Article #3: Food Combining By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
Instead of confining himself to the compounds or combinations that are turned out by nature, man turns out compounds and combinations of his own, a thing that no other animal in nature does. The animal makes a meal on whatever his instincts demand at the time and does not fill up on many kinds of food at a meal. The general rule, to which there may be an occasional exception (I have failed to find one), is for them to get but one food at a meal. Even the most simple things mixed together are not as good as they would be if taken separately. For it is only thus that we can eat as little or as much of a particular food as the body demands.
We are prone to follow custom and acquired habits in our eating practices and to ignore (commonly we do not know) the inhibiting effects of a variety of conditions and circumstances upon the process of digestion. Much of the alleged scientific defense of customary eating practices is but a lingering survival of ideas formed when little was known of the process of digestion.
It was long thought that the gastric juice was the only solvent of aliment. The office of the saliva was unknown and the other digestive juices with their several enzymes were unknown long after Beaumont discovered the work of the gastric juice. Thus it came to be held that the action of the gastric juice was the same on all articles of diet. It was thought that in some manner, not then understood, bile did aid in the digestion of fats and oils.
The British health reformer, Andrew Combe, accepted the view of Beaumont that saliva is lacking in alimentary solvent. (These solvents are today called enzymes). “The agent of chymification,” said Combe, “is the gastric juice.” It should be noted at this point that Graham took the opposite view. He held that saliva does contain a ferment or solvent. It is a strange thing that at this late date when the importance of the work of the salivary amylase, ptyalin, in the digestion of starch is well known, medical writers, in attempting to discredit Graham, list his differences with Beaumont as one of his mistakes. They are determined not only to discredit Graham, but also to discount the importance of salivary digestion. Recently I read the statement that “digestion begins when food has been swallowed.” Physiologists, physicians and gum-willies all seem to be determined to minimize the importance of salivary digestion. Even the importance of chewing of food in the mouth, which is a part of the digestive process, is negated.
In the effort to defend modern eating customs a number of imaginary activities are pictured as going on in the stomach. Beaumont showed long ago that the gastric juice quickly becomes intimately mixed and blended with the food in the stomach by the motions of the stomach. These continuous motions are in two directions—transversely and longitudinally. It is now customary to deny that the gastric secretion is quickly mixed with the food ingested. This denial is necessary if food combining is to be discredited. Indeed, all enzymic limitations are ignored in the effort to combat the Hygienic heresy that certain combinations of foods may be digested with greater ease and efficiency than others.
In his Air, Food and Exercise, Rabagliati tells of witnessing the vomiting of a salad at 5 A.M. in about the same condition it was eaten at 7:30 the preceding evening. He mentions that the salad “had rather too much vinegar on it.” Acids not only destroy ptyalin and thus stop starch digestion, but they also inhibit the secretion of gastric juice and retard protein digestion. It is the part of dietetic wisdom to avoid eating acid foods (vinegar is not a food, but a poison), with protein. Because acids destroy ptyalin, it is well to avoid eating acid foods with starches.
An acid gastric juice is required to digest proteins. An alkaline medium is required for the work of ptyalin. For these reasons, protein foods and starch foods should not be eaten together. If a natural protein-starch combination, such as beans or cereals, is eaten, the body can so adapt its digestive juices to the digestive requirements of such a food that it is digested without too much trouble. If an artificial protein-starch combination is eaten, this adaptation cannot take place. Because of their complex character, beans, a protein-starch combination, tax the digestive powers more than simpler foods, but the gas, discomfort and other trouble that so commonly follow eating them, is not due so much to the beans themselves as to the company they keep. Baked beans are, of course, preferable to beans that are boiled and taken thoroughly saturated with water. If taken thus relatively dry, well chewed and eaten in proper combinations, beans will be found to be readily digestible.
A test meal of soup, beef-steak and potatoes remained in the stomach for three hours. The same meal with sugar remained for five hours. Sugar, like acids, has a marked inhibiting effect upon the flow of gastric juice and upon gastric motility. The meal of soup, potatoes and steak was sufficiently difficult of digestion, but when the sugar was added, it became more so. In our regular eating habits we ignore, or do not know these simple facts. We tend to eat as those around us eat and we refuse to listen to the voice of those who seek to instruct us in the art of better eating. Perhaps this is the reason that it has been said that our people’s favorite dessert is baking soda. I think that Alkaseltzer has now supplanted baking soda as an after-meal tid-bit, largely due, no doubt, to the fact that few homes use soda any more, since little home baking is now done.
When we were children, our mothers would not permit us to eat sugar, candy or cookies before a meal. As she expressed it, “it spoils the appetite.” The fact is that no other food depresses the stomach and the desire for food as sugar does. The so-called “energy break” in mid-morning and mid-afternoon, when sugar or candy is taken to renew lagging energies, is no different from taking a coffee-break for the same purpose. This practice of taking sugar has been dignified with the high-sounding title: “The Scientific Nibble,” but it is a fallacy. It is certainly a mistake to eat sugar, syrups, cakes, candies, pies, sweet fruits or honey with proteins.
Fat, like sugar and acid, also inhibits the secretion of gastric juice and the physical actions of the stomach. Too much fat taken with the meal results in acid eructations which leave a pungent, burning sensation in the throat. Fat inhibits gastric secretion. We have a great army of gastric invalids who overeat on butter and other fat, take sugar or acids with proteins and then are told by their physician that they do not have sufficient hydrochloric acid. The physician gives them hydrochloric acid to take and tells them that once this acid has been “lost” it cannot be regained. How does the physician know? Has he ever tried removing the cause of gastric hypo-secretion? Has he ever tried restoring the patient to health to see if his glands will function normally? Has he ever tried correcting the patient’s eating and living habits? The answer to all of these questions is the same. He has never made such attempts. He has been content to palliate the symptoms of his patient and leave causes untouched.
People often consult us who are taking hydrochloric acid upon the advice of a physician, who has explained that there is no possibility of them ever regaining the tone of the stomach and that they will have to take the acid the rest of their lives. They are fully convinced that this is true and it is no easy task to disabuse them of the fallacy. It is true, of course, that if they have taken the acid for a prolonged period, the practice itself has resulted in so much deterioration of the gastric glands that secrete hydrochloric acid, that the chances of full recovery are greatly reduced. The practice should never be started in the first place and only the grossest kind of ignorance or criminal indifference to a sick person’s welfare will ever prescribe such a treatment for the sick.
Fruits, because of their peculiar combinations, are best eaten at a fruit meal and not combined with starches, fats or proteins. As a rule they are abundant in either acids or sugars, hence do not combine well with other foods. As they undergo very little digestion in the mouth and stomach they should not be held up in the stomach awaiting the completion of gastric digestion of other foods.
There is no sharp line of division between the acid and subacid fruits. Neither is there a sharp line of demarkation between sub-acid fruits and sweet fruits. The gradations between these classes of foods are almost imperceptible. The acid fruits are those with the most tart flavors—lemons, grapefruit, oranges, pineapple, sour apples, tomatoes, and similar fruits rich in acid. The sub-acid fruits are those that possess less acid flavors-pears, sweet apples, apricots, fresh figs, some grapes, sweet peaches, cherries and nectarines. The sweet fruits are those that are rich in sugar (sweet in taste)—persimmons, bananas, figs, dates, raisins, sweet grapes, mangoes and papayas. The avocado is a fat.
Tilden recommended eating the banana alone. He especially enjoined milk with this fruit, but said that it does not seem to go well with any other food. Although bananas do not give any special difficulty in digestion, if eaten with other sweet fruits, such as dates or sweet grapes, the same cannot be said for melons, which should be eaten alone. It is probably a great misfortune that we do not always feel the direct effects of imprudent eating immediately following a meal. For example, there are large numbers of people who have discomfort, even great discomfort following a meal in which melons are eaten with other foods; but there are many others who do not. This latter group can see no connection between their life of imprudent eating and the breakdown of their health in years. Their apparent impunity prompts them to defy all the same rules of life.
- 1. The Basis Of The Food Combining System
- 2. What Is Food?
- 3. The Chemistry And Physiology Of Digestion
- 4. Food Combining Rules
- 5. The Crux Of Food Combining
- 6. Question & Answers
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- Article #4: Protein-Starch Combinations By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
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