The Necessity of Proper Food Combining

By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
Reprinted from Dr. Shelton's Hygienic Review

The human stomach is a site of constant chemical activity. Digestion is largely a matter of chemical changes in the food eaten. These changes are instigated and carried out by enzymes secreted in the mouth, stomach and elsewhere. For their activities, these enzymes require suitable media. All of this makes it important that we exercise some care not to take into the stomach at the same time foods requiring different and incompatible media. The assertion recently widely publicized that the stomach cannot tell one food from another and digests one mixture of foods as well as it does another is not good chemistry; it is even worse physiology. Either the one who made it is grossly ignorant of the "facts of life," or has a poor regard for truth. Whether ignorant or dishonest, such an individual should not pose as an authority in the field of human nutrition and presume to advise millions about proper eating.

Different Food s Require Different Digestive Tasks
It is a fundamental fact in chemistry that alkalies and acids are opposites; that they neutralize each other. It is a fact in physiology that all starchy foods digest in an alkaline medium and the starch-splitting enzyme of the mouth (ptyalin or salivary amylase) is destroyed by acid, even a mild acid. Therefore, if acids are taken with starches, starch digestion is suspended. If breads or cereals or potatoes are eaten with berries or with citrus fruits, or with other acid-bearing foods, the digestion of these starches is delayed.

Eating Protein and Starches Together Begets Indigestion
It is a fact of physiology that proteins require an acid medium for their digestion in the stomach. When proteins are eaten, acid is secreted to enable the enzyme, pepsin, to begin the work of protein digestion. Now, it is not possible for two processes, that of starch digestion requiring an alkaline medium for its digestion, and that of protein digestion requiring an acid medium for its accomplishment, to both go on in the same stomach at the same time, with any great efficiency. The rising acidity of the stomach will neutralize the saliva, destroy the salivary amylase, and bring starch digestion to a halt. If no protein is taken with the starch, no acid is poured into the stomach and starch digestion proceeds on schedule.

A Fundamental Rule
The application of this fact of the physiology of digestion is plain: Eat starch foods at separate meals from acid foods and foods requiring acid in their digestion. This simply means, do not eat such foods as cereals, bread, potatoes, (sweet and Irish), parsnips, squash, beans, or other starchy foods with flesh, eggs, cheese, nuts, or other protein foods, and do not eat these starchy foods with berries, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, or other acid foods. There is enough oxalic acid in spinach to delay or suspend starch digestion.

Acid Indigestion Arises From Wrong Combinations
All of this means that those grand old combinations, the mainstays of every boarding house lady in the land, of citrus fruits and cereals for breakfast and meat and potatoes at dinner, will have to go. So, also, will have to go those other popular favorites, sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, and similar combinations. Pastries with proteins, pastries with acid fruits, and similar popular combinations, are in large measure, responsible for so much of what the patent medicine barkers call "acid indigestion.

Retarded digestion favors fermentation and putrefaction of the foods eaten. Certainly there can be no sane reason why one cannot eat his foods in such combinations as place the least tax upon the digestive glands. Nobody has ever charged, so far as I know, that one cannot get all the food required or that the food will be lacking in essential nutrients if the food is combined according to a few simple rules that have their basis in the physiology of digestion. Who is behind the strenuous effort to persuade the people that food combining is needless and hurtful?

Medical Profession Spreads Lies About Physiology of Digestion
It might be thought that the manufacturers of Alkaseltzer are behind the effort or that the maker of some other antacid is trying to preserve his market, but I doubt this. I think that the medical profession is behind the effort and that they discredit all effort to find a physiological mode of eating because of their ingrained hatred of Hygiene. They have been fighting Hygiene and slowly retreating before its relentless advance for a hundred and thirty-five years. At this late date they are not going to "eat crow" and admit that they have been wrong.

Natural Combinations Wholesome
It is sometimes objected that nature herself combines protein and starch and it is argued that if she combines these food factors, the combination must be good. When those who offer this objection come up with sandwich trees, hamburger bushes and hot dog vines, we'll concede that they have a valid objection. But until they are able to provide us with such combinations, we shall be compelled to think that they are merely throwing spit balls at phantoms. This objection has been answered many times and the answer has been ignored as often as it has been given. It may not be amiss to briefly reply to it again at this time. The digestive tract can vary its digestive secretions, both as to the acidity of alkalinity and as to timing, to meet the digestive requirements of different foods. It can do this with the greatest ease if the food- cereal or legume or potato, for example-is eaten alone, but this adaptation of juice to food is not possible if, instead of a food a complex meal is eaten. Complex meals are not seen in nature and they are not digested with much efficiency by man. Simple meals digest better. It will also be found by all who will give the matter a fair trial that properly combined meals digest much better than the conventional heterogeneous comminglers of foods that are commonly eaten. When a subject is so easily put to the test, there seems to be no reason why anyone should be in doubt about it. One does not have to accept the dogmatic assertions of the ex-spurts, who know all about the subject and know it all wrong.

Wrong Food Combining Responsible For Much Suffering
Man's digestive system struggles with the haphazard combinations with which it is supplied, and does the best it can: That in the strong and vigorous, it succeeds in doing a reasonably good job for a time is a matter of common observation, but the tax placed upon it is enervating, hence disease-producing. In the weak, in the sick, in those with impaired digestion, there is urgent need that correct combinations be eaten if satisfactory digestion is to be achieved. The healthy man may make occasional compromises, the sick man should never do so.

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