Food Combining and Digestion

Food combining is the process of orchestrating our meals in such a way as to keep our digestive system sound and functioning with minimal upset.  Gas, indigestion, distension, sour stomach and acid reflux, common complaints spoken of in today’s society, are all indicators of digestive upset.

The ‘art’ of digestion goes beyond getting food in and out.  It involves the absorption and assimilation of nutrients for the construction and repair of the body’s thousands of cells and the nourishment of the individual as a ‘whole’.  When it comes to good digestion everything matters; lifestyle, emotions, attitude, timing, habits and environment are all contributing factors.  In achieving optimum digestion and good health, we need only to learn our limits and become more conscious of what we eat while we are eating it.  Given the sometimes fast pace of daily lives, we can loose touch with our bodies, how they are maintained and what we put in them.  Digestive upset such as a stomach ache, headache, flatulence, diarrhea or indigestion are all red flags, indicators to slow down and to be more aware of how we nourish our bodies.    We must have the power to transform what we eat into our own form of energy.  The ‘power’ referred to is personal wellness, which affords us the ability to effectively digest and assimilate our food, transferring this energy to our body’s cells so that we may feel ‘alive’.

The order in which different foods are introduced into the digestive system during a meal contributes greatly to successful digestion, absorption and assimilation.  The ultimate goal is a harmonious flow of different foods ie: carbohydrates, proteins and fats, through the digestive tract.

A meal consumed in the ideal order allows for the smoother handling of your stomach’s role in digestion with faster digestive times and better assimilation of nutrients.  The foods easiest to digest should be taken in advance of the more complex foods.  The goal is to keep a steady downward flow of food through the intestines while avoiding any ‘traffic jams’ marked by the symptoms noted earlier.  Complications begin when different types of foods requiring different processing times and enzymes for effective digestion clash with foods from other categories.  A classic example would be a meal consisting of ‘meat and potatoes’.  Meats are a source of protein requiring an acidic medium, hydrochloric acid and pepsin secreted by the stomach, for effective digestion.  Potatoes are a source of carbohydrates or starch and require the use of alkaline enzymes produced in the salivary glands and small intestine for effective digestion. This enzymatic action stops if a protein food is eaten at the same time.  Starch digestion will slow down until the protein food is digested.  The starch then leaves the stomach in a semi-digested state and your digestive system will then attempt to complete the digestive process in the small intestine, leading to digestive discomfort.

Foods are categorized based on their different densities, water content and complexity of fats, carbohydrates and proteins.  The denser, more complex foods take longer to move through the digestive tract.  These require more time for absorption and assimilation of nutrients to be completed, while foods with higher water content are the easiest to digest.  Mixing foods of different categories and different densities complicates digestion, slowing down the entire digestive process.  When given a choice, eat your salad first.  Its higher water content will pave the way for a smoother, more effective digestion of the carbohydrates and proteins that may follow.  If digestion is a chronic problem, reducing the number of food choices to 2 or 3 types can reduce the stress on the digestive system.

For more information contact Christina Stacey.