How is what we eat related to our skin or our head? That’s a great question. When you eat food in poor combinations (such as animal protein with starch, a great example of this would be a slice of pepperoni pizza), this food will create a lot of gas in the digestive tract. This carbonic gas creates pressure, which can result in nausea, headaches (this is literally pressure on the stomach, or pressure on the skull from the carbonic gas), and constipation (which means the bowel is impacted and the waste will show up on the second most important elimination organ: the skin). Let me illustrate for you an ill-combined meal and what happens in the digestive tract.
When you eat animal protein (such as chicken), the stomach utilizes the digestive enzyme pepsin to break this down, which is an acidic enzyme. When you eat starches (such as rice or a yam), the stomach utilizes an alkaline medium to break it down. So what happens when we combine animal proteins with starches? Both the acid and alkaline mediums arrive in the stomach to break down these foods. Having acid and alkaline in the stomach at the same time results in neutralization of the acid enzyme and the alkaline medium. In other words, the food just sits and begins to ferment because there is no digestive assistance from stomach acids.
The result from this sort of mis-combination is that the food moves very slowly out of the body, causing a lot of discomfort via gas and fermentation. The longer food sits in the digestive tract, the more it ferments and feeds yeast. This results in constipation, bloat, nausea, along with many other symptoms. It’s really not surprising that the typical modern diet, filled with cooked animal flesh and starch combinations, has resulted in so much obesity, poor digestive health, and illnesses of all kinds. It all starts with what we are eating and the combinations we are eating it in!
So here is food combining explained as simply as possible, for those of you who are maybe a bit intimidated by the idea of food combining, but also desperately want to change your current digestive situation.
If you are eating melons (watermelon, honeydew, or cantaloupe), eat them before the other fruits (such as in the case of a fruit salad- which is so popular and refreshing at summer gatherings!).
Since fruit has such a quick transit time and leaves the stomach in about thirty minutes, you can enjoy other types of foods relatively soon after. Raw vegetables are fine with all fruits other than melons for most people (remember, it‘s important to be conscious of how you feel after you combine foods, not everyone will react the same way to the same foods).
This is the most offensive mis-combination and it is also the most common. Many vegetarians and especially vegans have little to think about in the realm of food-combining because the animal foods are left out for the most. However, most of us are not following a vegan diet and do not have this as a goal. This is perfectly fine! We can still enjoy high quality animal foods at times and still progress once we have the knowledge of food combining.
That’s it! Start with these simple rules and see how you feel.
If You Want to Step it Up a Notch:
Simply have a raw vegetable salad before your meal to equip your body with more enzymes and life to help digest your meal.
If you are having a meal with starches such as baked yams, brown rice, millet, or whole grain pasta, you can enjoy it with a nice raw vegetable salad with avocado prior to the meal. Along with dinner, you can enjoy all kinds of delicious steamed vegetables, since these combine nuetrally.
If you are having animal protein with your dinner, such fish, eggs, or other meats, you can sprinkle some raw goat’s cheese on top of your raw vegetable salad. You can enjoy this meal along with steamed non-starchy vegetables (any vegetable besides winter squashes, yams, peas, and cooked corn).*
Once you get into the world of dried fruits, nuts, seeds, dried coconut, and different types of fruit, food combining can become a bit more complicated, which is why I left it out of this post. For people with very sensitive digestion, it’s best to avoid these food groups until your body has had some time to heal.
People often ask me about the research supporting food combining. If you would like to learn more in depth information about food combining, I would recommend the book “Food Combining Made Easy” by Herbert Shelton (despite that title, I think the book actually makes food combining seem much more complicated). This is how I feel: I do not need Herbert Shelton or anyone else to tell me that we shouldn’t be eating from several food groups in one meal. For one: my body tells me this manner of eating is not right for me by becoming bloated and exhausted whenever I would poorly combine my meals, and that’s reason enough for me. Additionally, have you ever observed how animals eat in the wild? Do we see any other species making their meals so complicated? Not really. We are living with programming that tells us we need a breakfast that really “sticks to our ribs” to keep you full until lunch, or that we need to have protein at every meal for energy, or that we need to have our carbohydrates in the form of grains and potatoes. I am aware that food is much more than just food to most of us: it is a form of nourishment, comfort, and can even remind us of happy and festive times with family and friends. I feel you! However, by making some simple changes, you can enjoy those foods you love without putting your digestive system through as much stress. Simple food combining principles can do this for you. You can have your heavier, more comforting foods, just in the right combinations! You will still feel nourished and satisfied.
Part of the beauty of food combining is that it helps to clear our midsection and can make us more sensitive to what is going on in there. I feel that this is our first step to becoming more clear on what sits well with us digestively and what doesn’t, or what agrees with our body and what doesn’t. It’s very empowering to know that you can FEEL what is right for your body, without having to read a million books to make sense of all your ailments.
I’d also like to note the differences between men and women’s digestion. Men typically have much stronger digestion than women. This is why (for example) my husband can get away with an occasional salmon and brown rice dinner and not feel it too much. He eats really well and takes great care of himself, but he can handle dietary indiscretions like this a couple times a month without drawbacks. I on the other hand, wouldn’t be so foolish to consume this! It would leave me feeling awful. Enrrico simply has stronger digestion than I do. This is a very common male/female difference.
My best advice to you is to try your best with this and not to become too militant about it. Some people are more sensitive to mis-combinations than others depending on their health history. You will know if a certain food, or combination of foods is bad for you based on how it makes you feel, but it may take you some time on a whole foods diet to be really clear on how certain foods truly affect you.
FOOD COMBINING AND KIDS
A lot of people ask me if they should worry about food combining with their children. My answer is no. Kids typically like to graze throughout the day, so paying attention to their food combinations will probably drive you crazy. It’s important to realize that young children, especially when raised on mother’s milk and a plant-based diet, are highly intelligent and intuitive. They don’t need us to tell them what to eat and when to eat it (this was evident to me quite clearly at my cousin’s daughter’s second birthday party. When she was offered a piece of birthday cake, she reached for watermelon from a nearby fruit platter instead!). Personally, I think that enforcing food combining rules on a child can be far more destructive than beneficial. Our culture is so pre-occupied with food, and children get that message loud and clear. They don’t need the people who love them to put even more focus on food and the “rules” surrounding it. Food should not be complicated, and kids know that (again, because they are so intuitive and intelligent!). So try not to confuse them.
My advice for those of you with kids is to empower them by allowing them to make their own choices around what they consume. Have fresh, abundant fruit available for them to grab whenever they are hungry. Don’t push foods on them that they don’t like, whether it is a particular type of animal flesh, or a particular vegetable. If you provide, wholesome, natural foods for them (especially if you start their life this way), that is most likely what they will go for almost all of the time.
On another note, Casey and I are starting up our next group of The Juicy Life, in only 11 days! We already have a great group ready to go, and we are excited for more people to sign up! I have to say here, (in the spirit of good digestion), that there is no better digestive health tune-up than regular cleansing and fasting, whether that is a juice fast, or a juice and blended foods fast with some salads, too (it’s all included and a part of “The Juicy Life”…we do not discriminate!). Casey and I hope you’ll join us and we will be so happy to guide and support you!
*It’s crucial to get the highest quality animal foods when you want to consume them: organic, free-range eggs from a trusted source (visit your local farmers market and find someone who cares about the food they’re providing the public), wild fish, organic free-range chickens and organic meats in general. While I do not recommend eating animal flesh on a regular basis for anyone, I do feel that it can be included in a relatively healthy diet if it is of high quality, and it is much better than eating processed soy burgers and other soy meat substitutes. This is why I mention them here.