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Food Intolerances n Pairings

Food intolerances cause gastro-intestinal problems…

Proper digestion of food ensures that valuable nutrients contained in the food are well-absorbed in the body. However, certain food combinations when consumed together affect the digestive metabolism of stomach causing indigestion which in turn can lead to constipation, gastritis, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, nausea, ulcer, heartburn, loss of appetite, listlessness, fatigue etc. Such food combinations which affect adversely may be called as food intolerances or food sensitivities.

The good and bad food combinations…

We present in Resources below general guidance on good and bad food combinations. However, the extent of intolerance or sensitivity for a particular food or food combination varies from person to person. For instance, your indigestion problem could be due to lactose intolerance or fructose intolerance or both. Therefore, if you suffer from chronic indigestion with some of the associated symptoms stated above, the right thing to do would be to identify the offending foods that you cannot tolerate. This is done by avoiding one food at a time for a few days and observing the effect on digestion. Thus, over a period of time you will have a list of foods that you need to avoid.

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Alkaline v/s Acidic Balance

The body's alkaline and acidic balance, also known as pH balance, is crucial for health. Ideal pH is 7.30 to 7.45. A pH value below 7 is acidic and pH above 7 is alkaline. Ideally diet should comprise of 75% (or at least 60%) alkaline foods and the rest acidic foods. If body's pH is in the acidic range, health problems like acidity, heartburn, acid reflux, stress result.

Most fruits and vegetables are alkaline in nature, whereas acid-forming foods are grains, dairy products, fish and meats.

Certain Good Food Pairings

Certain specific pairings are known to help control one or more of the following diseases: Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, cataracts, inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol etc.

The healthy pairings are Onion & Grapes (in salad or chutney), Garlic & Fish, Tomatoes & Broccoli, Almonds & Green Salads, Red Beans & Brown Rice, Green Tea & Lemon, Vegetables with added fats, Tofu & Capsicum, Whole Grains with Garlic & Onion.

Fibre Prevents as well as Causes Constipation

The action of fibre is a paradox. Fibre provided roughage to stools and thus helps in smoother defecation. However, fibre also causes gas and when fibre-containing foods are consumed in excess, the resulting gas gets trapped in intestine and constipation results. The susceptibility to gas varies form person-to-person and therefore one should, by trial and error method, find out the extent to which he or she can safely eat fibre-containing vegetables like spinach.

Food Combinations to be Avoided

The following foods when eaten together create problems in digestion and therefore these combinations are to be strictly avoided

(a) Water with meals (b) Milk with citrus fruits and vegetables (oranges, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes etc) (c) Fruits with meals (d) Tomatoes with starchy foods (rice, bread, potatoes, pasta etc) (e) Wines with desserts

Fructan Intolerance

Fructans are two types of soluble fibres (Inulin and Oligo-fructose) found in certain plant foods. Fructans are not digested and hence ferment in lower intestine causing gas and bloating.

Fructans are present in agave, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, garlic, onions, banana.

Fructose Intolerance

Fructose is a sugar found naturally in fruits, fruit juices, some vegetables, honey, table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Fructose intolerance causes abdominal pain, diarrhea and gas.

Fruits have both glucose and fructose. Fruits with fructose more than glucose such as watermelon, apples, grapes, all fruit juices and HFCS containing soft drinks are to be avoided. Fruits with glucose higher than fructose like blueberries, strawberries, avocado are better tolerated.

Fruits Soon After Meal

Eating fruits immediately after a meal is a strict no-no! This is because fruits digest in half-an-hour, whereas digesting a meal takes longer. Until the meal is digested, the eaten fruit remains trapped in stomach and during that time sugar in the fruit ferments, leading to indigestion and gas.

All sweet fruits must be eaten prior to a meal or 2 hours after a meal.

Gluten Intolerance

Gluten causes an adverse reaction in some people resulting in gastrointestinal problems, joint pain, fatigue etc. There are 2 kinds of gluten intolerance: In non-celiac gluten sensitivity intestinal damage does not occur, whereas in celiac disease intestinal damage does occur.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

Good Food Combinations for Better Nutrition

In following food combinations nutrients work together to create greater health effects:

(a) Lemon & tea (b) Onions or bananas or garlic & yoghurt (c) Good fat (avocados, olive oil, chia seeds etc) & salads (d) Milk & eggs (e) Tomatoes & broccoli (f) Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale etc) & bell peppers or jalapenos (g) Dark chocolate & apples (h) Tomatoes & olive oil (i) Chicken thighs & sweet potatoes (j) Salad leaves with almonds & avocados (k) Red pepper & kidney beans (l) Milk & bananas (m) Broccoli & eggs

Insoluble v/s Soluble Fibre

Soluble fibre dissolves in water, gets fermented by bacteria in colon and hence gas is caused. On the other hand, insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water, colon bacteria cannot act on it and therefore colon gas is not created. Insoluble fibre also adds bulk to stools. Due to these twin reasons, insoluble fibre prevents constipation.

Sources of insoluble fiber include wheat, brown rice, corn, carrots, nuts, and seeds. Soluble fibre is found in oats, beans, barley, peas.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose is a type of natural sugar found in milk and dairy products. An enzyme called lactase breaks down lactose during digestion. People without required amount of lactase in their gut are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance causes stomach aches, bloating, gas and diarrhea.

Those who are lactose intolerant may avoid milk, cream, whey, soft cheeses and ice cream whereas yoghurt, hard cheeses are fine.

Pairing Animal Proteins with Lentils

The body can process only one type of protein at a time. Therefore, lentils which are vegetarian source for proteins should preferably not be paired with meats. Also, there is a disparity in digestion times with lentils digesting in about 90 minutes whereas red meats and white meats digest in 4 hours and 2 hours respectively.

Avoid combining Dals (Toor, Masoor, Moong etc) with red and white meats in the same meal.

Pairing Proteins with Starchy Foods

Stomach produces Hydrochloric Acid and an enzyme called Pepsin to digest animal proteins, whereas an alkaline enzyme called Ptyalin is secreted when starchy foods are consumed. When animal proteins and starchy foods are consumed together, Pepsin and Ptyalin neutralise each other, leaving no enzyme for digestion.

Do not pair in one meal animal proteins like meat and eggs with starchy foods like potato, white bread and white rice. However, proteins can be eaten with brown rice, millet, non-starchy vegetables etc.

Raffinose Sensitivity

Raffinose oligosaccharides are a group of complex carbohydrates that have act in a similar fashion as soluble dietary fiber, by resisting digestion and causing gas in the intestines. To avoid flatulence, it may be a good idea to limit the intake of foods high in raffinose oligosaccharides.

The gas-forming property of beans are largely attributed to the high amount of water-soluble oligosaccharides found in beans. Other foods that contain significant amounts of oligosaccharides include cabbage, peas, lentils and onions.

Whole-Grains v/s Processed Grains

A whole grain contains all edible parts of the grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined flour or white flour has only endosperm which is the white starchy part of the grain. Whole grains are packed with nutrients, including protein, fibre, vitamin B, antioxidants, and minerals. Diet of whole-grains helps in bowel movement and reduces risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Whole-grain foods include rotis or chapattis made from whole-wheat flour (atta), brown rice, brown bread, quinoa, millet (ragi), whole-wheat pasta etc.

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