Paavo Airola - Let's Live - November 1976Index

Digestive Problems - Part One

Simple, Common-Sense Solutions To Indigestion, Flatulence, And Gas!

A couple of years ago, I was asked to make a presentation to a group of doctors attending a medical symposium. Since the time for my speech was limited to 15 minutes, I chose a simple subject, listed in the program as Gas. This was at the time of the gasoline crisis and shortage; also, doctors do not commonly use the word "gas" to describe this familiar condition. They prefer more professional vocabulary, like dyspepsia or flatulence. Furthermore, most doctors attending this symposium were unfamiliar with my name and, consequently, didn't know what to expect. Here's what I told the learned medical men:

In the early seventies, I directed a biological clinic in Guadalajara, Mexico. While successfully applying such biological modalities as juice fasting, hydrotherapies, volcanic sauna, special diets, herbal packs, and megavitamins for a variety of our most common ailments, one condition which afflicted almost every guest at the spa baffled all my attempts to solve it - gas! Everyone was in constant distress, blown up like balloons, and besieging me for relief.

We enjoyed a most delectable cuisine at the spa, featuring our own organically grown vegetables and fruits, served smorgasbord style. At lunch and dinner, guests were offered dozens of mouth-watering raw salads, and they took one helping after another of this great variety of delicious food. Then, one or two main courses, prepared by our own gourmet Mexican cooks, were served - usually beans and tortillas, bean soup, cheese, omelettes, etc. And, the same daily routine in front of my office: long lines of distressed patients seeking relief from the same problem - gas!

The situation was so out of control (after I had tried everything, including placebos, without success) that I decided to make an in-depth study of the problem. Neither my naturopathic and nutrition background and experience, nor existing reference works, were of much help. I knew that we must have been doing something wrong, but what?. . .

With the zeal of an inventor, true scientific curiosity, and my Scandinavian persistency and determination, I finally found the solution to the problem.

We eat a large raw vegetable salad before the main protein course. This is singularly the most culpable factor responsible for the indigestion and gas many of us suffer!

Reverse Courses

After this idea dawned on me, I immediately instructed my kitchen staff in a total reversal of the eating order. They were to serve main protein-rich dishes first, and then the salads. I also instructed all guests to eat salads with or after the main course, but never before. The effect of this new eating order was unbelievable: all gas problems disappeared overnight - wiped out completely!

Here's how and why it works:

Proteins require a generous amount of hydrochloric acid in your stomach for proper digestion. When you eat carbohydrate-rich foods, such as vegetables, your stomach does not secrete much hydrochloric acid, because it is not needed for the digestion of carbohydrates. If you fill your stomach first with predominantly carbohydrate foods and then finish your meal with a protein food, the protein will remain largely or partially undigested because of an insufficient amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Therefore, it is best to eat protein foods first, on an empty stomach, when the hydrochloric acid secretion will be generous; then continue with carbohydrate foods, which do not need gastric juices, and are largely digested by the saliva enzymes in your mouth, or in the intestines. In practical terms, that would mean, steak first - and then salad! Or, beans and tortillas first - and then salad. Or, if you prefer, eat your salad with protein food, but never before.

One thing that facilitated this discovery was my world-wide studies of the eating habits of natives known for their excellent health. I have found, among other things, that nowhere else in the world is salad eaten as the first course in the meal. If protein is eaten at a meal - whether meat, fish, or beans - it is always eaten before or with salads, but never after.

In addition to this "salad-before-meat" mistake, we commit five other disastrous errors in our eating habits, which are all contributing to our national epidemic of indigestion and gas: 2

  1. We mix raw vegetables and raw fruits at the same meal.
  2. We eat too many different kinds of foods together.
  3. We eat a large breakfast too early in the morning when we are not really hungry.
  4. We eat too fast and chew too little.
  5. We eat too much, period.

Let's analyze these mistakes one at a time:

Food Mixing Rules Simplified

Actually, the entire food-mixing "science" can be summed up in a few lines: In addition to the "protein first - carbohydrate after" rule, there are only two other rules to remember:

  1. Never eat raw fruits and raw vegetables at the same meal.
  2. Eat as few different foods as possible at any one meal.

These are the only three food mixing rules you need to know - rules that can be scientifically justified. Here are the scientific reasons for these rules:

  1. Raw fruits, which contain organic acids, and raw vegetables require a totally different enzyme combination for their effective digestion. If you mix them at the same meal, they will "confuse" your enzyme-producing glands; the enzyme output will be deranged and the result will be poor digestion and gas. Therefore, it would be better to make one meal of the day (preferably breakfast) a fruit meal, where any available fresh fruits and berries are eaten, and another meal a vegetable meal. The third meal should consist of grains or cereals. Lemons and papayas are exceptions to the rule (it seems there are always exceptions to every rule!); lemon juice can be used sparingly with oil on vegetable salads, and papaya can be eaten with any kind of food. By the way, cooked fruits after a raw or cooked vegetable meal seem to combine well, but why would anyone want to cook fruits?

    Every time I write about the incompatibility of fruits and vegetables, well-meaning, but bookish and picky readers will write and "inform" me of the botanical fact that tomatoes and avocados (which I recommend eating with a vegetable meal) are not vegetables, and that peanuts are not nuts (in addition to those who tell me that "honey is for the bees", "seeds for the birds", "milk for the calves", and "garlic and onions are poisonous").

    Please understand that when I differentiate between fruits and vegetables, I do so from a nutritional standpoint, not botanical; Nutritionally speaking, there are three distinct groups: fruits, vegetables, and melons. Tomatoes and avocados, although botanically fruits, are best eaten with vegetables. Papayas, limes, and lemons can be eaten with both fruit and vegetables meals (lime and lemon in a salad dressing). Melons - watermelon, cantaloupe, casaba, honeydew - should not be mixed with other fruit or vegetable meals, but eaten separately either as a complete meal or as a snack between meals.

  2. There is much evidence to the fact that the fewer foods you mix at the same meal, the better will be your digestion and assimilation. Every food - every fruit, nut, or vegetable requires a different enzyme, or enzymatic combination for best digestion. A mono-diet, a diet system where only one food is eaten at a meal (a different food at each meal) would be the ideal from a health standpoint. Since few of us would ever go so far in our efforts for better health as to adopt a mono-diet, good practical advice would be: eat as few different foods as possible at one meal.

Now, these three food mixing rules are about all you need to know. Do not be confused by confused writers who tell you never to mix carbohydrates with proteins, carbohydrates with fats, fats with proteins, proteins with starches, proteins with sugars, sugars with fats, etc., etc. The truth is, there is no such thing as a pure, natural protein food which, contains no carbohydrates or fat. Neither can you find a natural carbohydrate food without some protein in it.

Large, Early Breakfast

We are living in the final stages of the current civilization, which is approaching its tragic and disastrous end, as has happened to many preceding civilizations. When the final history of mankind is written, the present era will be known by many descriptive names. My humble contributions to the long list of fitting epithets include: "The Slow-Extinction-Through-Chemistry Era"; "The Age of Unholy Alliance Between Science and Food-Drug-Chemical Industries"; "The Dark Age of Medical Science", "The Era of the High-Protein Cult"; "The Gestapo Era of the FDA"; "The Adulation-of-Youth Age". You may never have considered it, but one of the other fitting descriptions of the second half of the twentieth century would be "The Start-The-Day-With-A-Hearty Breakfast Era"! It is appalling how many of our nutrition "experts" recommend eating a large, heavy breakfast as soon as you get out of bed in the morning. This is contrary to scientific and empirical evidence that I uncovered during almost half a century of nutrition research.

Through millions of years of adaptation and genetic programming, your body functions best if it follows certain cycles, metabolically and physiologically speaking. During the night, from about 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., your digestive, assimilative, and restorative systems are busy at work, while your eliminative system is at rest. The morning hours, from about 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., constitute a period of elimination and cleansing, when the bloodstream is heavily charged with the waste products of metabolism and rebuilding carried out during the night, and the eliminative organs are cleansing the system of impurities and toxins - through the skin, lungs, kidneys, and alimentary canal. "Morning breath" is just one indicator of such a cleansing process.

Earn Your Breakfast

Lack of appetite in the early morning is another. Eating a large breakfast as. soon as you get up will interfere with this cleansing cycle and the elimination. What your body needs most in the early morning to assist its cleansing processes is plenty of liquids and exercise in the fresh air. Then but not before, you are ready for breakfast. Paul Bragg, a veteran health builder may not fit the image of today's sophisticated nutrition scientist but he was right on when he said "You must earn your breakfast". All "natural" people around the world known for their exceptionally good health and extended longevity "earn" their breakfast - they get "up with the sun" and do their heavy morning chores: feeding the animals, milking the cows, working in fields or garden, fishing or hunting, or whatever the particular work or lifestyle pattern is. Then, several hours later, after hard work and plenty of perspiration, they are ready for breakfast. This routine is followed in Hunza, Russia, Scandinavia, by North, Central, and South American Indians, and especially by inhabitants of Pitcairn Island, known for their longevity, absence of disease, and exceptional vitality. Pitcairners do not eat their breakfast until noon, after 5 or 6 hours of hard work.

To eat a large, rich breakfast right after you've gotten out of bed and when you are really are not hungry, is to do yourself a great disservice. This routine is a sure road to digestive disturbances, impaired health, and an early grave. Morning time is best for herb teas, fruit juices, and fresh, juicy fruits or berries, which will assist in elimination and supply readily-available sugar for muscle and brain function without overloading the digestive and eliminative organs.

Conventional Viewpoint

After a recent lecture by one of those hearty breakfast advocates, I overheard the following conversation between rather obese lady and a lecturer:

"But, I don't feel hungry in the morning!"

"Don't wait until you get hungry. Eat a large breakfast of steak, eggs, and milk, and you won't get hungry during your working hours."

"Breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, and dine like a pauper" is a false slogan contrived by our misled, confused, and mentally constipated nutritionists in their air-conditioned offices - nutritionists who never had to do morning chores on a farm, or had the pleasure of eating a breakfast after a 2 or 3-hour brisk morning jog in the woods. Our bodies are genetically programmed to function best if we "breakfast like a pauper (and work like a pauper before your breakfast, too!) lunch like king, and dine like a queen!" To achieve optimum health, good digestion and assimilation of foods, and good elimination and cleansing of body toxins, we must work with nature's timetable - not against it. We would do well to listen to Paul Bragg's advice, and "earn" our breakfast before we eat it.

Eat Slowly - Chew Well

Slow eating and thorough mastication are essential for good digestion. Good chewing aids in the assimilation of nutrients and makes you feel satisfied with a smaller amount of food. 3 "Fletcherize" your food - chew every mouthful at least 40 times! Saliva contains digestive enzymes, especially those needed to digest carbohydrates. Therefore, well chewed and generously salivated food is practically half digested before it enters the stomach.

Also, food should be eaten in a relaxed atmosphere and enjoyed. Biologically, only the foods eaten with genuine pleasure will do you any good. A peaceful, unhurried, and happy atmosphere around the table will pay good dividends in improved digestion and assimilation of food.

Overeating: Major Cause of Indigestion

You don't need scientific studies (although there are plenty of them) to convince you that overeating is a major cause of indigestion, gas, and other digestive problems - plain common sense tells you so. Food eaten in excess of actual body needs acts as a poison to the system. It interferes with proper digestion and assimilation of foods, causes putrefaction in the bowels, gas (produced by putrefactive bacteria) and actually poisons the whole system. Incompletely digested proteins produce the foulest stools and gas, but the toxic by-products of their metabolism can cause permanent kidney or liver damage. can contribute to the development of cancer in the bowels and colon. 5 6

Overeating not only causes indigestion and gas, but is one of the main causes of most so-called diseases of civilization, or the degenerative diseases: arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company statistics show that the prevalence of these diseases among overweight people is almost double in comparison to those of normal weight. Studies show that animals allowed to eat as much as they wished had 5.3 times more spontaneous cancer tumors than those animals who were fed only every second day. 5 7 The hunger years during and immediately after both World Wars resulted in a virtual disappearance of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as most other diseases of civilization. Even the National Cancer Institute acknowledges the relationship between overeating and cancer in their official publication, The Challenge of Cancer: "There is statistical evidence from various insurance companies that overweight persons have a distinctly greater tendency for developing cancer." Overeating is especially dangerous for older people who are less active, have a slowed down metabolism, and whose digestive enzyme production is not as generous as during their younger years.

Refined carbohydrates, such as white sugar, white flour, and everything made with them, are often implicated in digestive disorders. 8 They should be completely eliminated, particularly from the diets of older people. Cakes, pies, ice cream, and other concentrated refined carbohydrate foods are usually swallowed fast without thorough chewing and can cause considerable digestive problems in the form of flatulence, constipation, and gas.

The undeniable physiological fact is that the less you eat, the less digestive problems you will have, and the better nourished you become, because food will be more effectively digested and assimilated, and better utilized. Remember: You are not what you eat, but what you assimilate.

Nibblers Diet to Improve Digestion

One of the causes of digestive problems is our un-biological custom of eating three large meals a day, whether hungry at the time or not. I can find no scientific support for the idea of eating three large meals a day. In my studies of eating habits of various natives known for their excellent health, I have found that they always eat several small meals a day. In addition to one or two main meals, they have several snacks in between as they go about their usual work. Watching peasants work in the fields in Russia or Abkhasia, I noticed that they interrupted their work every two hours or so to eat and drink a little something: a piece of fruit, a glass of cool sour milk, a watermelon, a plate of cold summer borscht, or whole fresh vegetables, such as cucumber, tomato, carrot, or just a slice of sourdough bread with onion and cheese on it! When a Mexican laborer goes to work he takes with him several oranges, mangoes, the ever-present limes, or a large jicama, and has a snack of something every now and then.

It is better to eat 4, 5, or 6 small meals a day than 2 or 3 large meals. Such an eating habit, the nibblers diet, would not only eliminate many digestive problems, but would also solve most of the hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar problems. Also, if you have a tendency toward obesity, you should know that while 2,000 calories eaten at two meals may result in new fat accumulation, the same 2,000 calories eaten in 6 small meals with 2 or 3 hours interval, will not only fail to add weight, but may actually help you to reduce!

NEXT MONTH: PART II of this article that will discuss gallbladder malfunction, allergies, hypoacidity, and other specific causes connected with indigestion and gas and offer simple commonsense solutions to these problems. NOTE: All reference notes for the complete article will appear at the end of the Part II next month.


  1. Levitt, Michael D., "Intestinal Gas Production", Journal of the American Dietetic Association, June, 1972, Vol. 60, No. 6.
  2. Airola, Paavo, Are You Confused?, Health Plus, Publishers, P.O. Box 22001, Phoenix, AZ, 1971.
  3. Fletcher, Horace, Fletcherism, What It Is, Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  4. Report by FTC and FDA, based on a year-long study, National Enquirer, Feb. 17, 1976.
  5. Issels, Josef, "Nutritional Protection Against Cancer", Tidskrift For Halsa, Numbers 2,3, and 4, 1972, Stockholm, Sweden
  6. Engel, P.W., et al., Cancer Research, 11:180, 1951.
  7. Sokoloff, Boris, Cancer, New Approaches, New Hope, Devin-Adair, New York, N.Y.
  8. Yudkin, J., et al., The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, Vol. 31, May, 1972.
  9. Postgraduate Medicine, May, 1972, (special issue on obesity),