food combining for a happy digestive system

A blind man, a man with one leg, and a soccer mom walk into a bar. They bet the bartender a drink if he can correctly guess which of them is diabetic. The punch line is that they all are and what sounds like a bad joke is actually my family. We are fat and we are sick. This is my future and that of millions of Americans unless we completely change the way we think about food.

It is time to face the facts. We the people of the world’s most prosperous nation are quickly becoming the unhealthiest. Our very prosperity has led to our downfall. Today there are endless options in food selection, more than at any point in human history. Manufacturers churn out pre-processed foods in the name of liberty, variety and convenience but in truth they are peddlers of poison, giving us each day our daily white bread. The body has no use for substances such as refined white sugar and bleached white flour yet these two substances are endemic to our food supply.

The problem is almost too big to believe. How can our entire food supply be wrong? Everyone knows that the way to health is proper diet and exercise. Yet what exactly is proper diet? The only thing the experts can all agree on is to eat more whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables and less processed foods. This advice sometimes feeds the belief that increasing the amount of good stuff one eats can somehow make up for all the junk consumed. This is the holy grail of the food and pharmaceutical industries: to find a pill that provides perfect nutrition so we may gorge ourselves on all the swill modern science is capable of creating under the guise of foodstuffs. Society is preoccupied with cures, pills, and surgery. Prevention and nutrition are low on its list of priorities.

Conversely, what if it were possible to avoid all the potions, pills, and poking by simply feeding the body just what it needs to heal itself and nothing else? We forget that the body is a self-healing mechanism. Our duty is to give it the proper fuel it needs to perform the job. All necessary vitamins and nutrients for health and vitality come from living foods: plants and animals. In theory, most items in supermarkets and restaurants originated from a living food. In reality, often the heavily processed gunk most of us think of as “food” today is a far remove both chemically and nutritionally from once living and nutritious whole foods.

Months of research for specific answers on how and when to eat produced a discovery: trophology. Trophology, a branch of science dealing with nutrition, is a big word for a simple idea: food combining. Food combining takes into account how digestion works and seeks to maximize digestive ability. Good health starts with good digestion. The body is designed to digest foods slowly and one type at a time. Eating food in improper combinations causes the entire concoction to ferment and/or putrefy in the stomach. The theory is that certain digestive processes are alkaline (starch/pytalin) and others are acid (protein/pepsid), and to combine foods using opposing digestive processes will neutralize digestion, causing starches to ferment and proteins to putrefy.

Oddly, I first ran across this concept when I was researching colon cleansing. It turns out that some of the long-term effects of overloading one’s digestive system may show up as nasty surprises later in the colon. “When the impacting of toxic mucus in the colon reaches critical pressure, it causes a pocket to balloon outward through the colon lining, causing a condition called diverticulosis. Colitis, IBS, and colon cancer are the next stages of colon deterioration caused by these conditions.” (Reid) According to the food combining “bible”, Herbert Shelton’s The Hygienic System, Vol. II, Orthotrophy; here are the basic rules:

  • ACID-STARCH Never eat carbohydrate foods and acid foods at the same meal. Acids neutralize the alkaline medium needed for starch digestion, resulting in indigestion and fermentation.
  • PROTEIN-CARBOHYDRATE Never eat a concentrated protein and a concentrated carbohydrate at the same meal. Proteins need an acid environment for digestion.
  • PROTEIN-PROTEIN Never consume two concentrated proteins at the same meal.
  • PROTEIN-FAT Do not consume fats with proteins.
  • ACID-PROTEIN Do not eat acid fruits with proteins. “The acids of acid foods inhibit the secretion of the digestive acids required for protein digestion.” (Healing)
  • SUGAR-STARCH Do not consume starches and sugars together. Fruits (sugars) digest quickly and will ferment on top of slower digesting food.
  • STARCH-STARCH Eat but one concentrated starch food at a meal. This rule is to prevent overeating and does not indicate digestive incompatibility.
  • MELONS Do not consume melons with any other foods.
  • MILK Milk is best taken alone or let alone.

The most common criticism of trophology is that it would require too much discipline to follow because it is so different from our normal eating habits. Given the current state of affairs, perhaps it is not too extreme to consider this historically viable and more natural way of eating. I have been unable to find any research disagreeing with trophology specifically as a digestive science, although there is widespread confusion over the use of its alternate name of food combining. Food combining also refers to the old vegetarian notion that beans and rice needed to be served together to make a complete protein. This “complete protein” concept is widely considered to have been debunked, and is not to be mistaken with trophology.

It is difficult to find current research on trophology, as it, and nutrition topics in general, are unlikely to attract new research money. Since research funding is so closely linked to future profit, corporate funding is unlikely to be forthcoming for studies on holistic nutrition so long as vegetables and fruits remain patent and profit free. There have been several books and diets based upon trophology, most notably “Fit For Life” by Harvey Diamond and “The Tao of Health, Sex & Longevity” by Daniel P. Reid.

It appears to me that many popular diets I have seen can fit into this method of eating. For example, the Atkins diet merely eliminates the starch category instead of segregating it from protein meals. I suspect many of the benefits of vegan and vegetarian diets derive from accidental trophology practices, since these diets are often high in raw foods and low in dense protein sources. The only known recent study, done at Tennessee State in 2005, indicated that trophology might not be effective for weight loss; however, I do not believe that is its primary benefit. Rather, the benefits are more subtle and systemic.

From what I have read about the relation of food to the body, it appears that digestion takes an enormous amount of bodily energy and resources away from healing and regeneration. Ignoring and abusing the vital function of digestion will most likely lead to ill health somewhere down the line from excessive build up of improperly digested materials in the GI tract.

An internet search on trophology will render detailed charts of food combinations that at first may seem daunting. Instead of being intimidated, consider the following guidelines:

  • Eat a meal of just fruit each day. Personally, I can’t do this unless it’s tomatoes. I can’t stand fruit most of the time. But I can snack on it in small amounts.
  • Eat one or two big salads of fresh vegetables every day accompanied by either a protein or a starch, with some cooked veggies on the side. It helps me to think of it as a low-carb diet at one meal and a pure vegetarian diet at the other, with fruit meals in between.
  • The important thing is to serve opposing foods far apart in the day and to avoid continuous eating.
  • If you absolutely must have dessert, eat it as a separate meal. Otherwise, it will just sit on top of the rest of your meal and ferment.

My Sample Menu:

Early Meal
  • 1 Banana
  • Several fresh dates


  • Bacon & eggs (Some say protein is good to start your metabolism, others disagree. See what works best for you.)


  • Oatmeal
  • 1/2 basket of cherry tomatoes
Afternoon Meal (consider making this the biggest meal of the day)
  • Large green salad or cooked greens
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Salmon steak
  • Steamed sweet potato or yam with sesame oil
Early Evening Meal
  • Large green salad (an easy “salad” can consist of a stalk of celery, a red bell pepper, and some snow peas)
  • Baked potato with olive oil
  • yogurt or chocolate

As you can see, these are very simple meals to prepare. In fact, the only hard part is figuring out what not to eat together. To make that part easy, print and hang some charts up in the kitchen:

This is a diet of simplicity and is easily adapted for the single person. Instead of chopping vegetables for a salad, why not consider the radical approach of eating that carrot or radish whole? Each time you slice a vegetable, it loses nutrients to the air through oxidation. You can save time and nutrients simply by preparing food less. Cooking also leads to nutrient loss. Many things taste just as good raw or lightly steamed.

Other simple digestive guidelines include never drinking water with meals. You can “drink all the water desired ten to fifteen minutes before meals, thirty minutes after fruit meals, two hours after starch meals and four hours after protein meals” (Shelton). Chew food until it is as close to a liquid state as you can get it because digestion starts in the mouth. Eat as close to nature as possible. Try to eat raw vegetables every day. Avoid processed white anything. Living foods are superior foods, including animals and grains but especially vegetables and fruits.

In proper combination, eating a wide variety (over time, not daily) of wholesome foods, in appropriate amounts, will abundantly nourish the body and prevent much dis-ease. Complete nutrient information on 130 healthy and wholesome foods may be found at:

The human body does not need anywhere near the amount or variety of food we now insist upon giving it. Throughout most of our history, our bodies have evolved to maximize upon the meager amount of food we have been able to procure for ourselves through hunting, gathering or small plot cultivation. Traditionally, most of humanity did not have the option of feasting upon multiple varieties of food at every meal. Starvation was much more of an issue than gluttony. Only of late has humanity had access to the vast array of foods now available. Globalization and cheap transportation now brings the food of the world to our swollen tables.

The era of the idyllic family farm has evolved to that of the laboratory. Corporate chemists in pristine lab coats constantly strive to design new concoctions to tempt our spoiled palettes. Meanwhile, the advertising department provides public education and nutrition information about their “new and improved food” while we are left to wonder what was wrong with the food we had. Television advertising creates cravings where none previously existed. Like the Romans and their vomitoriums, in modern day America, we often eat not to fuel our body but instead to pleasure our jaded taste buds. Endless new combinations and super sized portions fuel our looming shared future of chronic disease and illness.

If nothing else, we must relearn how to eat simply and only when hungry. Wait to let food digest before eating again. Different foods take different times to digest but a good rule of thumb is to wait 30-60 minutes for fruit, 1-2 hours for vegetables, 1-3 hours for vegetable proteins & starches, and 3-4 hours for animal proteins.

In my personal experience, these principles seem to work. My primary evidence is the absence of that “too full” feeling after eating. I feel lighter and sharper when I eat in proper combination. I do not get heartburn when I move quickly. If I eat poorly for a few days, my energy level drops significantly and I feel lethargic. When my digestion is unencumbered, I literally feel lighter on my feet. An unanticipated benefit to strictly following this regimen was that I suddenly became quite acutely aware of what I was putting in my mouth.

Regardless of how one feels about the act of focusing upon food decisions, making them with absolute health and digestibility in mind leads to the beginning of a completely new relationship with food. The discipline of eating simpler foods, less of them, and never more often than 3 hours apart made me immediately much fussier about what I put in my mouth. It is the waiting that really requires discipline waiting at least 2 hours to drink and 3 to eat, generally.

How do we institute these changes into a “normal” eating pattern? We do not. Normal is a lie advertised and sold to us by Kraft and McDonald’s. We must instead completely change the way we think about food and commit to consistently eating just what the body needs to fulfill its biological and cellular functions, and in a way that is easy to digest. The catch phrase of the day in health advice is lifestyle changes. In order to change a life, the mind must first change. Think about it.

Print some charts for your kitchen. Experiment. Eat. Enjoy. Discover real food again, and keep the future from becoming a bad joke.


Diamond, Harvey and Marilyn. Fit for life. New York, NY : Warner Books, c1985.

Hawkins, Melanie. THE SCIENCE OF TROPHOLOGY. Advisor: Terry Silver. Tennessee State University. Department of Human Performance And Sport Sciences.

Healing Food Combining. 2002 by Marc Leduc.

Internet health library 2000: Diet and Lifestyle: Food combining

Marine Corp Fitness Training. Food Profiles – TROPHOLOGY – THE SCIENCE OF FOOD COMBINING.

Optimum Health Institute.

Reid, Daniel. TROPHOLOGY – THE SCIENCE OF FOOD COMBINING. HPS-Online Guided Cleansing: Food Combining.

Shelton, Herbert M. The Hygienic System, Vol. II, Orthotrophy. San Antonio, Texas: Dr. Shelton’s Health School, Sixth Edition, 1975. First published 1935.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Food combining.

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