How does food combining work?

Some say it’s a load of rubbish.

Others swear by it.

Could it be that, fifty years on, Dr Hay’s food combining theories need an update?

To be honest with you, I’m a HUGE fan and I discovered this way of eating in 1996 when I read Dr. Hays book and it was like a window opening in my mind, it just made so much sense!

Once I personally got my head around what was what and couldn’t be eaten with what, it was pretty simple to follow.

The effects I felt were astounding, within a month I had lost a stone in weight, (14lbs) even though I hadn’t set out to intentionally lose weight and the energy I gained on top of the natural energy I already possessed was phenomenal!

I looked better, I felt better and the icing on the cake (figuratively speaking of course) was a hiatus hernia that I had been suffering from over a year, practically disappeared overnight!

The differences to me were so remarkable I actually had the entire creative department of a large London advertising agency following this method as well and having great success with it.

I have no desire or need to lose weight but I still follow the “Hay principles” 70% of the time today because it makes me feel so much better without any feelings of being bloated and I still have “bags of energy”!

The fact that the very words ‘food combining’ sell, strongly suggests to me that the experience of many people tells them that certain types or combinations of food don’t suit them.

That too is my experience. Dr Hay devised a set of rules that have helped millions of people. But are all the rules right? A ‘food combiner’ is not only combining food differently, they’re also eating different kinds of food, and may even be eating less food because of the practical constraints of eating to a set of rules.

How do we know whether the advantages are due to food combining or these other factors and how can they fit into your lifestyle?

The key elements in Dr Hay’s original theory, expounded in the 1930s, was to eat ‘alkaline forming foods’, eat fruit on its own, avoid refined and heavily processed foods, and not mix protein rich and carbohydrate rich foods.

Protein and carbohydrate are digested differently. That is a fact. Carbohydrate digestion starts in the mouth when the digestive enzyme amylase, which is in the saliva, starts to interact with the food you chew. Once you swallow food and it enters the relatively acid environment of the stomach, amylase stops working. Only when the food leaves the stomach, where the digestive environment becomes more alkaline, can the next wave of amylase enzymes, this time secreted into the small intestines from the pancreas, continue and complete digesting carbohydrate.

Protein, on the other hand, is not digested at all in the mouth. It needs the acid environment of the stomach and may hang out there for 3 hours until all the complex proteins are broken down into small groups of amino acids. This only happens in the stomach because of high levels of hydrochloric acid which is needed to activate the protein digesting enzyme, pepsin. Once small groups of amino acids leave the stomach they meet peptidase enzymes, again from the pancreas, which break them down into amino acids, ready for absorption.

The Myth of the Bean.

The overly simplistic understanding of food combining and making them part of a weight management programme is to separate carbohydrate and protein foods because they are digested differently.

The fact that eating certain kinds of beans produces flatulence is often quoted as a negative effect because beans are both protein and carbohydrate. However, it is now known that this is not the reason for beans’ boisterous reputation. In some beans there is a kind of protein which cannot be digested by the enzymes in our digestive system, even when eaten alone. This protein can, however, be digested by the bacteria that live in the large intestine.

So when you eat beans you not only feed yourself you also feed these bacteria. These bacteria produce gas after a good meal of lectin, hence the flatulence. It’s got nothing to do with food combining. This makes sense to me since many healthy cultures throughout the world have evolved to eat a diet in which beans or lentils are a staple food.

Best wishes Garth
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