Every time we eat, we chew and swallow without consideration as to how food is digested, just an expectation that everything will occur efficiently. But Darren Vartikian asks: ‘is there a better way to optimal digestion’?

Changing the bad habits of a lifetime to improve one’s health can be a slow and at times difficult process, but with some determination and a little patience the eventual transition will occur.

From a very young age our parents – along with other guidance and tradition – impart the source of knowledge of what and how we eat. For many, this conditions our eating patterns for the rest of their lives.

But what if many of the mental and physical health-related illnesses, conditions, intolerances and digestive disorders that people suffer from are attributable not only to the food that we consume but also the manner in which we consume them?

For some, adopting an ‘ignorance is bliss’ attitude will always be a much easier option, a continued pathof self-destruction that ultimately and ironically may be aiding and abetting the proliferation of illness.

In order to achieve optimal digestion, we must first understand how digestion works.

Digestion: The Process Of Eating 

Inefficient digestion and absorption of nutrients limits growth, repair and healing of the mind and body.

Without food, the supply of nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals for mental and physical function would cease to exist.

To attain nutrients from food, a process of breaking down, extracting, absorbing and eliminating waste occurs. This process is commonly known as digestion.

Digestion occurs through a path known as the digestive tract, which begins at the mouth, continues through the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and ends at the anus. Although not structurally connected to the digestive tract, the liver, pancreas and gallbladder assist in the digestion of food, collectively creating the digestive system.

The digestion of carbohydrate and fat foods begins in the mouth with amylase and lipase enzymes respectively present in saliva during the chewing process. These then travel down the oesophagus to the stomach where the beginning and continuation of protein (pepsin enzyme) and fat digestion occurs. Carbohydrate digestion ceases here and recommences in the small intestine.

Made up of three sections (the duodenum, jejunum and ileum), the small intestine is where digestion of food concludes and absorption of nutrients occurs through the intestinal wall via finger-like projecting structures known as villi. Each villus has microvilli projections that are programmed only to absorb a specific nutrient in a specific area of the small intestine; carbohydrates at the jejunum, protein and fat absorption at the ileum. Once food reaches the large intestine (cecum, colon, rectum and anal canal), digestion of a different kind takes place. Bacteria or microorganisms residing in the colon break down the remainder of the food and extract nutrients for their own growth, while passing the rest for elimination.

Food Combining: is it a good idea?

Don’t ignore the signs and symptoms of poor digestion.

While science outlines the theoretical process of food digestion, it doesn’t guarantee its efficiency in practical application.

Studying the details of the digestive process highlights the following key points:

  • Nutrients are digested in varying environments (alkaline/acidic),
  • broken down by nutrient specific  chemicals and enzymes and…
  • are absorbed in a specific area and section of the digestive tract.

These simple facts prompt an important question:

How can foods be optimally digested and nutrients optimally absorbed when multiple foods of varying nutrient sources are consumed at the same time? 

How can the body differentiate between carbohydrate, protein and fat food sources when all are mixed together? Combining multiple foods at one time may create an array of health problems that manifest in various ways (and degrees) over a period of time due to the following:

  1. Impaired function to structural components of the digestive tract, forced to work with greater vigour in breaking down food.
  2. Chemical disharmony or imbalance through the release of multiple chemicals (bile, insulin and so forth) and enzymes at the same time.
  3. Negative effects upon the microorganisms in the large intestine.
  4. Deficiencies caused by inefficient digestion and poor absorption of nutrients.

What is the common sense solution? 

It is surely that all food sources of a specific nutrient be consumed separately as a standalone meal.

Barring any illnesses and/or structural damage, eating food separately seems to guarantee optimal digestion and nutrient absorption, which in turn increases optimal mental and physical function.

With a little self-awareness one can gauge progress of the health benefits from eating foods individually through the following indicators: how you feel, how you function and how you appear physically.

Is there a place for food combining?

Absolutely. Food combining should always have a place in a person’s diet but once the benefits of eating foods separately emerge however, you may find the desire and motivation to maintain this type of eating regime will grow.

As with anything there is lots of conflicting advice available about how you should eat your food. If you search ‘food combining’ on the internet there will be lots of charts and tables detailing different foods you should eat together for different results but to this I say: eat steak, chicken or fish for protein and some form of nuts for fats. Then observe how you feel and if there is distention in your gut. Then the next day, eat the same foods but separately and see what happens. Do the same mixing starches such as potatoes, corn and rice with fruit, then another time eat them separately. It is my experience and opinion that you will always feel better when consuming these foods separately and as the old saying goes ‘you should listen to your gut.’

Certain pre-existing health conditions may preclude some people from attempting to eat in this manner. Before any dietary changes are made please consult with a physician.

 

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