WeIl, I was rolling around gripping my stomach on my friend’s bed, trying desperately hard to repress a wail. It was a party at a friend’s house – far from the only one in the room, and I have to admit it was a little embarrassing. “Have you got indigestion, man?” he prompted, “I’ll get something for that.”
The culprit: a fruit cider. I don’t know why it happened – but it wasn’t the first time; I just hadn’t had the advantage of someone telling my about this quick fix. In five to ten minutes my stomach pain was gone.
With such fast action, it’s no wonder that antacids are commonly take to neutralize stomach acid and relieve indigestion or heartburn. But relief comes with a cost. You need acid in the stomach to absorb minerals. So, if you take them too often, you become deficient in calcium, magnesium, iron and other essential nutrients. Proteins don’t break down properly, so you become deficient in Amino acids. Your stomach acid is also your first line of defence against many pathogens.
Now, one antacid is obviously not going to kill you. I was very thankful to have them to hand after that fruit cider. But there is a difference between taking something on occasion to treat a bellyache caused by something that you shouldn’t have eaten or drunk, and as a way of life as many people do today. I can’t stress this enough because the side-effects are not trivial! A 2016 study in JAMA Neurology showed an association between proton pump inhibitor use and dementia. Among approximately 74,000 adults aged 75 and older who were all free of dementia at the beggining of the study, those who filed at least one prescription every three months for PPIs (proton-pump inhibitors) in an 18-month window were 44% more likely to have dementia after and 8-year follow-up.
This is the-more frustrating because popping antacids left and right should not be necessary if people eat carefully. Depending on how sensitive your system is, you should look at combining fewer types of food at once. The principle is we each only have one stomach, and the moment we put something in our mouth, our intelligent body begins to produce the correct environment to digest that kind of food – including generating the right enzymes and chemicals. If you eat bread, fish, rice, pasta, meat, and vegetables for dinner and wash them down with a soda, then follow them up with fruit and cake for dessert, followed by coffee, how is your body meant to create the perfect environment to digest any one of them?
Harvey and Marilyn Diamond made waves when they first introduced the masses to the concept of food combining in the 1985 smash hit Fit for Life. One of their suggestions was not to mix starches with proteins, but either have “protein” with vegetables OR pasta and rice with vegetables – but not have them all together in the same meal. Many people reported that they no longer got indigestion when they followed this advice. They also suggested never eating fruit after a heavy meal but rather having fruit at least 20 minutes or more before a main meal, allowing you to gain the full, rich benefits of the fruit, which digests best on its own. Many people report they “can’t eat pineapple” (or kiwi, or melon) because it “gives the indigestion,” but further investigation reveals they only ever have it after a bigger meal. This is based on the hypothesis that that fruit only digests minimally in the stomach before passing through into the intestines, and that the high water content and alkaline composition in fruit neutralizes the stomach acid, leading to incomplete digestion of complex foods that need a more acidic environment to break down.
Harvey and Marilyn’s most successful suggestion was to prompt people to try replacing breakfast for ten days – all those doughnuts, fried foods, and cereals – with nothing but fruit until 11 or 12pm – whatever people felt they could manage. So many people took up the ten-day challenge and felt so much better they never looked back. Perhaps you’ll try it to and see how you feel.
Wishing you full digestion and happy nutrition.