Food combining was developed in the 1920’s by Dr Hay. He had a serious health crisis – Bright’s Disease – and couldn’t get the help he needed from medical treatment. His search to find a way to heal himself forced him to break away from the drugs and surgery of his own profession. Instead he discovered a dietary method to heal disease.
Since then he has had many enthusiastic followers including Suzanne Somers and Tony Robbins. However, as far as I know, neither the doctor nor the two celebrities has had IBS. Food combining has been popularized by them as the answer to weight loss and increased energy, and for digestive problems of every description. But is it the best diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Or a cure? Let’s take a look.
While I have seen different versions of the food combining diet, most of them seem to agree on three things:
• Don’t mix protein and starch at the same meal, so no meat with potatoes and carrots, no meat sauce on pasta, etc. Eat protein with non-starchy veggies, like salad, at one meal. Eat starch foods (pasta, bread, rice) with vegetables at another meal.
• Eat fruit and especially melons alone
• Eat lots of veggies, especially leafy greens
If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome and have been looking into food for IBS, you might notice some problems with these suggestions right away…
First of all, people with IBS-D (diarrhea) need to eat soluble fiber usually as the first part of the meal BEFORE they eat any insoluble fiber like salad veggies. Soluble fiber foods include items such as parsnips, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes, all of which would be considered starch in the food combining diet. So IBS-D people would need to combine one or more of these starchy veggies with their protein before they had a salad. Eating protein with salad may work for people with IBS-C (constipation) but not so well if you have IBS-D. So that breaks rule number one.
The starch and protein combination that typically causes the most digestive problems is grains like pasta, bread or rice with meat, poultry or fish especially for people with IBS-C. Because both wheat and protein are more difficult to digest than most other foods and require digestive enzymes from different areas of the body, people get some relief by splitting them apart and not forcing their digestive system to deal with both at the same time.
Eating fruit alone is a good idea, either 30 minutes before or 2 hours after a meal. However, since this means eating fruit on an empty stomach, focussing on soluble fiber is very important. (Eating insoluble fiber on an empty stomach tends to be a recipe for disaster for people with IBS.) Fruits with soluble fiber are bananas, mango, papaya, applesauce, and peeled apples. Other fruits can be eaten, if you tolerate them, as long as you eat the soluble fiber fruit first.
As for eating lots of veggies, we’re back to soluble fiber again. The safest thing to do is start with soluble fiber vegetables and leave the salad or other veggies with insoluble fiber for afterwards, if you tolerate them. Chopping, cooking, and pureeing helps to break down the fiber and make it more digestible. If you have a high-speed blender, you could try blending a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber vegetables into a drink. There are many recipes for this in raw or living foods cookbooks.
Since Irritable Bowel Syndrome is linked to undischarged trauma stored in the brain rather than to bowel damage, a dietary method alone is usually not enough to fully relieve the condition. Food combining, with the cautions listed above, may be helpful as an IBS diet but is unlikely to be a cure.