Our dietary habits that is and the way we eat probably influence our health even more than the foods we choose to eat. Developing good dietary habits should begin as early as possible, because these habits will help or hinder us for life. Once they are “under our belt,” so to speak, they are very difficult to change. For example, obesity is as much a result of how we eat as it is of what we eat. Overeating, eating late at night, or eating too many different foods at a meal can weaken our digestive functions and make it much easier to gain weight. Overeating at meals and snacking between meals are common eating problems, and often these habits are picked up from other family members during our developmental years. The focus on food and the socialization around eating are family dynamics that become deep-seated very early. Our psychological and emotional states are often tied into habits such as these. Equating food with love or prosperity, and eating for emotional satisfaction or security, are powerful psychological factors which are influenced by eating patterns and problems. Thus, weight reduction is a significant challenge that encompasses major shifts in our psyche, attitudes, emotions, and, hopefully, our physique.
Specific food attractions are also part of our personal eating pattern. These likes and dislikes often develop when we are children and are usually difficult to change. They also influence our health and weight. Breads, pastas, meats, peanut butter, chips, ice cream, fried foods, sugars, hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries are not our most healthful foods, but these are surely in greater demand than carrots, celery, and apples. The Western family?s attraction to fatty foods continues to influence children, teenagers, and young adults, toward the trend of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Tastes for specific flavors, such as for salty or sweet foods, also develop when we are young, and are accordingly difficult to change. Occasionally, people become attracted to sour or spicy foods, to bitter foods, such as leafy greens, or to other, less common, flavors. In our culture, abuse of or addiction to sugar and salt is very widespread and influences health significantly. From sugar added to baby food, cereal, coffee or tea, and salt added to almost everything else, to further hidden salt and sugar in most restaurant or fast foods, we are constantly bombarded with these two flavors. The Chinese consider that there are five flavors?sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and bitter?all of which must be balanced to create a healthy diet (see further discussion in Chapter 12, under Flavors [Balance]).
The abuse of sugar and salt in America and even worldwide is significantly influencing the types of diseases seen. Too much sugar affects the teeth, contributes to obesity, and may be an important factor in the development of adult diabetes. Extra salt affects the body?s water balance, thereby affecting the kidneys, blood pressure, and, eventually, the entire cardiovascular system. Most of these problems could be greatly reduced with a more balanced diet.
During the last quarter century, we have seen a dramatic increase in fast foods, snack foods, artificial foods, and foods containing excessive amounts of sugar, salt, or fats. Though these foods may be less expensive for the consumer, the overall costs are more than just what it takes to pay for big factories, expensive equipment, and many employees; it affects the health of our internal and external environment, and that?s a high price to pay! Nowadays, nearly 40 percent of the food dollar is spent in restaurants. Fat intake is more than 40 percent of the average diet. A large portion of the American diet consists of those poor-nutrition foods with their empty calories and excess fat, salt, and sugar?hamburgers, french fries, soft drinks, pizza, hot dogs, fried chicken, bacon, potato chips, candy, pastries, and so on. The attraction to and regular intake of these foods because of their flavors, consistency, availability, or social acceptance easily become ?habits??we seek them out without thinking, and they become a regular part of our diet, often in place of more nutritious foods.
Luckily, we can change these habits. We can change what we eat, how we eat, and when we eat. We can shed addictions to sugar, salt, or other specific foods. We can gain new attractions to more wholesome foods, and lose weight, allowing our body to find its more optimal shape and metabolism. Any change, however, does require motivation and time to allow for physiological readjustments and even withdrawal to take place; this usually takes at least a few weeks. But more and more people are choosing natural foods and losing their tastes for unnatural, oversweetened, salty, greasy, meaty foods. Preparing simpler meals with simpler foods in modest quantities spread out through the day is a healthful way of eating that has come back into vogue.
FOOD HABIT INTERVIEW
Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
There are many factors involved in eating to achieve a balance of physical nourishment, mental relaxation, and emotional harmony. These goals are easily undermined when we let certain patterns develop and lose our sense of eating as a way of nourishing body, mind, and spirit. When we do not take the time to prepare wholesome food, or if we hurry our meal or eat in unpeaceful settings, we risk creating difficulties in digestion and assimilation and losing the basic nurturing potential of our food. Let us take a brief look at a healthful way to approach food and our relationship to it.
Who is it that is eating? Of course, it is each of us that is ultimately responsible for our nutrition, except when we are babies or young children. However, many of us never grow up when it comes to being responsible for what we consume and learning about healthful nutrition?how to shop, how to store food, and especially how to prepare it. It is not the responsibility of our spouse or the cook at the local restaurant; we all need to learn the art of food preparation so that we can ultimately nourish ourselves and others. Anyone who feels that their only role is to go out into the world and make money is selling himself or herself short as complete human beings. I am not suggesting that we all become gourmet chefs, but I would urge everyone to learn the basics of meal preparation so that when left to our own devices we will not just survive, but thrive. As we grow, we need to develop our sense of what is the best diet for each of us, and not live by the needs of our housemates, spouse, parents, or children. This individual process is an essential part of good nutrition throughout life.
With whom we eat is also important. Creating a peaceful setting around food preparation and food consumption is a vital part of the nutrition process. ?What goes in is what comes out? is a wise saying regarding the transformative powers of energy?and if love and a nourishing spirit go into food while it is being prepared, it is likely that the person eating it will experience those qualities. When a meal is prepared by someone who is frustrated or angry, it may take on a whole different nature. That is why loving mothers and grandmas are often the best family cooks?they put their love into everything they make.
This leads to another important aspect of eating?the social setting in which we eat. The family meal, with its members sitting around the table sharing the day?s experiences, is potentially wholesome and relaxing. But if there is more stress than peace, more argument than discussion, or too much coming and going, digestion and nourishment can be negatively affected. If we are particularly sensitive to others or easily upset, it might be best to eat in peace by ourselves or with another who likes to eat quietly. But many families and cultures use mealtimes to socialize, and I believe that we can adapt to this with the right attitudes. Everyone should make the time to relax and breathe before eating?before receiving new energy. To receive nourishment, we must be receptive. Eating on the run or while doing other things, even having an intense conversation during a meal, does not really allow us to pay attention to the whole process of eating?chewing, tasting, and swallowing our food. Overeating is common in these situations. I believe that when individuals, couples, or families have their main or primary contact around the dinner table, inappropriate attitudes toward food can be created?associating being social or close to others while eating, or even using food as a barrier against social interactions and closeness, are some resulting problems.
It is a good idea to ask ourselves with whom and in what kind of setting we like to eat?quietly alone, with a certain friend over an intimate dinner, or in a quick, move-?em-through meal. When we tune into our own preferences, we can nourish ourselves to the fullest potential.
What we eat is probably the most important factor. (However, even the healthiest diet will not be utilized properly if we are stressed, upset, or eat on the run.) A balanced diet is, of course, what we all need. What this actually is may vary from person to person. Our diet is ultimately based upon our individual needs, our cultural background, and our current knowledge and tastes. At best, we should eat moderately and eat a variety of foods.
A balanced diet in my ?book? contains lots of fresh foods?fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. More concentrated foods such as eggs, milk products, and animal meats, can be added as desired and tolerated, though they should make up a much smaller percentage of the diet than the vegetable source foods. An even smaller amount of manufactured, processed, or baked foods should be included?these are really not needed at all.
Food combining and rotating our foods so as not to eat the same things every day, may help alleviate or prevent such problems as poor digestion or allergies. We may
find that certain foods feel very good in our body both short and long term, while others do not resonate very well.
The topic of ?what to eat? is really what a good part of this book is about. Also,
see Part Three, Building a Healthy Diet.
When we eat is a fairly controversial concept in nutrition. Though most cultures have regular mealtimes, this is ultimately an individual choice based on body cycles, work, energy levels, and sleep patterns.
The first rule of eating is to eat when we are hungry. The message of hunger tells us that our body has digested and used the last food we consumed and is ready for more. Many people, especially those who are overweight, experience more emotional or psychological hunger than the physical feeling we are talking about here.
We need to balance this hunger response with regular eating patterns, as it is also important to plan meals and have food available when we are hungry. If our schedule is such that we have specific times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we need to eat sufficiently but not excessively, so that we are feeling some hunger at the time of our next meal. There are many people in the world, especially in Western cultures, who rarely experience hunger. There are also millions of impoverished people on this earth who rarely experience nutritional satisfaction.
When to eat what kinds of foods and how much food to eat are nutritional issues about which there have been a variety of theories. That we should not eat too much too late in the day is a pretty unanimous viewpoint. Eating a wholesome, well-balanced dinner in the late afternoon or early evening is a fairly well-accepted activity. Dinner tends to be the most social meal, a time to relax after a hard day at work, school, or home. In many parts of the world, particularly Europe, people tend to eat lightly in the morning, and then eat their main meal in the early afternoon. Dinner is usually light with soup and bread or salad, and often a social time with friends or family. See Chapter 9, the Italian diet, as an example.
Breakfast is a more open question. The word breakfast means to ?break the fast? after not eating overnight, often for nearly twelve hours. Some traditional schools of thought feel that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?that a big breakfast consisting of fruit, starch, protein, fats, muffins, and so on is what gets us going. Clearly, if we finish eating for the day by 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., the next morning we should be hungry again and need a wholesome, nourishing breakfast. However, many adults eat later in the evening. Thus, there are many, myself included, who think that our fast should be broken in the morning very lightly, with fruit, for example, and that we should progress through the day with more concentrated foods. The best-selling nutrition book, Fit for Life, suggests that the ?natural hygiene? of our body cycle wants to cleanse the previous day?s food from 4:00 a.m. until noon and to want only cleansing fruits in the morning. At noon, we may begin to eat vegetables and use more concentrated starch, protein, or fat food per meal. We consume most of our food from midday until 8:00 p.m. If we are early risers and workers, our food intake cycle can begin earlier, though it should probably end earlier as well. When it is very cold, or if we do a lot of physical work, we may need a more warming and fuel-oriented breakfast, though many people can do very well on fruit alone in the morning. With this system, fruit is eaten by itself, not with or after other foods (see the section on Food Combining later in this chapter).
Often, we do not know our own needs unless we experiment. By eating different amounts at different times of the day, we can see what will work best for our work and energy schedules. If we get very fatigued in the afternoon after lunch, we may need to shift things around. A big dinner and light breakfast may be best for us, or it may be the other way around. We won?t know unless we try it. Just because we have been doing things one way for a long time does not mean that it is the best way.
Where we eat can be particularly important for people who are overweight because of poor eating habits. With our concerns about time, convenience, and comfort, it is easy to find places to eat or snack away from our usual ones, such as the dinner table. Eating in front of the television, in the car, or while walking around leads to an increased intake of food, especially of the more highly caloric snack foods. This can become an extra assault on our digestive tract, which gets no chance to rest. While eating, avoid ?techno-traps,? such as telephones, television, and computers. Choose foods which will reduce electrical interference in our digestive, assimilative, and mental abilities (see Electropollution in Chapter 11).
I suggest to people on weight-loss programs or to those who have developed poor eating habits that they pick one or two places to consume their food, usually one indoors and the other out. Eating outdoors, especially in a natural setting, can contribute to the relaxation and enjoyment of the meal. The dining room table is usually the best indoor spot, so that eating is mainly centered around meals instead of snacks. Restaurant eating involves another place we may need to include, but, for a variety of reasons, restaurant eating is best done only occasionally.
People who are overweight tend to snack or eat while watching television or become ?prowlers? in their own home, checking the refrigerator and cupboards for treats even after a good-sized meal. Retraining ourself to eat in a limited number of places, those that are in our best health interest, may be difficult, but it is a good habit to develop. Where do you usually eat? Do you like quiet meals, with nice music, or social meals?
Why we eat is definitely an interesting question. We should basically eat to nourish our being?our organs, our tissues, every cell in our body. Food is the main human fuel for life; it provides heat and all of the specific nutrients that we have discussed so far in this book. It helps the body function. For a period of time when we rest or fast, our body can use stored nutrients to run itself, but eventually we need to refuel.
As my associate Bethany ArgIsle suggests, we have many more mouths to feed other than just our oral cavity. Our eyes need to be nourished with color and beauty, our ears with music and the sounds of nature, our nose with the natural fragrances of the world, our hands and body with the touch of another, and, of course, our heart and spirit with the love and friendship of other living beings. Nourishment comes in many forms and on many levels. Many people feed their bellies but not their souls, and this will not lead us where we are meant to go.
There are, of course, many other reasons why we eat?loneliness, frustration, reward, and punishment to name a few. Some of us use food like a drug to sedate or numb ourselves to our life situation. We should be aware of this aspect of eating.
Most of us at some times eat for social reasons. Sharing food is a custom of friendship. When we are asked to join someone in their creative cuisine or for a drink or snack, it is often taken as a rejection or even an insult if we decline. I have learned through the years, especially since my diet has usually been so different from those around me, to share what I was or wasn?t doing and why, as a means to educate or inspire friends or relatives to other possibilities. But it is often difficult not to succumb to their temptations. If we are planning to go to a social gathering for eating, it would be wise to eat lightly in the hours prior to your arrival; the extra hunger will allow us to really enjoy the meal, though we must be careful not to overeat. We all, on some level, want our friends or family to be like us. Still, individuality is the beauty of our species and one of the most important aspects of nutrition.
How we eat can also make a big difference in our nutrition. Eating slowly and chewing our food well are very important. Starting the digestive process in the mouth saves a lot of wear and tear on the stomach (which does not have teeth) and digestive tract. We can then more easily break down the food and utilize the nutrients contained in it. When we rush through meals, we are doing our body and digestion a disservice. Our emotions influence our digestive functions as much as any system in our body, so getting into a peaceful and receptive state is important to healthy food consumption. Allotting enough time to nourish ourselves is also helpful.
How we get the food from the plate or bowl to our mouth?what utensils we use?is also an interesting topic. The choice of the Western world is silverware (or other metalware). Personally I do not like to eat with metals. (Forks are sharp and hard, and if the metal hits the metal fillings in our mouth, well, that?s no fun.) Those of us who enjoy Eastern influences prefer chopsticks, especially the wooden (not plastic) variety. My favorite utensils, though, are my God-given chopsticks called fingers. My mother and my more ?proper? friends have never been very supportive of this habit. Whether with fingers or chopsticks, eating can be a very primal and personal experience. Many foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, adapt easily to hand- or finger-eating. Soup may be drunk, and soft foods such as mashed potatoes or oatmeal may need a little creativity and practice. If we adapt to the individual characteristics of the food and the individual dietary needs of our body, we should do well.
Overeating is one of the most common and dangerous dietary habits. It is natural, on festive occasions such as holidays or parties, to eat more than usual, but many of us have turned up the level of our satiation state so that we need to eat a large amount of food to feel satisfied all the time. This is contributed to by a great many emotional and psychological factors that may have started in our early years. It is often influenced by our parents and family members and by our own insecurities and self-image.
Overeating often leads to obesity, which is a factor in many other diseases. The overconsumption of food also causes stress to the digestive tract and other organs and can lead to the overworking and weakening of those areas. Congestion or stagnation occurs more easily with overeating.
These problems need to be dealt with at the level from which they arise. If they stem from a nutritional deficiency, so that the body is craving missing nutrients, that should be discovered and corrected. If they are of recent onset, stress may be the source. More often, though, overeating is a long-term and deep-seated problem that needs to be dealt with on both the psychological and nutritional levels.
Moderation in eating is a very important habit to develop. Eating small meals several times a day instead of one or two large meals is probably better for most people. Balancing flavors as well as types of food will help satisfy us and may lessen our desire to eat more.
In recent years, there has been growing concern over problems associated with undereating, such as the medical conditions known as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Undereating usually has a strong stress or psychological component, which can range from being too nervous or concerned about an upcoming event or relationship, to part of a full-blown psychosis.
All forms of undereating, skipping meals, or eating only limited foods will lead to poor nutrition and eventually, to problems from protein, calorie, vitamin, or mineral deficiencies. Other symptoms include lack of energy and subsequent weakness, malnourishment of internal organs, skin problems, and hair loss. Severe weight loss in spite of regular eating may indicate an underlying medical condition and warrants an evaluation by a doctor.
People who undereat are often overly concerned about obesity or have a distorted self-image. This is more common in women and in teenage girls who become very body conscious or are concerned about becoming too shapely. Often, being very thin is similar to being fat in that it makes us less attractive and is a protection against intimacy with others. These issues may come up during sexual development?that is, in adolescence.
Anorexia means ?loss of appetite,? and anorexia nervosa means not eating because of ?nervous? or psychological problems. The majority of people with that condition are young females who want to be trim, or to be models or ballerinas, which require a long and lean body. This may not be the natural body shape of many people, who literally need to starve themselves to maintain that weight or shape. Bulimia is voluntary vomiting by people who wish to get rid of food just eaten so as not to absorb the calories and add weight. Many ?bulimics? and ?anorexics? also use laxative pills or take regular enemas to clear out the intestines more rapidly. All of these problems have strong psychological bases and usually require counseling as well as a lot of support from loved ones. Occasionally, these situations become extreme and, as with overeating, can be fatal. Fortunately, these conditions are often short-lived, and those troubled by them see their way clear to begin a new balanced diet and create a newly shaped body and self-image.
This is a common problem among people with busy daily schedules. Food often acts as a sedative and helps us to physically relax. After a meal, more blood goes to our digestive organs and away from our areas of physical and mental activity. So eating lightly during the day, getting hungry at night after work, and then eating our main meal in the evening is a convenient pattern for most schedules. However, going to bed on a full stomach is not necessarily helpful for digestion or sleep. The food may just sit there, undigested through the night, so that we wake up full and sluggish. Eating late can become a habit that robs us of our vitality.
It is best to try to eat earlier in the evening, ideally before dark, and not too heavily; to engage in some activity, both mental and physical, after dinner; and to eat very little in the two or three hours before bedtime. When we have not eaten enough through the day, it is wise to eat lightly in the evening also and sleep well to awaken energized for some exercise and a good, hearty breakfast.
Many people develop rigid eating patterns and consume only a limited selection of foods. This inflexibility is often based on a preference for certain tastes or just a discriminating personality. Teenagers and elderly people are subject to this lack of flexibility (as are some health food fanatics) more often than other areas of the population. Sometimes this is based on fear, rebellion, lack of adventure, or just being stuck in an attitude that will not allow them to be open to other ideas. They just maintain themselves on a few foods, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, and sodas for the younger crowd, or eggs, toast, potatoes, and meat in the older group. All lack the freshness and vitality found in natural foods.
There are people who develop what I would call positive restrictions in their diet. We all have certain foods we do not like because of their flavor or past experience with them. Specific allergic foods are clearly best avoided. Restricting foods such as meats, milk, or chemical-containing foods may be based on certain philosophical or health choices. However, being too rigid in our diet is usually not in our best interest.
It is difficult to get people to change when they do not wish to, especially in regard to what they eat. They already know that they won?t like it before they even try. Sometimes, consulting with a nutritionist and doing a diet analysis by evaluation or computer can show people the excess or lack of nutrients in their diet, and this may educate and influence them to make some changes.
Ideally, we should eat a variety of foods, from all the groups that I have discussed previously, unless there is a particular sensitivity to certain ones. This gives us the opportunity to absorb the nutrients that nature and our world provide. Eating them in moderation while introducing new ones daily is a healthful path to follow.
We have already discussed overeating and undereating, but there are other issues surrounding the use of food in dealing with stress and psychological troubles. Some people eat when upset or depressed; others cannot eat at all in this condition. Our emotions strongly influence our eating behavior, so if we want to maintain a more balanced diet, and thus a more balanced life, we need to learn to deal with our emotional states in ways other than with food.
Using hunger as a guide, integrated with a regular eating plan, we create our basic diet. If we are overweight, we need to plan our meals to include less food; if underweight, we will include more food and calories and then maintain a balanced diet when we are at a better weight.
We can learn to deal with stress, sadness, frustration, depression, and so on through self-development techniques, through counseling, or through mental affirmations and visualization, all good ways to clear these problems?or at least not let them take hold of us and run our lives. There are very few issues that are important enough to take precedence over our health. And not using food to cover up these important feelings, thoughts, and issues is crucial to maintaining our health.
Liquids and Eating
Many of us drink liquids with our meals. This is not really a good practice, since extra fluids can dilute the digestive juices, making it more difficult to break down food. Drinking water before meals or sometime after them is much better. A small amount (less than a cup) of water with meals may help dissolve the food and stimulate digestive juices.
Water is generally our best beverage, and consuming about eight to ten glasses a day (most of us will need less when we consume a higher amount of fruits and vegetables), is very helpful for weight loss and keeping the body functioning. It is best to drink two or three glasses first thing in the morning, several glasses between meals, and then a couple of glasses about 30?60 minutes before dinner to reduce the appetite a bit. Sweetened soda pops should be avoided. Milk is a food (to be used sparingly by adults), not a beverage to be drunk with meals. Many people feel that a bit of alcohol before a meal stimulates the appetite and the digestion of food. Coffee or tea following a meal is enjoyed by many people, and is probably not too detrimental when done occasionally. Overall, it is wise to be aware of needs and drink when thirsty, and it is best to drink only between meals, giving our digestive tract the best shot at getting those nutrients ready for our cells.
Additional Habits to Cultivate
Preparation of both ourselves and our food is helpful. Food made with awareness and love adds that little extra, and when we take the time to prepare ourselves to receive nourishment, such as with a little prayer or some quiet time, we also give ourselves the chance to get the most out of our meal.
Relaxation around eating is a good habit to develop. This is part of preparation and digestion. After a fair-sized meal, it is important to take some time to let digestion begin. After about an hour, we can begin some light activity. A walk is ideal. However, most of us cannot afford the luxury of taking this time around meals. When I cannot, I try to follow the Warrior?s Diet (see Chapter 9) of frequent small snacks, through the day, until I can take more time to prepare and eat a proper meal.
Exercise is very important to keeping our body healthy and to utilize the nutrients that we consume. I do not recommend exercising for at least an hour, or longer, after eating. It is usually several hours after a meal before my body feels right doing any vigorous activity. Often, I exercise first and use eating as a reward for doing the physical activity that I feel is needed. Early in the day before breakfast, and after work before dinner, are the two best times for exercising.
There are three important factors which will help us choose what foods to eat in combination and when to eat them. These are acid-alkaline balance, food combining, and food rotation. I will discuss them briefly here, as they are useful in developing ways to improve our general health or digestion or to reduce food allergies. They are discussed more fully in Part Three, Building a Healthy Diet.
Since our body tissues and blood are slightly alkaline, we need to eat more foods that break down into alkaline elements. The ash or residue that remains when a food is metabolized influences our body?s pH, or acidity. The foods that generate an alkaline ash are the fruits and vegetables (even the acid fruits, such as lemons), except for cranberries and most dried fruits. The whole grains, nuts, and seeds are slightly acid in our body, though millet, buckwheat, corn, almonds, and all sprouted seeds tend more toward the alkaline side. The cereal grains tend to be more acid-alkaline balanced than the more acidic nuts, milk products, meats, and refined flour and sugar products.
For a system that does not get too acidic, congested, or mucusy, the diet should contain about 70 percent alkaline foods. This means the type of diet that I have been talking about throughout this book?one that focuses on fruits and vegetables, with some whole grains, more sprouts, and smaller amounts of animal foods and refined treats. This will keep our system functioning optimally, provided we get the balance of vitamins and minerals we need, as well as the essential fatty acids and amino acids to perform the required fat and protein functions.
Food combining is a somewhat complex issue?and a revolutionary idea in terms of the standard diet. The basic theory is that for best digestion and utilization of our food, we need to observe certain rules for the way we combine foods within a meal.
Fruits are eaten alone, as they are more easily digested than other foods. We eat lots of vegetables and combine them with either starch or protein foods?protein foods, such as meats and milk products, are not eaten with starches, such as potatoes and breads. So meat and potatoes are out, as are cheese sandwiches. The reason for this is that, for best digestion, proteins require an acid digestive medium and starches an alkaline one. When eaten together, they interfere with each other?s utilization, so that digestion takes longer and is inefficient.
Fruits and simple sugars are not eaten along with or after other foods, because doing so would cause them to be delayed in the stomach juices and begin a fermentation process, allowing gas to go through the intestines. Milk is not drunk as a beverage but used as a food. The fruits of the melon family are eaten alone, not even with other fruits.
Fruit is usually eaten in the morning or several hours after other foods. Meals are simpler than is usual in the American culture, consisting of lots of vegetables with either a protein food, such as dairy products, eggs, or meats, or a starch food, such as grains, pasta, or potatoes. This type of diet, I believe, generates less stress on the intestinal tract and creates overall better health, both immediately and on a long-range basis. In Fit for Life, the authors stress the principles of food combining and the need for a more alkaline diet in their program. I feel that it can be a healthy one provided we balance our diet properly and obtain all of our necessary nutrients.
Rotating our foods is a common method for discovering or diminishing the effects of allergies or hypersensitivities. It also may be helpful in preventing the development of many food allergies in the first place. When we overconsume a food, our body can become sensitized to it and make antibodies that will react with it when it is absorbed into our system. The most common allergens are protein foods, including milk, wheat gluten, eggs, beef, yeast, soybeans, and corn, though most any food can generate allergic reactions.
Food allergy is fairly common and can be short- or long-lived. Some people who are allergic to certain foods as children may remain allergic to them for most of their lives, while for others, sensitivities to certain foods may come and go.
The physiology of food allergy is somewhat complex and still mostly theoretical. It involves both our cellular system and our immune system. Keeping stress to a minimum, reducing incidence of infections and colds, and maintaining basic health and digestive tract ecology all seem to minimize food reactions. If we do have problems with certain foods or wish to prevent such problems, food rotation is a good idea. The theory is that it takes about four days for the body to entirely process a food and clear it from our system. Thus, each food in the diet is consumed only in one day out of every four, so as to minimize the potential allergic stimulus of each food. Following this program also allows us to isolate foods more easily should we have any reactions. It is not a simple process, but it can be very helpful, and it is probably a good habit to develop. It provides us with a variety of foods and brings a certain discipline to our diet, which is positive practice for developing other useful habits.*
* For more information on acid-alkaline foods, food combining, and general nutrition, see Dr. Haas’s Seasonal Food Guide poster and booklet (Celestial Arts, 1990).