We don’t talk enough about proper food combining in my circles of savvy eaters. So many of my friends and clients are all about eating organic, local, raw, vegan, right for their body/blood type, grass-fed, biodynamic, or whatever. But, when I mention to them that if perhaps they switched up the combos of grub on their plates that maybe they’d drop that extra weight, feel less bloated, gain healing and de-stress – they are often surprised.
Did you know that your body needs to release different enzymes in order to break down different foods and food groups? And, that it can be taxing to your body to combine foods that require different enzymes? Each living food has its own enzymes and every enzyme has a specific function.
Proper food combining refers to eating foods together that can be digested together. Seems like a no-brainer since most of us are aware that good digestion is at the foundation of good health. But, many of the meals we traditionally eat, just don’t work in our bodies.
When we blend foods with varying enzymes, some may get digested quicker than others, leaving the slower digested foods to stick around in your beauteous bod for too long. This also puts a halt to digestion all together. Which means that nothing you eat actually gets fully absorbed. What can happen then, is that those foods can become toxic. Even healthy foods can become toxic if the digestion of those foods is halted. This can feed candida and parasites, wake up viral infections, make you constipated and more susceptible to holding on to the next food you eat. It creates a cycle of blockages. If you’re constipated you know headaches, fatigue irritability, weakness and even smelliness (body odor) prevail. And of course cycles un-wellness can often be traced back to undigested food.
I first learned this concept when I decided to use the Body Ecology Diet to help my boy and I heal from major candida (yeast) overgrowth (and undo his autism), and it worked! Then, when I ventured into my own raw vegan eating, I did discover I could pay less attention to eating things together that don’t necessarily mix well – probably because the food I was eating was so enzyme-rich. This can mean less work for our bodies. Of course, I’m a huge fermenter and good fermented food is predigested (already broken down), so your body doesn’t need to produce more enzymes.
Digestion definitely slows during pregnancy. Midwives and books tell me it’s the hormones. But I also suspect it’s the fact that candida yeast also naturally rises. It’s all connected.
At 11 weeks prego, I went way out of my usual eating comfort zone and had a little too much peanut butter, watermelon, chocolate – you name it. It was Mothers’ Day week, and my hubby made so many treats. I guess he didn’t expect me to eat the whole tray of peanut butter brownies or a whole watermelon. But I did. And, I totally felt the aftermath.
I spent that whole week in bed with morning, noon and night sickness. My fall from the grace of sacred pregnancy eating began on a Saturday Morning at the farmer’s market of all places –where I bought peanut butter, watermelon, eggs, and honey to name a few culprits.
Before that, I’d noticed a slight uneasyness in my stomach upon waking each morning that was completely quelled by my delicious superfood smoothies. They sustained me, energized me and kept me free of digestive discomfort for weeks. I was able to do yoga each day and seriously felt better than ever. Even better than pre-pregnancy.
So, where did I go wrong? Aside from eating too much sugar? and peanut butter? And rice flour? Oh geez! Well, first of all fruit digests very quickly.. SO, when I ate cookies, and batter and then ate some watermelon, I literally felt bloated in a split second.
Ever feel that after you eat? Like your gut just bloats out? The watermelon stopped the rest of my food from being digested, and I felt super heavy for days.
Also, knowing that I’m preggers and my digestion is slower, I ate far too many cooked brownies that contain NO enzymes for digestion. This means my body would have to produce the enzymes…. But, yet what kinds of enzymes should my body produce? Enzymes to digest the eggs? The rice flour? The oil? I’m sure the answer took hours to determine.
I came out of it combining most of my meals properly, and adding more digestive enzymes and fermented foods to each meal. My diet is naturally at least 70% raw with tons of superfoods and fermented foods like coconut kefir. I drink at least 16 oz. of coconut kefir each day, which helps quicken digestion. And, it makes us feel pretty amazing too because it boosts serotonin.
There have been times when I’ve intuitively known to combine or not combine certain foods. And certainly no rules for eating apply to every person. You have to know how to check in with your body to find your balance with food.
If you’re in question about whether or not you can get more nutrition out of your food, feel lighter and clearer-focused, and put an end to morning sickness – have a go at these tried and true tips.
Proper Food Combining
Don’t drink it with your food because it actually dissolves enzymes. Have a glass at least 20 minutes before eating, so that your natural enzymes can replenish.
If you want to drink something with your food, try lemon water at room temperature. This can aid in digestion. Also a cup of warm tea can be okay.
This is a big one. Fruit digests very quickly and doesn’t really combine with many other foods. If you eat fruits alone, on an empty stomach, you give plenty of energy space for your body to digest.
Since it digests quickly, you can have more to eat a half hour later.
If I eat fruit, I try to eat it early in the day because I have more time to burn that sugar energy and its less likely that something else is in my digestive tract waiting to move on to its next destination.
First Breakfast/Liquid Breakfast
Have liquids (green smoothie, soup, tea) in the morning before bowel movements, then solid foods are okay after you poop. This is simply because your body is waking up from digesting and detoxing during the night and needs to release, and eating food requires your energy to shift back into breaking down more food instead of releasing.
Check in with your pregnant self about this one. You may want to think about what light or blended breakfast you can have instead of a smoothie or soup because you may require something more grounding in the morning. This is one of those guidelines you may not be able to follow during pregnancy. And, that’s perfectly okay. I also find that those of us who tend toward candida, spleen dampness, or low digestive energy can’t often handle too many liquids. They can make us feel heavy.
At times I’ve switched over to bone broth and fish for breakfast which works amazingly for me. In fact, it’s my fave. With some spinach and beets. But, I’ve been known to eat my fish raw… I know… so taboo. It just feels amazing and completely light for me.
Then, I’ll have my smoothie a few hours later. Or when I feel hungry.
Another idea is mono eating. Simply having a one -food breakfast like an avocado, coconut, or squash, piece of meat or some presoaked, steamed quinoa or rice.
If you’re a constipated mama to be that’d be quite common. It happens. Trying this in the a.m. may mean you can have at least one b.m. during the day. I haven’t been plagued by any of these common issues. Except for during my one week of bed -ridden-ness.
Proteins and Carbs
Don’t mix them. (example: meat and potatoes, rice and beans). They require different enzymes for digestion.
(Some disagree, of course. I’ve heard and read that rice and beans make a complete protein. I’ve also heard that potatoes have a way of decreasing the toxicity in meat. It may work for you if you have much stronger digestion. However, it hasn’t been sustainable for me, other than times when I’ve known I needed something different. Cultured vegetables also convert meat toxins into useful amino acids.
This was one of my biggest lessons. I learned it way before becoming prego.
If you eat meat, eat it before 2 pm for ideal time to digest. Honestly, the rarer the better for digestion (sorry vegan loves).Cooking meat does kill off enzymes needed to digest it and also reduce the protein. I try to eat wild caught meats, and thankfully I’ve manifested a life where that is so available. I’m loving eating wild salmon and deer from my friend in Alaska. Yum! And, this I know is instinctive because I completely cannot stand chicken or beef right now and I rarely crave meat at all in my non-pregnant life. If I can, I like to marinate my meats in cultured veggie juice, apple cider vinegar or citrus and garlic to help break it down and minimize bad bugs. Still though, I’m not getting enough meat to fulfill all of my protein needs, so I do supplement with raw food-based supplements.
If you eat grains, these are great to have in the evening for dinner, as they help release sleep hormones. Make sure to soak and even sprout your grains to remove enzyme inhibitors and make them digestible.
Some women crave grains during pregnancy because they seem to quiet nausea. If this is you, definitely soak, sprout and try cooking on a really low temp to retain as much of the nutrition as possible. When you soak them, you’ll find that they require far less cooking time too.
Eat these with leafy greens and other non-starchy veggies.
These can be a total goddess-send for some of my prego loves. Although they don’t usually contain as much nutrition per bite, they are often great for grounding and easing nausea. I’m getting tons of beets which are so needed right now. And, I’m blessed enough to share space with so many organic growers, that I get fresh from-the-garden squashes all the time. YUM!
Eat lots of good fats while prego. Your baby’s brain and your mood will thank you. Try to combine them only with sour fruit like lime or with herbs and non-starchy veggies.
I like to keep my fats raw and only cook with coconut oil which can stand higher temps. I take fish oils and also eat hemp oil, olive oil, raw butter and ghee as I wish. And, I wish a lot!
I even occasionally throw a raw egg yolk on top of some cooked greens, allowing it to cook on the heat of the greens. Another taboo on the raw egg front, but so full of nutrition and good for my body.
I haven’t been too in love with nuts during this time, but they can offer good protein and fat, like egg or avocado—if you can handle them. Nuts, like grains are most often more digestible when soaked first.
I also find benefit sometimes in roasted almonds. They might help you feel grounded.
if 80% of your meal contains leafy or non-starchy veggies like spinach, kale, collards, broccoli, veggie soup, salad etc and 20% is either grain, meat or starchy veg, you’re setting the stage for a meal well digested. Keeping lots of it raw will help kickstart that too. Of course adding in coconut kefir cultured vegetables or enzymes helps even more. If you cannot really do raw foods, try adding in more raw cultured foods. I’ve found, in my various stages of needs changing, that this really creates balance for me.
Try only eating until you are 80% full. Again, this leaves room for digestive enzymes to do their thing.
Your Body Knows
Your intuition is divinely heightened during this time. So, really tune -in and learn the signals. If you are craving eggs or meat there is a reason. If you are uber turned off by them, there is a reason. If you get gassy, bloaty or smelly there is a reason. If you are way more tired after you eat, there is a reason — and I’m convinced that pregnancy can be a time of amazing wellbeing, if you tune-in.
See how you feel when you mingle healthy fats with fruits… some people feel great eating these together. Try not eating starches with your grains and see if that helps. Even one of these steps can help you make huge improvements.
Being ultra sensitive during this time is your opportunity to understand your body better and build the way of eating that works best for you. All food has the potential to be medicine for you if you eat it in the best way for you.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, your spleen has to transform food and drink into energy. When your spleen is deficient, you may have a pale face and tongue, fatigue after eating, fullness in the belly and loose stools.
If this worsens, it can progress into diahrreah, candida overgrowth, cold feet and hands, a desire for warm foods and discomfort from eating raw.
Chinese Medicine also teaches that one extreme can become another if not addressed. Diarrreah becomes constipation. Extreme cold can become extreme heat. And, by simply beginning with the way you eat, you can ease the burden on your spleen. If you are preggers and experiencing really uncomfortable issues, there may also be herbs you can try to help you. I love reishi mushroom. For me, this really does the trick.
Also, things like massage, dry skin brushing, yoga and acupuncture can activate your digestive system.
It’s All about YOU
While this post mostly refers to my way of eating, you can take any food that’s already on your menu and apply these concepts for digestive relief and to get more nutritional bang per bite. Most people do not get the full nutritional value of their food because it remains undigested. You can change this with food combining differently.
Try it and let me know how you feel, and remember that I am here for personal consults to help you find out what works best for you.
Namaste and Happy Eating,