Chapter Two: The Ancient Art of Food Combining

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”
~ Francois La Rochefoucauld, 1613 - 1680 

Have you ever thought you were indulging in a nutritious meal only to feel really bloated afterwards, like you’ve eaten a lead balloon? Or, leant towards lighter vegetarian options only to receive a counter-productive effect? Ever embarked on a restrictive diet only to gain weight in the long run? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, the myriad of over-the-counter pills available to alleviate symptoms such as gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn and constipation proves that we’re doing something wrong in the gastronomy department.

These days it’s considered totally normal to consume a meal that has over twenty different ingredients. For some gastronomes (food lovers), it is revered to eat a wide range of proteins, starches, fruits, vegetables and fats in one sitting. What most of us fail to realise is there’s no seal of approval given by our internals. In fact, our bodies are very complicated control-freaks with a system for everything and a precise method for breaking down anything and everything it comes into contact with.

Disparate ingredients require a particular environment to be processed and broken down into a form that we can digest, and we’re not able to perform these functions simultaneously as the methods for digestion of some foods differ from others. As discussed in the earlier chapter on food, if what we consume can’t move through the digestive system efficiently, we become backed up and overloaded with toxicity, leaving us feeling rather ordinary even though the quality of food we’re eating might be top shelf. Furthermore, the undigested food ends up hanging around where it’s not supposed to leading to unnecessary weight-gain.

The word ‘trophology’ was coined in 1890 by scientist J.S. Billings to name “that department of physiology which deals with nutrition” and is derived from the Latin word trophos which means ‘growth’. It is the study of correct food combining - that is, eating with bodily intelligence and understanding the art form of knowing which foods go best with which others. Father of holistic medicine, Edgar Cayce (1877 - 1945) was a huge advocate and this method of eating was later promoted in the West in the book, Food Combining Made Easy (1951) by Herbert Shelton. The importance of food combination has been reported centuries before, notably in the Indian science of Ayurveda, but this cost-free method of consuming a properly balanced meal for optimum health seems to have been misplaced by mainstream Western medicine.

Of course, critics will argue there’s no science behind Trophology and it is full of quackery. It’s easy to knock, as food combining can be quite difficult to implement and therefore easily placed in the too hard basket. What’s more is the principles are light years away from current culinary experiences and enough to put any conventional chef’s nose out of joint. Like anything, change requires effort and most people opt for the easy road, let alone be held accountable for planning their meals with considered intent. And so, doctors and even health professionals for that matter, have been reluctant to stress the importance of this largely extinct food science. 

But, before we continue with mainstream indoctrination, remember that not so long ago, we were told that nutrition is not a science. There’s no relationship between the gut and brain. Organic farming is a waste of time. Our doctors don’t need to study nutrition in medical school. And most outrageously, smoking cigarettes is good for us! When we consider that bowel cancer is notably the second biggest killer (after lung cancer) in Australia, it’s perhaps time to get over our head-in-the-sand and squeamish tendencies and take a closer look at what goes in and what comes out of us.

Digestion is governed by our physiological chemistry and the powerhouse of digestive enzymes that are hugely reliant on a specific acid/alkaline pH balance within the gastrointestinal tract. It can be made much simpler if foods that require different enzymes in order to be processed, are consumed at different meals. Some foods also digest faster and more readily than others. For example, concentrated proteins may take more than a day to digest, whereas a piece of fruit takes a couple of hours at the most.

Furthermore, proteins require hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin to break them down in the stomach, whereas starches (found in vegetables, legumes and grains) are metabolised in the mouth with the help of salivary amylase (ptyalin), and not again until they reach the small intestine. The environment that starchy foods require is an alkaline one compared to a more acidic setting required for protein digestion. If they are eaten in the same sitting, the hydrochloric acid produced to break down protein envelopes and destroys the alkaline starch enzymes. This leads to fermentation of the starches and gives off by-products of alcohol, carbon dioxides and acetic acids that interfere with the production of hydrochloric acid, thus slowing down digestion. This is taught in every basic Anatomy & Physiology class, yet strangely hardly ever applied in nutritional science.

Consequentially, incomplete digestion of both food sources occurs where fermenting starches and putrefying proteins result, not to mention a hampering of nutrient absorption and assimilation. Worse still, the rotting of food in our systems feed the pathogenic bacteria found in our intestines producing an acidic environment in which they thrive. A vicious cycle begins as these harmful bacteria compete for space with our healthy microflora, opportunistically multiplying and eventually leading to dysbiosis (unbalanced gut flora) which compromises our immunity and in turn affects our resistance to disease. This combination of insufficient digestion, nutrient malabsorption, incomplete elimination and microbial imbalance is the leading cause for so many preventable diseases. Even more alarmingly, many of these inflictions can be avoided simply by taking responsibility for what our plates contain in chow time.

If you enjoy what you’re reading, please download the whole chapter which includes The Laws of Trophology, easy-to-use charts and simple methods to adapt to this intelligent nutritional system.

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