Enervation checks secretion and lowers digestive power. With digestive power impaired food is only slowly digested, if at all. The weakened digestive secretions are not able to inhibit bacterial activity and fermentation and putrefaction of food occur. This results in the formation of a whole series of toxins, a part of which are absorbed into the body adding to the primary toxemia already present.
Whether foods decompose inside or outside the digestive tract, they give rise to poisons of varying degrees of virulence, depending on their chemistry. For instance, grain alcohol and wood alcohol are both alcohol and are both products of yeast, activity. The greater virulence of wood alcohol is not due to any difference in the yeast germs, but to the difference in the substances from which the two forms of alcohol are made. The poison is potential in the fermenting substance, not in the ferment.
Toxins resulting from protein decomposition (putrefaction) are more virulent than those resulting from carbohydrate decomposition (fermentation). As a rule, decomposition of animal proteins (meat and eggs) produce more virulent toxins than plant proteins. Milk proteins produce less virulent toxins than some plant proteins. There is a difference in the virulence of the toxins arising from the decomposition of different plant substances and, also, a difference in the virulence of poisons derived from different animal substances. The difference in virulence exists potentially in the animal and plant foods--not in the bacteria. The difference in toxicity between vegetable and flesh foods is colossal. The difference in virulence depends on the composition of the protein, not upon the germ decomposing it. It it a matter of chemistry rather than of kinds of germ activity. Indeed, there is reason to believe, as will be seen later, that the organized ferment (germ) takes on an individuality and personality in keeping with the chemical medium in which it is active.
Ptomaines are alkaloids produced by cadaveric decomposition of animal substances. Certain of these, such as cadaverine and putrescine, have been found in the feces. Putrefactive bacteria break down proteins into amino-acids and then further decompose these into simpler substances, which cannot be utilized, by the body and some of which are harmful if absorbed in considerable quantities.
Some of the most powerful toxins known to science are proteins or closely related bodies. Snake venom, for instance, is of this character, as is the venom of the black widow spider. Ptomaine produced by bacterial decomposition of protein is analogous to snake venom. The "diphtheria toxin" produced in the laboratory is a product of protein decomposition and, in many respects, is similar to snake venom.
Protein putrefaction is most likely to occur in the intestine and colon. It yields such substances as mercaptans, amino-acids, indol, phenyl, skatol, etc. The virulence of the toxin developing from putrefaction depends on the chemistry of the decomposing protein. Often the putrescence evolved is of an extremely virulent character.
The fermentation of carbohydrates is most likely to occur in the stomach and intestine. Yeast bacteria possess enzymes that break down the carbohydrates into alcohol, acetic, formic, butyric and succinic acids, etc. These acids, like the decomposition products of protein substances, rob the body of its bases and pervert nutrition. Alcohol and acetic acid are especially hard on the liver, chronic poisoning of this kind frequently accounting for organic liver impairment.
There is no difference, except in degree, between food poisoning and alcoholic or other drug poisoning. A few days abstinence from any accustomed stimulant--food or drug--sets up morbid symptoms. Just as the morphine addict goes through a season of great suffering when denied the anesthetizing influence of his accustomed narcotic, and the alcohol inebriate develops symptoms called delirium tremens, the tobacco fiend is weak, irritable, and the coffee and tea addict suffers with headache; so, the food-poisoned suffers with a sick stomach--nausea, often vomiting, frequently pain, nervousness, coated tongue, and bad breath.
Tilden says "all the symptoms of acute disease are those common to elimination during a fast, and are intensified, by rough-house treatment-- drugging and feeding. The difference between the symptoms of a voluntary fast and the symptoms of an acute disease is this: The voluntary fast brings about elimination before the accumulated toxins--before Toxemia--force elimination."
The products of fermentation are usually irritating, while the products of putrefaction are toxic. Hence, non-toxic irritation (simple infection) from carbohydrate poisoning, gives rise to simple inflammation, catarrh, etc.; whereas, toxic-irritation (septic infection) arises from protein poisoning, and results in the more severe types of inflammation, diphtheria, putrid fever, tuberculosis, etc. Putrefactive toxins are more virulent than those arising out of fermentation, hence produce more severe forms of poisoning.
Defective functioning of the gastro-intestinal tract and the consequent fouling of the food supply and the consequent poisoning of the tissues by putrescence or sepsis absorbed from the intestine plays a big part in the production of pathology. Although there are those who hold that intestinal toxemia is the lesser of the toxemias and is not so subtle or insidious in its action as the toxins resulting from metabolic waste, it is safe to say that recurring, intermittent poisoning is far more often due to over-ingestion of food (eating beyond digestive capacity), not necessarily bad food, than to other causes. The septic toxins of a mixed character that thus gain entrance into the bloodstream occasion constitutional reactions such as chills, fever, pain, inflammation, etc.
The ensuing poisoning requires to be specially coped with and provided against by particular glands, the task of which is a very delicate and arduous one, involving frequent fatigue, and breakdowns due to overwork, making the task increasingly difficult. The liver and lymph glands neutralize the poisonous end-results of gastro-intestinal decomposition. However, these glands are limited in their capacity to neutralize such toxins, and, also, have their detoxifying capacity greatly reduced by the enervation that permitted the indigestion. Sometimes great harm comes to the liver in trying to dispose of these toxic substances. The toxins poison the body, rob it of its bases, pervert nutrition and lower organic power.
When not absorbed in large quantities these toxins act as stimulants. Much that passes for healthful vigor is the excitement of intoxication, the result of the accumulation of poisons absorbed from the food tube in excess of the ordinary powers of the body to neutralize and eliminate. Added excitants do not help the body.
The body speedily learns to tolerate decomposition toxins, so that chronic intestinal autointoxication may persist for months, or years, without the occurrence of any serious crisis, but with a gradual insidious undermining of organic integrity. Some attempt at vicarious elimination will appease.
Foul stools are indicative of bacterial decomposition of food. Reinheimer says: "between inoffensive excreta and such as are offensive and putrescent there may be said to exist a gamut of disease, enough to occupy, year in, year out, an army of thirty thousand doctors, even in a comparatively small country." (England)
Among the causes of fermentation and putrefaction, aside from enervation, are overeating, eating wrong food combinations, eating when tired, excited, worried or otherwise emotionally upset, drinking with meals, the use of condiments, tobacco using, or anything that temporarily inhibits or suspends digestion. Eating excessively when nerve energy is drawn off and used up mentally or physically results in decomposition.