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Food Combining – Does It Really Matter?


About 15 years ago I saw a naturopath who was pivotal in turning my health around. I didn’t realize how lousy I felt until I quit feeling that way!

Part of my ‘better-health’ protocol was food combining. I thought it was odd, but I figured What have I got to lose? Afterall, she was the doctor.

I eliminated a lot of processed, dead, food from my diet, too. I felt great and lost 15 lbs. without much effort. I maintained a healthy regimen for some time and felt better than I had in years. Then life got in the way and it got incredibly stressful. The coups de grace came when I found out I had contracted Lyme disease.

It was downhill from there and I didn’t sustain the food combining, so I still don’t know if it was the food combining that made a difference or some of the other lifestyle changes I made. Probably both.

Like other natural health protocols,  food combining has its supporters and opponents. I’ve included links to both in the references and resources section below. Personally, I think they could both be right! How’s that for being lukewarm?

If you’re wondering if food combining is right for you, read this with an open mind. What I hope you learn from this is to listen to your body. You are the only one that will ultimately know if it’s right for you.

If you’re currently eating a healthy diet, if you feel well, and have no digestive issues like gas, bloating, irritable bowel (which can include constipation) then keep doing what you’re doing.

On the other hand, if you are having digestive issues, and don’t feel so great (especially after meals) then maybe food combining might be worth a try. And as a bonus – it won’t cost you a dime!

What is food combining?

Food combining is all about digestion. It’s based on the theory that different foods require different enzymes to break down (digest) food you eat and because of this they shouldn’t be mixed together. It’s about avoiding certain foods in combination with other foods because they can essentially negate one another.

According to How to Combine Foods for Optimal Health, from Dr. Mercola, the two primary rules of food combining are:

1) No proteins and starches at the same meal
2) No fruits and vegetables at the same meal

My naturopath told me I could only eat fruit in the morning (with nothing else) or two hours before or after consuming anything else. Fruit was always to be eaten by itself and preferably on an empty stomach. This was especially true of melons.

BodyEcology also has a good article on the subject – Food Combining: The Little-Understood Secret to Optimal Health & Weight Revealed. It made sense.

Different food groups prompt different enzymes to be secreted in your stomach and each enzyme needs either an acid or alkaline environment in which to break down your food. Any chemistry student will tell you that when acids and bases (alkali) come into contact, they neutralize one another.

The author explains when you eat foods that require a different environment (acidic or alkaline) to be broken down, the digestive process is impaired and the food just sits in your stomach for long periods of time. It starts to ferment and putrefy .gross.

If you understand anything about GERD (aka – acid reflux) you know that it’s not too much acid in your stomach – it’s not enough acid that causes your food to sit in your belly like a boulder. It ferments and the fermentation causes acid to rise up your esophagus.

Sounds logical, don’t you think?

Understanding the digestive process

Allowing different kinds of food to fester in your gut might not be such a good thing. Finding ways to help the digestive process is better. Maybe this is why digestive enzymes are such big sellers for us. They work!
In Dr. Mercola’s article referenced above, his guest, Dr. Wayne Pickering explains how undigested food can cause problems like:

• Painful gas
• Acid reflux
• Heart burn
• Nutrient depletion

In addition, different foods you eat break down in different regions of your digestive system. There are three categories of foods: proteins, carbohydrates (fruits and starches) and fats.

Proteins start digesting in your stomach. Fruits are easy to digest and make the elimination journey without much trouble, but carbs are another story.

Starches need three levels of breakdown – beginning in your mouth, which is why Dr. Pickering stresses the importance of chewing your food well!

Why is all this important?

The Body Ecology article really caught my attention when it explained how undigested food in my digestive tract can create a toxic environment. It makes my blood more acidic (not good), and opens the door for yeast, viruses, parasites and cancer to grow inside you. Also not good.

So understanding all of this was helpful to me and realizing that I did feel better when I was doing the food combining (at least for a time) makes me think it has it’s merits.

Whenever I read blogs on nutritional protocols like this, I check out the comments section to see what other readers think and what their experiences with the topic might be. We encourage you to comment on this post, too.  As expected, there were those who swore by food combining and those who dismissed it.

Some commenters said they had relatives who lived very long lives without ever following the rules of food combining. (But they did eat healthy.) I liked how the BodyEcology article pointed out that our ancestors had “iron stomachs” and enjoyed “healthier inner ecosystems.”

This is true. Their bodies weren’t barraged with the toxic chemicals, GMOs and all the processed dead foods like we have today.

There’s something else worth considering in the food combining debate that Dr. Pickering pointed out.   Should we be eating all the foods we do that aren’t native to the regions we live in? For example, I live in Wisconsin. Kiwi fruit and pineapples don’t grow here.

I never saw them in the grocery store when I was growing up.  Our food choices were much more limited, but people didn’t have the digestive issues they have today.

Is there a connection? It begs the question, are we eating foods that aren’t beneficial to our genetic make-up? Dr. Pickering believes you should eat only from the foods indigenous to where you live.

Maybe we should all try going back to our ancestors diets. Since I’m at least 1/3 Irish, I should be able to eat a lot of potatoes right? Seriously, traditional foods (especially fermented foods) have so many health benefits, it won’t hurt any of us to get back to basics and eliminate the fake, processed foods from our diets.

I can’t say I have convinced myself that we should all be practicing  food combining, but given the testimonials from those who have, it might certainly be worth a try. Even for a short time. What have you got to lose?

If you’ve used  food combining in your diet – we’d like to hear from you. Did you feel it helped? Please comment below.

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Resources and References:

Chris Kresser – Ask the RD: All About Food Combining

Food Combining: Fact or Fiction? Mark’s Daily Apple

Marilu Henner – Food Combining