I’m increasingly convinced that eating too often is bad for your health. Here’s another piece of the jigsaw.
To digest protein adequately, the pH of your stomach needs to be extremely low at 1.5. The exact acidity of the mixture leaving your stomach is the trigger for all the subsequent phases of digestion. If it’s not low enough, the gallbladder doesn’t work and enzymes are not secreted properly and unfriendly bacteria are allowed to thrive.
To put this digestive feat in perspective, it’s worth noting that a healthy blood pH is very slightly alkaline, so to generate such high acidity in the stomach requires a great deal of energy. Even in a healthy body it’s a tall order: stress, illness, indigestion medications, poor diet and eating in a hurry all combine to make this even more difficult.
So if you are eating on the run and snacking all day long – even if they are ‘healthy’ snacks – you are asking a lot of your body. It’s likely that some of the food leaving your stomach isn’t at the correct pH to trigger all the other phases of digestion in the gut. Which will lead to all sorts of issues of indigestion, dysbiosis, fermentation, wind, inflammation, immune problems and – eventually – disease.
The more demanding your lifestyle the more sense it makes to eat only when you are able to relax and focus on eating and digesting properly, training your metabolism to exist on your stores in between. Stone Age man managed this perfectly well on a very limited range of foods, so there’s no reason why we can’t. If you doubt you can manage it, it’s more to do with your beliefs than your ability.
It is, I accept, easier said than done. It’s something I struggle with. The ubiquity of food makes it difficult to resist putting food into your mouth and gut on a fairly regular basis throughout the day: your survival instincts will prompt you to do exactly that. Plus, most of us grew up in a culture where skipping a meal was frowned upon, and many nutritionists encourage regular snacking. It’s difficult to change the habits of a lifetime.
The more you have trained your body to ‘graze’, the more determined you will have to be – for a week or two – to train it to manage its energy levels in the way that nature intended. Once you do, I predict that your energy levels, overall health and digestive function will thank you (and me) for it.
Let me know how you get on.
PS At the risk of becoming even more unpopular, I want to remind you that cappucinos and lattés are also ‘snacks’. In a perfect world, you’d drink only clear fluids between meals to optimise digestion and insulin control.