in the small intestine where most of the uptake of oil and fat-based vitamins and minerals are absorbed and transferred via a series of blood vessels that lead to the portal vein and then into the liver for conversion into energy the body can use (gluten and ATP). These smaller blood vessels are imbedded within a thin sheath of clear tissue called the superior mesenteric artery. This sheath also contains visceral fat (also known as omentum), and it’s in this area that, if we are going to put weight, (belly) fat accumulates which is an indicator of future disease.
Each section of the small intestine has a specific role. The duodenum introduces bicarbonate and mixes this with food to form chyme, while the jejunum is where 90 percent of the vitamin and mineral uptake happens, especially any carbohydrates and protein, and the ileum is where the fats and oils are treated and dispersed into the bloodstream. Minerals like phosphorous, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium and similar, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K1 are absorbed into the body in the small intestine. Vitamin K1 is plant-based and K2 is produced by gut flora in the colon later on in the process, however some K1 is converted to K2 in the small intestine too.
Normally the intestines process around 11 litres (2.5gal) of liquid, food and body waste every day.
As chyme enters the jejunum from the duodenum, small finger-like extensions (villi) on the wall of the small intestine, absorb the nutrients from the food/beverage ingested where they are then sent directly to the liver to be converted to energy. The villi on the inside wall of the small intestine increase the surface area to around 19m2 (200 sq ft) for maximum absorption.
The second half of the small intestine (ileum) is where vitamin B12 is absorbed and bile salts (from the liver/gall bladder/stomach/pancreas) act like detergent and partially breaks down fat and oil particles which are transported via the blood vessels to the body’s blood stream, which eventually travels through the liver to be metabolised as energy or stored as fat (in the liver initially).
If you eat more fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates (white flour, pasta, and so on) than the bile salts and insulin can deal with, then you may literally have fat particles floating around your blood and (like in a river), the fat particles can gather on the inside of bends and joints, causing partial blockages of the arteries, eventually leading to heart disease, stroke or both. Studies conducted by Dr Lester Morrison and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn Jnr have shown that this situation can be reversed through diet alone.
Located under the right ribcage for protection, the liver is the largest single organ in the body, apart from the skin, (weighing 1.5–2kg (3–4lbs)) and is a vital and magical organ which, along with the colon, governs the long-term health of all other organs in the body. If there is an ailment elsewhere in the body, it’s likely that the origins can be traced back to the colon which may be blocked (to some degree), constipated, diseased, or toxic; therefore the liver may be diseased, toxic and dysfunctional too.
The aptly named ‘liver’ is derived from the Old-English word ‘lifer’ because a properly functioning liver gives life and if the liver is diseased or dysfunctional, life is bound to be shortened.
Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K1 (absorbed from the small intestine) are stored in the liver if not used immediately. Water-soluble vitamins B complex and vitamin C (from the colon) are not stored and require ingestion regularly. The liver also receives oxygenated blood from the lungs before it is passed onto the heart for distribution around the body.
Generally the liver deactivates toxins like ammonia, rendering it to a more harmless chemical called ‘urea’, which is excreted through the kidneys. Toxins introduced from external sources (for example lead, mercury, fluoride) that can’t be eliminated or processed immediately are passed through the liver and generally imbed themselves in fat, muscles, bones and other organs. In this way the liver becomes as toxic as the rest of the body. Toxins produced through stress, negative thoughts and emotions (electro-chemical reactions in the brain) tend to be stored in specific organs or parts of the body, depending on the body’s overall health and stress level at the time. This is how worry and anger can cause ulcers, high blood pressure, and other problems.
If a segment of the liver is cut out, for example through surgery, the liver can regenerate that segment. It’s the only organ in the body to have this regenerative ability — that’s why I call it magical — along with the amazing chemical and filtration work it does.
The liver converts ALL the food we eat (presuming the bowel correctly digest that food) into energy that our muscles use and, while it’s doing that, it’s filtering toxins and discarding them through the bile it creates every day, which also includes cholesterol for lubricating the blood. The liver also breaks down fatty acids and produces blood plasma proteins used for clotting blood. However, the liver will also store toxins that it can’t breakdown, therefore over the longer term can become diseased if not cared for and cleansed regularly.
Little Stress Feedback
Because of its regenerative ability, the liver often doesn’t show signs of stress until it is truly overwhelmed. Even when 75–90 percent of the liver is diseased or damaged, the liver can continue to function in an apparent, normal way with little indication of the stress it’s under. By the time feedback is felt, it’s often too late. Because of the lack of problem-signalling feedback, the liver needs ongoing maintenance and care.
The entire body’s blood is filtered through the liver every three minutes, which gives an indication of how vital the liver is. If the liver is toxic and dysfunctional, the resultant blood may carry minute and toxic particles, which can become trapped within other organs, joints and the lymph glands. Do this around 500 times a day with 1.4 litres (3 pints) of blood passing through the liver every minute and you can easily see how cancer can spread from the bowel or liver to other areas of the body.
The liver also filters used, dead cells, waste and toxins from the body which are carried by bile and blood for elimination through the colon and kidneys in the form of faeces and urine. If the liver, colon or kidneys are dysfunctional, the body will pass some of the burden onto other normal elimination systems like mucus (sinuses, lungs and throat), skin (rashes, pimples, boils) or eyes (red eyes, tears).
The Liver Converts Food to Energy
The liver metabolises the vitamins and minerals absorbed from the small intestine and colon into energy molecules (generally glucose) that are transported to every organ and muscle in the body via the blood. This effectively gives us the energy to breathe, create heartbeats, walk, move, and think. If you supply your body with junk or low-energy food, you will have less energy and more waste, fat and toxins, therefore, you can feel chronically fatigued most of the time and eventually diseased. It’s pretty simple really — input creates outcome.
However, if you decide to clean up your act and suddenly begin to eat well or exercise or both, this may give permission for the liver and body to begin detoxing and you can often feel even worse in the short term. Over the longer term however, you may be dispersing toxins that could potentially be the seeds of your future chronic or fatal diseases, low quality of life and premature passing.
One of the main chronic liver diseases is cirrhosis, which is a broad diagnosis of a permanently damaged or scarred liver, usually leading to cancer. Cirrhosis is mostly caused by excessive alcohol, hepatitis or an inflamed/fatty liver, but can have other causes like excessive levels of toxins and fat from an unsupportive lifestyle.
Cirrhosis can cause internal bleeding, kidney failure, mental confusion, coma, body fluid accumulation, and frequent infections. Symptoms include yellowing of the skin (jaundice), itching, and fatigue. Basically the liver becomes overwhelmed and blocked with toxins and fat, and blood flow stops in parts of the liver. The liver is the first place fat and toxins are stored in the body, and once the liver is overloaded, fat and toxins may be stored elsewhere.
Generally, people who have cirrhosis also have gallstones, which can be an indication of poor diet and exercise regimes.
Cleaning Out the Liver
A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water, first thing every morning should help flush debris from the liver (and gall bladder) daily by stimulating bile movement.
Also, regular gall bladder and liver flushes will help support the liver.
My experience has shown that the liver can be cleansed through products like AIM BarleyLife® and AIM LeafGreens®. AIM LeafGreens® contains sulforaphane (broccoli sprouts) which has been scientifically proven to remove toxins that have the potential to be carcinogenic. Beetroot has been used for centuries to support the liver, especially after hepatitis. I use AIM RediBeets® which is powdered beetroot juice and can be easily ingested daily to support the liver. Cleaning out the colon with AIM Herbal Fiberblend® may take some load off the liver as the colon begins to function correctly. You can detox the liver and body with AIM HumiKleanse®* and also support the liver by having regular coffee enemas.
As mentioned previously, the gall bladder is essentially a reservoir for bile (containing bicarbonate and salts) produced in the liver. The gall bladder also acts as a reservoir for waste released by the liver that is in turn released into the bowel for excretion from the body. The gall bladder bile reservoir sits ready for use should we ingest a highly acidic, fatty meal of dairy, sugar and refined flour (for example cappuccino and donuts).
When this type of meal or animal products are eaten, the gall bladder receives hormone signals in the blood (triggered from the intestines) which contracts and injects bile into the duodenum to aid in digestion and neutralise the stomach and food acid and start dissolving fat.
The gall bladder holds around 50ml (1 ½ fl oz) of bile.
If we eat too many animal products, the liver can have an oversupply of unsupportive LDL cholesterol (fat), leading to clumps of cholesterol combining with unprocessed calcium accumulating in the liver, which then can be passed through to the gall bladder. These are called ‘gallstones’ and can be harmless until caught in the bile duct, which will then cause severe pain. A partially or fully blocked bile duct, can lead to inflammation and degeneration (rotting) of the gall bladder, sometimes necessitating removal of the gall bladder through surgery. Gallstones blocking the duct that is shared with the pancreas can lead to pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer (see ‘Pancreas’ later).
Symptoms and Risk Factors
Symptoms of gall bladder problems include pain under the right ribs, fever, jaundice, nausea and vomiting. Overweight people, females, those with fair complexion and those over 40 years old are the main risk groups. Gallstones don’t cause cancer, but they are nearly always found in cancer patients, which can be an indication of a poor diet and lifestyle choices.
Cholecystitis is the term used for an inflamed gall bladder. The gall bladder can be successfully removed through surgery with no immediate, apparent affects.
However, over the longer term, unless the diet is corrected to be significantly more alkaline with less animal protein, the body could become more acidic — providing a nest-bed for disease. Also, something caused the initial inflammation, usually diet and lifestyle, so unless changes are made, choices may continue to impact negatively on the liver.
The pancreas is a yellowish-coloured organ that sits behind the stomach and shares the entry point into the duodenum with the bile duct from the gall bladder/liver. Depending on your blood-sugar levels from food and activity taken around 15–60 minutes ago, the pancreas should release insulin, bicarbonate and enzymes to treat the chyme for digestion.
Insulin also acts as an appetite suppressant and once you have eaten enough food (to provide sufficient energy), the insulin should decrease your appetite, stopping you from eating. However, nowadays with the over-consumption of sugar and grains, the pancreas becomes overworked and with continual pumping of insulin into the blood, your body becomes insulin-resistant, which leads to diabetes. And this matters! Research shows that men with type 2 diabetes have twice the risk of contracting cancer.
The two main causes of pancreatitis are excessive alcohol consumption and gallstones blocking the common duct entry into the duodenum. Symptoms of pancreatitis are similar to gall bladder problems (plus itching under the left ribcage and weight loss) and can develop into pancreatic cancer which is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer in Australia.
Though not really a digestive organ, I didn’t want to leave the spleen out as it performs a vital role within the immune system: producing white blood cells (alkaline, oxygenated cells), returning iron to the blood, making disease-fighting components of the immune system (including antibodies and lymphocytes)along with destroying old red blood cells (acidic cells), releasing them as waste. The spleen also stores extra blood for emergencies, when short of breath (lack of oxygen), exercising or bleeding excessively.
The spleen can enlarge (often due to a struggling liver), if the body is under hypertension (high blood pressure), has a disease resulting in abnormal red blood cells, certain viral and bacterial infections, or in the case of some cancers and metabolic diseases. This may happen due to the higher blood pressure.