By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
from Dr. Shelton's Hygienic Review
view frequently expressed by medical authors and apparently held by the whole
profession, is that if two foods may be digested separately, they may be digested
together. They extend this principle to cover the whole menu: if each article
of food in a bill-of-fare is separately digestible, then they are digestible if
eaten. in a twenty-one course dinner, with the diner partaking of everything from
soup to nuts.
Conventional diet causes digestive problems
a limited way, this view is true, else would conventional eaters die from lack
of food. Instead of dying, they thrive after a fashion, many of them even growing
fat on the conventional diet with its haphazard mixtures. That digestion is not
very efficient, is shown, however, by gas, sour eructations, discomforts, foul
stools and the presence of large quantities of undigested food in the stools.
At least half of the food eaten by most people is passed out undigested.
It is commonly held that foods may be taken into the digestive tract in the most
indiscriminate and haphazard manner, in any possible combination, and in whatever
amount the eater may desire will be well and efficiently digested. This view is
not based upon physiology, but upon the determination of the profession that the
customary practices of the people shall not be distrubed. Every student of physiology
is well aware that the digestive enzymes have certain well-defined limitations
and that different digestive juices are secreted for use in digesting different
kinds of food substances. These limitations should be respected in our eating
Proper food combining does not cause digestive problems
The inhibiting effect upon protein digestion of acids, sweets and fats makes
it important to avoid combining these three types of foods. Good digestion depends
upon a number of factors, but simplicity of meals with combin ations of foods
that do not overstep the known enzymic limitations is one of the most important
of these factors.
Vinegar retards digestion
shown that as small a portion of vinegar as one in 5,000 sppreciab1y diminishes
the digestion of starch by its inhibiting or destructive effect upon the salivary
amylase. One part in 1,000 renders starch digestion very slow and twice this quantity
arrests it altogether. From these facts it becomes evident that vinegar, pickles
(saturated with vinegar), salads on which vinegar has been sprinkled and salad
dressings containing vinegir, are unwholesome substances to take into the human
digestive tract, especially when taken with starchy foods such as cereals, bread,
legumes, potatoes and the like.
Vinegar is not an evil merely because
its highly toxic acetic acid content destroys ptylain (salivary amylase), but
it also contains alcohol, which precipitates the pepsin of the gastric juice and
retards or prevents gastric digestion of proteins. What wonder then that pickles
and vinegar have been found useful in reducing weight. They cripple the first
two stages of digestion. My readers should know that apple cider vinegar, which
is so much lauded today as a "wonder drug" in folk medicine con tains
both acetic acid and alcohol and is unfit for use, not alone because it impairs
digestion, but also because it contains these two virulent poisons.
Acids destroy digestive enzymes
All acids destroy salivary amylase,
the starch-splitting enzyme in the saliva, and thus arrest starch digestion in
the mouth and stomach. Even those acids that are valuable as food, such as the
acids of pineapples, grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, tomatoes,
apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, etc., destroy the amylase of the saliva and
arrest the digestion of starch. For this reason, such foods should not be eaten
at the same meal with starches-potatoes, bread, cereals, le gumes (beans and peas),
Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips and similar foods.
Acids inhibit the secretion of gastric juice, hence they suspend or retard protein
digestion in the stomach. These fruits should not be eaten with protein foods-such
as eggs, flesh, cheese, nuts, etc. They make a better combination with nuts and
cheese than with flesh and eggs for the reason that the cream in cheese and the
oil in nuts also inhibit gastric secretion, and the taking of acid foods with
these foods does not inhibit the secretion of gastric juice more than does the
fat. Nuts and cheese still combine better with green vegetables.
and cooking ingredients interfere with digestion
I have mentioned above
that by precipitating the pepsin of the gastric juice, the enzyme that initiates
protein digestion, alcohol impairs protein digestion. There are many other substances
that destroy pepsin. Extensive tests have shown that the residues left in bread
by baking powders retard the digestion of protein. Although most of these tests
were made with cream of tartar powders, no powder seems to be exempt from this
effect. Baking soda also destroys pepsin and retards gastric digestion. Many drugs
both acids and alkalies, have been used with which to reduce weight because they
Anything that either inhibits the secretion of the
digestive juices or that alters their chemistry, or that destroys their enzymes,
will retard or suspend the process of digestion. It is important, therefore, that
we take nothing with our foods that either alters the acid-alkaline reactions
of the digestive fluids, inhibits their secretion or destroys their enzymes. It
is also important that we refrain from taking foods at the same meal that either
directly or indirectly interfere with the digestion of each other.
coffee and condiments cause indigestion
Tea and coffee, not alone because
of the toxic substances which they contain, but also because of the sugar that
is commonly taken with them, inhibit the digestion of foods in-the stomach. They
are common causes of indigestion. Condiments of all kinds also, because of the
irritation of the stomach which they occasion, inhibit stomach digestion. As they
are indigestible and occasion irritation throughout the whole length of the digestive
tract, it is likely that they also inhibit intestinal digestion. Salt inhibits
stomach digestion, also. There are a number of products widely so1d in health
food stores, that consist of powdered vegetables, some of them containing highly
salty sea weeds, others with salt added. They are used with which to make broths
and they are sprinkled on salads and other foods as seasonings and supplements.
They inhibit stomach digestion, sometimes for hours.
causes digestive problems
There is no reason to doubt that all the members
of the onion family-onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, etc. -as well as
radishes and all other foods containing appreciable amounts of mustard oil, because
they occassion irritation of the stomach and intestines as they occasion irritation
of the mouth and throat, inhibit digestion. Horseradish and mustard are especially
strong in occasioning irritation, but ordinary white and red radishes occasion
considerable irritation. There seems to be no good reason why we should eat such
It seems that it is the part of wisdom to refrain from eating
practices that retard, inhibit and impair digestion, rather than to eat in the
indiscriminate and haphazard manner that is common and then resort to drugs to
pal liate the resulting discomfort. To avoid discomfort by avoiding its cause
is certainly preferable to deliberately inviting trouble and then seeking to palliate
it with drugs that are worse in their damaging effects than the foods, food additives
and combinations that are responsible for the initial trouble.
does not mix foods
The eating of complex mixtures of foods is not seen
in nature. Animals not only stay strictly with the foods to which they are constitutionally
adapted (those to which their digestive secretions and processes are specially
adapted) but they refrain from mixing these indiscrimin ately.
foods from all sources. He will combine in one meal the diet of the tiger (carnivore),
that of the pig (omnivore), that of the sheep (herbivore), that of the bird (graminivore)
and that of the primate (frugivore), and expect such a combination of foods to
be as speedily and as efficiently digested in his stomach as the tiger's diet
is digested in the tiger's stomach and the sheep's diet is digested in the stomach
of the sheep. On the face of it, it would seem that however great is the adaptive
capacity of the human digestive tube, it would not be capable of adjusting its
digestive secretions to so many different types of diet at one and the same time.
Why should we expect the human digestive tract to be able to efficiently
digest such meals? It is often asserted that "normal (human) digestive tracts
have been coping with such combinations for centuries without a whim per,"
but such a statement is based, not on fact, but on ignorance of the history of
mankind's eating practices as well as upon an ignoring of the facts of contemporary
human suffering. Present-day eating practices are not centuries old. The meals
of man, until very recent times, have been very simple and have consisted of but
two or three articles of food. With several notable exceptions, even the meals
of the wealthy classes have been very simple when compared to the eating practices
Mono meals ideal
That the human digestive tract
copes with such combin ations today without a whimper is simply not true. Indeed,
the whimpering assumes the proportion of a loud national groan. Viewing the eating
practices of the lower animals, we observe the utmost simplicity. "Every
animal keeps to one dish-herbs are the food of this species-fish of that- and
flesh of a third," wrote an early Hygienist, who advised: "Be content
with one dish at a meal, in the choice of that consult your palate."
Certainly the human digestive tract, like that of the lower animals, can
make a far more complete and efficient adjustment of its secretions to the character
of the food eaten if but one food is eaten at the meal. It may turn out in the
long run that all of our efforts to work out compatible food mixtures is an effort
to stray away from the simple path of nature without suffering.
Throughout this entire website, statements are made pertaining to
the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration
and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat,
cure or prevent any disease.