Mixing foods with a higher sugar content with protein can cause a dilemma for the stomach. The sugars (aka: carbs) need less acid and less time to break down before they leave the stomach, while meat, eggs, even nuts and seeds (aka: proteins) need more acid and more time to break down before leaving the stomach.
When the two are in the stomach together, the body has to decide, “does it stay or does it go?”. If it stays, the sugars sit too long and begin to “ferment” and bubble up which often causes Rebellious Stomach Qi. You get the picture, gas and acid go up and you get heart burn, acid reflux, belching, burping and sometimes, even vomiting. Over time, this can lead to ulcers in the esophagus, Barrett’s Syndrome, COPD and more.
If the body says, “send it on down”, you end up with protein (meat for example) that is not broken down. If the food is broken down, the nutritional benefit is lost as it cannot be absorbed. The undigested particles often become lodged in the intestines and begin to putrefy. This can cause "Heat in the Large Intestine" or even lead to "Toxic Heat in the Large Intestine". Symptoms include lower abdominal problems such as gas, bloating, flatulence, borborygmus (gurgling), odorous bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation, etc. Over time, bad bacteria can feed off the particles and the large intestine can develop diverticulitis. If the colon is not naturally cleansing, removing waste, the diverticulitis can proceed to diverticulosis. If a leak occurs in the intestinal wall, waste can leach into the blood stream leading to skin rashes, joint pain, or worse...sepsis (toxic blood).
So, you can see that gut health is very important and signs like gas, bloating, belching and burping are early warning signs that something needs to change. Here are the “cliff notes” how to avoid these problems. For proper food combining, follow these guidelines to helps to reduce acid reflux and improves digestion and elimination:
1.) Do not drink fluids with your meal, or for at least 2 hours immediately following your meal. This allows your food to digest properly and transit the stomach. (See transit times below.) If you become overly thirsty after the meal, small sips of water are okay.
2.) Focus on drinking during the hours leading up to your meal. Drink a large glass of water approximately 10 minutes or more before eating. This prepares the body for digestion and helps prevent the feeling of thirst while eating.
3.) Do not combine starches and animal protein in the same meal. Ex: chicken and rice, meat and potatoes, pasta with meat sauce, meat sandwiches, eggs and toast, etc. Instead, think of combining proteins with non-sweet vegetables OR mix grains/corn with any vegetables (ex: salmon on a bed of roasted kale and leeks with a side of cauliflower rice OR vegetable stirfry with brown rice).
4.) Always eat fruit alone on an empty stomach. Some fruits are very high in sugar (acid producing), while others are low sugar (sub or low acid producing). Mixed fruit salads can cause difficulty with digestion. Play it safe and eat only one kind of fruit at a time unless you are blending it in a smoothy.
Transit time is the time it takes food to leave the stomach. Here is a general guideline:
- Water 0-10 mins
- Juice/Wine/Alcohol* 30 mins
- Fruit 60 mins
- Vegetables 90-120 mins
- Nuts, Seeds and grains 120 mins
- Meat, Chicken, Fish, Pork, 4 hours
- Shellfish 4 - 8 hour
Remember, chewing gets the process started. Chew your juice and juice your food!
*Note: alcohol is the only thing that absorbs through the stomach lining directly to the blood stream. It can be caustic to the stomach lining and cause ulcerations as well as damage the liver. As an exception, I recommend that people never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Because of it’s fermentation, a single alcoholic beverage with meals may be tolerated by the gut. If you have digestive issues, I recommend avoiding alcohol.