In part one and two of this series, we investigated the effectiveness of synthetic supplements and looked at the natural food sources of our most needed nutrients. Yet, even with a proper diet, health still eludes some people.

What gives?

Although there are many reasons for poor health, most of them start with a compromised digestive system. Our digestive tract is responsible for breaking down food, assimilating nutrients, and preventing pathogens from entering the body. It also plays a central role in elimination of waste. If waste builds up, the digestive organs become overworked and the whole body begins to suffer. In particular, both immunity and self-healing capacity decline.

Many people do not realize that their digestive system is stressed. It’s a red flag when someone claims, “I can eat anything and everything,” while complaining of various health problems.

Symptoms of a compromised digestive system can include abdominal pain, gas, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, asthma, chronic joint and muscle pain, confusion, mood swings, nervousness, poor immunity, recurrent vaginal or bladder infections, bed-wetting, skin rashes, acne, poor memory, shortness of breath, bloating, aggressive behavior, anxiety, poor libido, sleep disruption and fatigue.

Increasing digestive strength is key to supporting health and healing. So if you are stressed, ill or fatigued, try following these food-combination guidelines – they make most efficient use of our digestive enzymes:

? Eat fruits alone or with other fruits. Wait 30 to 60 minutes before eating your next snack or meal.

? Avoid mixing proteins and starches together (for example, sandwiches, pizza, meat and potatoes). This is especially important at supper so that the body can focus on repair and regeneration, not digestion.

? Combine veggies with protein or veggies with carbohydrates.

? Do not eat more than one protein per meal. (for example, bacon and eggs)

Drink between meals – not with them – to avoid diluting digestive juices. Chew carefully and thoroughly to activate enzymes in your saliva. Do not to eat the same foods every day as this places stress on enzyme supply. Incorporate more enzyme-rich foods into your diet like raw fruits and vegetables, freshly homemade juices, sprouts, raw apple cider vinegar, and fermented foods.

Last but not least, try eating with gratitude, joy and peace-of-mind. Excessive negativity and worry overstimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which inhibits digestion.

Wise traditions that include setting the space (table), gathering with others, and saying a blessing before meals relaxes and prepares our bodies to receive nourishment.

It’s important to remember that eating habits develop over a lifetime so making changes takes time.

Next week, we will look at other factors that affect our ability to be nourished by food, and what to look for — and avoid — if you choose to buy supplements.