How To Fight The Antacid Blues

This is a guest page by Anton Bell.

Do you find the idea of eating spaghetti without the Bolognese unthinkable? Is the thought of downing a traditional English roast without the chicken a nightmare worse than hell? Would you call me mad to suggest you can’t eat fish and chips together? Well, maybe you would. And I certainly found those ideas crazy when I first heard about them, but then I began to read a little more about the 19th century doctor called William Hay who invented his crackpot diet, and came to think, “Hey, you know what? Maybe he’s right?” And when I decided to have a go at his diet, I was pleasantly surprised to see how his theory did make some sort of sense straight away.

As someone who was always battling with chronic indigestion (especially acid indigestion in the upper chest/throat) I was virtually hooked on a 4-hour cycle of antacid Rennies to combat the annoying burning sensation I was experiencing every day brought on by a hectic job that involved a lot of physical activity, and “eating on the hoof”. Add a selection of poor food choices during break times (bacon butties, Danish pastries, chocolate, crisps, and biscuits), and the combination of eating on the run with mainly acid foods, and sometimes non-Hay mixtures (i.e. bacon, and bun), and it was little wonder I was having such a problem.

Fed up with living on Rennies, I decided to do something about it, and stumbled upon Dr William Hay and his diet. Dr Hay, of Pennsylvania, USA, graduated from New York University in 1891, and practised medicine for the next 16 years. However, when he became seriously ill with Bright’s Disease, high blood pressure, and a dilated heart, he decided to treat himself…and after just three months on a healthy diet of natural foods, he felt much improved. He took his diet-based discovery further in 1911, and began successfully treating his diabetic patients with diet-based remedies instead of the drugs his colleagues were busy developing and prescribing. Dr. Hay’s theory is that disease has one underlying cause – the incorrect chemical balance in the body which arises as a result of the acid remnants and by-products following bad digestion of foods which the body can’t eliminate to maximum efficiency.

Hence the creation of the Hay Diet (or Food Combining as it is also known).

And the hub of Dr. Hay’s theory is…like all good theories…very simple – don’t mix starch foods with protein foods during meal times. That’s because they do battle in the stomach and cannot be digested as efficiently as they might if one or other were left out of the small intestinal mix. The theory goes that starch foods (or those classified as carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, potato, grains, and bread) need an alkaline form to be digested. Protein foods (i.e.: meat, poultry, cheese) need an acid base to be digested properly.

Digestion problems arise and lead to a mighty battle, like sea elephants at war over island territory, when there is too much acid for the alkaline to work on the starch, and too little acid to aid digestion of the protein. In other words the combination of protein, and starch in the stomach at the same time in any considerable quantity leads to the acid and alkaline becoming engaged in a confusing fight to complete their jobs adequately.

Hence that bloated feeling after having eaten that roast dinner, Bolognese, or fish and chips! We feel that stuffed because of the simple fact that protein foods and carbohydrate foods just don’t want to co-habit amicably in the gut. It is this inefficient break down of what we eat that leads to an acid-influenced build up of toxins that get left in the body, and thus contributes to fatty deposits that lead to weight gain, and arthritis, as well as constipation, and indigestion.

But back to me. I started putting some of Dr. Hay’s ideas into practise in my own little way, and with the help of some books, and recipe ideas, began taking eating more seriously. Out went as much of the refined stuff as I could manage while at work (which was very hard at first) but eventually it started to pay off.

And what did my first Hay-inspired “meal” consist of? Well, it was a sandwich. Brown bread, butter, and…wait for it…micro-waved egg yolk! With a touch of salt and pepper. Yes folks, that’s what the filling consisted of. Egg yolk. Why? Because the yolk of an egg is classified as “neutral” which means it can be eaten with anything protein or carbohydrate, which in turn makes it an ideal sandwich filler!

And how did I feel after eating it? Inspired…and indigestion-free…which is not how I would have felt after eating an actual whole egg sandwich, or bacon-burger…or anything that combined the protein of meat/dairy with the carbohydrate of the bread/bun.

That little experiment did it for me, and I went on to try it out at home later that same day by having a plate of spaghetti without the Bolognese, but with just a little melted butter, and sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. And you know what, it was actually pretty tasty.

But more importantly, again, there was no acid-build up afterwards. No indigestion. No feeling of bloatedness. My next home-cooked meal was the roast without the chicken. Again, the thought seemed dire…but once those roast spuds, and parsnips had been baked, and fresh carrots, peas, and broccoli boiled, I sat down to this meal, added a little gravy, and seasoning, and started to dig in. And once again, was pleasantly surprised how tasty this roast without the meat actually was.

It was like discovering a miracle! And since that day I have made eating the Hay way part of my daily diet as much as possible, and all digestive problems have vanished. Not only that, but the slight arthritis that started to develop in my left hand following a motorbike accident has vanished to, which further echoes Dr. Hay’s claim that following his diet can ease this pain. Excess weight is also shed as a natural response to eating the Hay way, yet another effect I have experienced.

So the moral of this tale is don’t be put off by the thought of eating the Hay Diet, you can take it from this horse’s mouth - it doesn’t involve eating hay, and in fact you won’t be clutching at straws either if you are looking for a diet-based solution to your weight-loss, arthritis, or digestive ailments.

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