Children, Acid and Alkaline by Thomas C. Duncan
When called to treat a child, one of the most important questions I settle is whether I have an alkaline or an acid child to manage.
Such a division of children’s cases may seem singular and possibly visionary, but let us glance at the digestive development of the infant body and the changes that undergo in the working of human nature’s laboratory.
It seems that in a healthy child the alkaline digestive elements are in preponderance; then slowly the acids obtain sway so that when it reaches manhood these elements hold the ascendancy. In a normally healthy person it is believed that these steps should be retraced, and we have an aged alkaline body. Let us see if this is not true, at least of the infantile part of life.
If we go on a voyage of discovery down the alimentary canal of an infant the first stream we meet of any size and activity is the biliary. There is no saliva until about six months of life. The stomach is not extra active. The gastric juice is just sufficient to acidity the milk.
The intestinal acid glands are not yet called into activity to any great extent. The chief active organs are the secretory liver and pancreas and assimilatory lymphatics.
The liver at birth in health occupies more than a third of the abdominal cavity. The stomach is found tilted up under the ribs on the left side and the succulent duodenum is quite as important as the stomach–the infantile digestion is chiefly intestinal. The amount of work the infantile liver has to perform is enormous, as the bile stream has to emulsify and saponify the large amount of milk taken by the child to get it ready for absorption. This biliary flow has a double alkaline reaction and gives alkalinity to the whole system, and this alkalinity is, or should be, the normal condition for many years. Acids and cold are the infant destroyers.
The chemical composition of the bile, as far as ascertained, is the cholate and taurate of soda (biliverdin, bilirubin), cholestrin, etc. When the soda base is lessened, naturally, artificially or accidentally, as in disease, we have then two irritating acids glycocholic and taurocholic acids liberated high up in the alimentary canal. Cholestrin is the debris of the nerve fat, and no doubt aids the emulsifying of the milk fat. Biliverdin and rubin give color to the bile derived from the coloring matter of the blood.
The reaction of the pancreatic juice is strongly alkaline, due to the presence of sodium carbonate. It also contains much albumin, sodium chloride and lime.
The food of the infant, mother’s milk, is, we know, normally of an alkaline reaction. Aside from the water, butter and sugar of milk we have also casein with salts of potassium, soda and lime to digest and absorb.
The next set of glands that come into activity is the salivary. This also has an alkaline reaction, as do also the intestinal juices. The base of the saliva is supposed to be the sulpho-cyanide of potassium. Thus we see that about the sixth month, when the teething process is active, that the alkaline secretions are reinforced. It is found by Prof. Sonsina that a child cannot completely digest starch until it is ver ten months of age.
The next epoch in the child’s life is when it is able to take and digest meat. Now the liver is relatively smaller, the stomach lies more horizontal, its transverse and longitudinal fibers are better developed and the amount of hydrochloric acid secreted increases as age advances. The intestinal juices (colonic) become more and more acrid. To correspond to this change the mother’s milk becomes more saline. Finally we reach the period when the stomach is the chief digestive organ in the body. This is the natural order, but it may be easily changed or deranged at any point and serious results always follow.
We see that, chemically speaking, the healthy child is alkaline. Externally it presents a plump, rosy appearance, feeds heartily, sleeps a major portion of the time and wakes to crow and laugh. It is healthy and happy, and would grace the arms of any proud Madonna–a pleasing subject for an artist’s pencil. It teethes easily and develops without a struggle. It has been my fortune to make autopsies at the Foundling’s Home on some of these healthy and wealthy infant children that have died suddenly from meningitis, overlying, or from a bottle of sour milk. The stomach is small, the lesser intestines narrow, the liver large, the large intestines capacious and every part well cushioned with fat, stored up for the future as well as present great demands upon the system.