Food Combining and Chinese Medicine

by John G. Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac., edited by Barbara Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
Chinese Dietary Principles
The Nature of Food According to Chinese Medicine
The Principles of Food Combining
a.  Proper food combining is based on the following principles
b.  What happens if we violate these principles?
c.  What happens if we follow good food combining practices?

References

INTRODUCTION:
Many of our patients have asked us what we think about Food Combining from the perspective of Chinese Medicine.  This article has been written with the hope that it may help you better understand the basics of Food Combining as seen in the light of Chinese Dietary Principles.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine it is Qi, or energy, which is responsible for moving and transforming the food we eat. The Stomach rots and ripens the food and the Spleen transforms and transports the refined Food Essence up towards the Lungs while the Stomach sends the rest of the food down to the Small Intestines. In Chinese Medicine the Spleen extracts Food Qi from food and this forms Blood in the Heart with the assistance of the Original Qi from the Kidneys. The Spleen is therefore the central essential organ for the production of both Qi and Blood.

When we overeat, eat too many hard to digest foods or eat improperly combined foods that food may become stagnant and accumulates instead of being dispersed and transformed. Undigested food can obstruct the Stomach and prevent the Stomach Qi from descending. Such accumulated stagnant food causes stagnant Qi, rebellious Stomach Qi, Stomach Heat and/or Dampness. This results in belching, sour regurgitation, nausea, etc. It may also give rise to or aggravate other conditions such as Blood stagnation and accumulation of Phlegm.

Chinese dietary principles are very old and do not take into account the great changes that have occurred in the growing and production of food in the past few decades. Modern food is subject to considerable chemical manipulation and a great many of the food additives can obviously be a cause of stomach problems and other disorders.Chinese Medicine says that the Qi comes from the purest part of the foods — the flavor or aroma. Its ability to supplement Qi is directly proportional to this aroma. Chinese dietary theory also maintains that food should be freshly made and eaten within 24 hours.

THE NATURE OF FOOD ACCORDING TO CHINESE MEDICINE:
Cold Foods:
• These include raw vegetables, salads, fruit, cold drinks and ice-cream. An excessive consumption of these foods will tend to create Cold in the Spleen and Stomach and ensuing epigastric pain.

• If food or drink has been stored in the refrigerator it should be allowed to heat up to room temperature before being consumed. This is especially true for persons who tend to be Spleen Qi deficient. Such persons should eat fruit and salads which have been warmed up to room temperature.

Hot-Spicy Foods:
• These include curries, spices, lamb, beef and alcohol. An excessive consumption of these foods produces Stomach Heat which may manifest as burning epigastric pain.

Sugar and Sweets:
An excessive consumption of these may tend to produce both Dampness and Heat in the Stomach and Spleen Qi deficiency. When eaten with hydrogenated oils and sugars which are extremely dampening chocolate tends to foster Damp Heat.

Greasy Foods, Fried Foods and Dairy Foods:
•   An excessive consumption of these foods leads to the formation of Phlegm or Dampness in the Stomach.

Citrus Fruits:
• Citrus fruits are sweet and sour and these two flavors in combination tend to be very dampening according to Chinese Five Element theory. Persons with a tendency to Dampness should be careful not to combine citrus fruits with other foods and not to overeat them.

Coffee:
• Drinking coffee exhausts the Kidney Yin and Yang and causes Spleen Qi to be lost.

THE PRINCIPLES OF FOOD COMBINING:
Proper food combining is based on the following principles:
1) That the stomach cannot be both acid and alkaline at the same time because acid and alkaline digestive juices will neutralize each other.

2) Fruits require an alkaline digestive environment.

3) Proteins require an acid digestive environment.

4) Starches require an alkaline digestive environment.

What happens if we violate these principles?
The best way to describe what happens if we violate these principles is by way of an example. Suppose we eat a protein such as meat with a starch such as potato. The body must provide aciddigestive juices to digest the meat and alkaline digestive juices to digest the potato thereby neutralizing each other’s digestive juices. This results in neither food getting properly digested. On the contrary most of the protein, being in the stomach for so long putrefies and most of the carbohydrate ferments. Foods that have been putrefied or fermented generate toxic acids in the body. The putrefaction and fermentation is experienced as gas, flatulence, heartburn and acid indigestion.

What happens if we follow good food combining practices?
Improper food combinations, food additives, polluted water, air and stress cause the body to become toxic and acidic. Fruit as well as vegetables have the unique ability to neutralize the acids that build up in our systems. By eating high-water content foods, properly combined foods and eating fruit correctly puts us on the road to better health by promoting better digestion, assimilation and elimination.

Fruit:
• Fruit should not be eaten with protein because fruit acids inhibit the secretion of hydrochloric acid and thus interfere with protein digestion.

• It is best not to combine fruits with vegetables (especially cooked vegetables), proteins or starches because if such a combination of foods is eaten the  digestion of the fruit will be delayed and subject to fermentation. All fruits go well with sprouts and we may also combine fruit with lettuce and celery.

• We can eat acid fruits with nuts or cheese. 

Acid fruits are:
 blackberries, grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges, pineapples, plums, pomegranates, raspberries and strawberries
• Melons are best eaten alone.

• Wait 20-30 minutes after eating fruit before eating other foods.

Dried Fruits:
• Dried sweet fruits should be used sparingly. Use but one kind at a meal – in small amounts. They should be combined only with sweet fruit and/or lettuce and/or celery.

Citrus Fruits:
• Citrus fruits are best eaten at monomeals or at bimeals of oranges with grapefruits, pineapple, strawberries, etc.

• It is better not to combine them with starches such as breads, pastas, grains, potatoes, carrots, beets, squash, peanuts etc.

• It is better not to combine them with proteins except with nuts or seeds

.Non Starchy Vegetables (High Water Content Foods):
• Non starchy vegetables do not need their own specific digestive juices. They will break down in either acid or alkaline digestive mediums.

• It is OK to eat protein (but only one type at a time) with non starchy vegetables.

• Examples of non starchy vegetables are: asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, chard, collards, corn, cucumber, eggplant, endive, escarole, green beans, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, okra, parsley, spinach, sprouts, summer squashes, sweet pepper, tomatoes, watercress and zucchini.

Nuts and Seeds:
• Concentrated foods such as nuts and seeds should be eaten with or as part of a vegetable salad. The water content of the salad vegetables offsets the lack of water in nuts and seeds.

• Nuts and seeds are protein-fat foods. Fats are slow to digest and their presence with protein makes nuts particularly slow-digesting. Delayed digestion encourages fermentation and putrefaction.

• After eating nuts three hours should elapse before eating fruit.Avocado:

• Avocado combines well with starches, such as whole grain bread, with all cooked or raw vegetables, and with fruit such as papaya, mango, banana, and orange. Do not combine avocado with protein.

Lettuce and Celery
• Lettuce or celery may be combined with fruits (except melons).

• Lettuce is an excellent combination with more concentrated foods of lower water content such as pecans, sunflower seeds, walnuts, sesame seeds, filberts and pine nuts.

Legumes:
• All legumes should be soaked at least three hours or overnight to activate the enzymes in them–otherwise they are indigestible.

Calcium:
• The best sources of calcium are: raw sesame seeds, all raw nuts, kelp, dulse, all leafy greens, and concentrated fruits such as figs, dates and prunes. Most fruit contains ample calcium.

Sandwiches:
• The very nature of a typical sandwich is that it combines a protein with a carbohydrate and therefore it wastes a great deal of digestive energy. Properly combined sandwiches on whole-grain bread, using tomato, avocado, and cucumber, with lettuce or sprouts as fillings are energizing.  Always toast the bread lightly to break down the glutens and make it more digestible.

Amino Acids:
• The following fruits and vegetables contain all the amino acids not produced by the body:  carrots, bananas, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, okra, peas, potatoes, summer squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Avery, Phyllis, Stop Your Indigestion, Vista, CA: Hygeia Publishing Co. 1993
Diamond, Harvey and Marilyn, Fit for Life, New York: Warner Books 1985
Dries, Jan & Inge Dries, The Food Combining Bible, London: Element (Harper Collins) 2002
Flaws, Bob, Arisal of the Clear, Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press 1991
Maciocia, Giovanni, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone 1989

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Compassionate Acupuncture and Healing Arts, providing craniosacral acupuncture, herbal and nutritional medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Phone number 919-309-7753.

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