How Does Digestion Work?

Many people think that most foods are digested in the stomach.  This is not true but digestion does begin here. The stomach is a hollow, pouch like structure that lies beneath the diaphragm, which is under the ribs on the left side of the abdomen, measuring approximately six to eight inches in length by three to four inches in width. Its function is to churn food and break it into smaller particles.  The normal stomach contains hydrochloric acid, pepsin, mucin, and intrinsic factor (necessary to absorb Vitamin B-12). Optimal pH to accomplish the stomach’s function is 0.5 to 2.The acid and pepsin initiate digestion and the mucin coats the wall of the stomach.  Mucin and other factors protect the stomach wall from digestive action.  Stomach acid is essential to digest on meats, cheese, fish, and other foods to break down proteins into amino acids. Very little of what is eaten is absorbed directly through the stomach wall – only certain minerals, water and alcohol.

Then the stomach contents empty directly into the part of the small intestine called the duodenum. Triggered by the low pH from the stomach, bile from the liver and pancreatin from the pancreas are secreted into the duodenum. Also in response to low stomach pH, the pancreas also secretes bicarb to normalize the pH of the small intestine to pH of 7.0 to 9.0 (neutral to alkaline).  Bile and pancreatin require a neutral-to-alkaline condition for optimal function. These digestive enzymes hydrolyze fats, break down carbohydrates to glucose, and digest proteins into amino acids.  The smaller molecules can then be absorbed by the tiny, finger-like projections, called villi, which line the small intestine. In healthy patients, amino acids are then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to cells in every part of our bodies.

Your Nutrition And Health Therefore Depends On The Acid In The Stomach.

I hope you are beginning to appreciate the all-important role pH plays in how we handle and process foods to the nourishment of our bodies. Amino acids are the fundamental building blocks of life but we cannot absorb proteins in the form that we have eaten them. They must be converted by this process to amino acids. In addition, medications, which depend upon pH for release and absorption, have optimal effects within the alimentary tract under normal pH conditions. Minerals, especially calcium, also depend on stomach acid for absorption.

How Can You Find Out Whether Your Ph is Optimal?

The Heidelberg pH capsule is a non-invasive, telemetric pH-monitoring device, which eliminates the need of using an invasive, uncomfortable nasogastric tube. The pH Capsule works like a roving reporter, sending a direct, continuous digital pH reading as it moves through esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. When the pH capsule is swallowed, it reaches the stomach in 2 to 3 seconds, the same time as a vitamin or medication pill. While in the stomach, the pH Capsule will report exact pH information and it will show immediate changes to alkaline or acid “challenges”. These challenges demonstrate what therapeutic intervention will benefit your digestion. The Heidelberg machine displays the pH on a meter and simultaneously records it on a pH Gastrogram, providing a permanent record for your doctor or nutritionist to interpret and make therapeutic recommendations.


Heidelberg PH capsule


So What Can Go Wrong With Digestion?

Malabsorption, stomach gas, belching, bloating, flatulence, and irritable bowel syndrome are the result of inadequate digestion.  Anyone with these symptoms as well as those with food allergies, asthma, osteoporosis, or other disorders due to nutritional inadequacy are likely have a condition called hypochlohydria or lack stomach acid. A large number of people (more then 30%) over the age of 60 have very little or no hydrochloric acid in their stomachs. Esophageal reflux, gastritis, and ulcers may be the result of hyperacidity but can also be caused by hypochlohydria. Due to abnormal pH profiles in many patients, sustained release medications may tend to “dump,” release the medication all at once, or release very little. If you are experiencing any of these problems, it is important to know the pH of your stomach as well as the pH of your small intestine.

At the Center for the Healing Arts, our goal is to optimize your health.

And because digestion is critical to good health, the Center has invested in the state-of-the-art Heidelberg pH capsule system to make this superior testing available in Connecticut.  Your doctor or nutritionist can refer you to the Center for Heidelberg testing or you can call us for more information.  You owe it to yourself to insure you have good digestion!


EXAMPLE:  Normal Heidelberg pH Test


EXAMPLE:  Heidelberg pH Test Demonstrating Hidden Hypochlorhydria