No one likes a digestive problem. Whether it's not going to the bathroom enough (constipation), going to the bathroom too much (diarrhea), a burning behind the breastbone (heartburn), or a pain in the epigastric area (indigestion), anything that makes us feel uncomfortable in relation to eating is an annoyance.

Indeed, these problems frequently stem from food digestion. And because food is an essential component to everyday living, such ailments may seem unavoidable. But the truth is that not only can we control what we put in our bodies, but also we can manipulate our eating habits to reduce the risk of digestive problems. It's called food combining.

Food digestion is a complex system that starts when you chew and ends in the small intestine. Along the way, different digestive glands digest different nutrients. Salivary glands, which are in the mouth, digest starch; glands in the stomach lining digest protein; and the liver produces bile acids, which dissolve fat. The idea behind food combining is that certain products, when grouped together, will ensure that this process works as smoothly as possible,  that you remain free of digestive woes.

Here's some insight on how to best do this.

Separate protein and starch. Ever wondered why a hearty helping of steak and potatoes tastes good but leaves you feeling woozy? This is because the pH of the digestive tract (taking care of starch) is alkaline, whereas digesting proteins requires lots of acid. If starch and protein are forced down at the same time the, there is not enough alkaline or acid to support a smooth digestion. This is how the two sides break down:

  • Proteins: Meals: meat, fish, poultry, beans. Snacks: nuts, seeds.
  • Starches: Meals: pasta, bread, cereal, rice. All the time: grains.

Eat more fiber. Did you know that more than 4 million Americans are consistently constipated? And that we remedy the situation by spending over $725 million annually on laxatives?[1] Well, we might be able to save money by simply taking in more fiber.

Fiber is the part of fruits, veggies, and grains that we cannot digest; in other words, it's the stuff that sends us to the toilet. The American Diabetic Association recommends that we eat 25-30 grams of fiber daily. Currently, we average half of that,[2] which accounts for why so many of us are constipated.

By snacking on fruits and vegetables, having a bowl of cereal each morning, and switching breads, rices, and pastas to whole grains, you can get the proper amount of fiber without radically altering your diet.

Slow down.  Food digestion needs to room to work. The practice of eating too much too soon can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable. More so, a recent study showed that eating quickly and eating until full triples your chance of being overweight.[3]

However, some professionals, like those at The Cancer Project, suggest that until there is more research on food combining, people should eat any combination of healthy foods that make them feel best.[4]



[3] BMJ-British Medical Journal (2008, October 22). Eating Quickly And Until Full Triples Risk Of Being Overweight.