Digestive disorders are now considered rampant and new evidence is pointing to the rise in metabolic acidosis, the new ‘disease of civilisation’, as the cause.
Metabolic acidosis is a condition in which the body produces too much acid or when the kidneys cannot remove or neutralise acids in the body. Scientists have found that low grade chronic metabolic acidosis is common but often goes undetected because it most often occurs despite normal blood pH and bicarbonate levels. All of us will experience some level of metabolic acidosis at some time however there remains a surprising key nutrient intervention that may resolve this disease: pancreatin.
Authors of a 2014 review article published in Journal of the Pancreas suggest our modern lifestyle contains many factors that are shifting the body’s internal environment from slightly alkaline to acidic, causing metabolic acidosis. We are eating more processed foods that are devoid of enzymes, bicarbonate, vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc; more acidic foods such as red meat, sugars, and white flours and rice; and we are over-consuming acid-producing alcohol, chemicals and medications.
The two organs affected by this lowered pH are the liver and pancreas which produce alkaline bile and pancreatic juice respectively. Normal exocrine pancreatic function in particular is considered the core of proper digestion.
The pancreas takes bicarbonate ions from the blood to produce pancreatic juice which is then released into the duodenum. The alkalinity of pancreatic juice, when released into the duodenum, takes the pH up to a level where the digestive enzymes are most active. An acidic duodenum inactivates pancreatic enzymes, and in fact, pancreatic lipase stops working altogether at a duodenal pH of less than 4.5. Digestion then becomes compromised.
The result is that improperly digested foods will accumulate in the small intestine where they are fermented by bacteria and yeast, causing gas and bloating. The undigested food has only two ways to go. Moving up can cause fullness, heartburn, nausea, gas, bloating and cramps. Moving down causes flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation and lower abdominal pain.
A decreased pH also reduces the antibacterial activity of pancreatic juice, which in turn, can be the cause of small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO is responsible for many symptoms including indigestion and abdominal pain.
Other research has found a link between coeliac disease and impaired pancreatic function that occurs in a vicious cycle. Deficiencies of amino acids occur as a result of altered small intestinal amino acid uptake, leading to reduced precursors for pancreatic enzyme synthesis. Reduced numbers of pancreatic enzymes lead to compromised protein digestion and absorption.
While pancreatin has been used clinically to reduce the symptoms of Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency, caused by chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic carcinoma and pancreatic resection, it should only be used to correct digestive disorders induced by metabolic acidosis under strict medical supervision. In the absence of pancreatic insufficiency, ensuring adequate levels of stomach acid to help trigger the release of pancreatic enzymes if the preferred method of support.
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Heidarian, E, Amini, M, Parham, M, Aminorroaya, A. Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Serum Homocysteine in Type 2 Diabetic Patients with Microalbuminuria. The Review of Diabetic Studies. 2009