For years, Gary Pearson, 37, was lured by the "taste and convenience" of fast food for lunch. But, what started off as mild heartburn post double cheeseburger, fries and coke, turned with time into a severe case of acid reflux that Person could no longer "eat through."

Finally, his body forced him to make a decision: take medication or shift his eating habits.

"The way I was eating became such a debilitating experience that I decided taste and convenience was not worth sacrificing my health over," he said.

Unfortunately, the discomforts of indigestion, like in the case of Pearson, are so commonplace that over $2 billion are spent each year on antacids.

So how can you get to the belly of indigestion?

Certified Nutritionist and Author Natalia Rose claims that a life time of improper food combining will lead you straight to constipation, acne, asthma, and arthritis, draining your body's energy supply, youthfulness and beauty. So what does food combining mean, and doesn't everything go to the same place and get all mixed up in your stomach anyway?

Not so, according to Dr. Herbert M. Shelton's book, "Food Combining Made Easy." The term 'Food combining' doesn't refer to the way we combine food tastes; for example, some people love pepperoni pizza, but rather the way we plan our meals, putting foods together that are incompatible chemically with each other and cause distress in the digestive system.

When proteins, like beef or chicken, for example are consumed, an acidic enzyme specific only to these foods fires into your stomach to break it down. Carbohydrate and starch foods, like potatoes, breads and pastas, on the other hand, need an alkaline enzyme to break down, not an acid. However, when a carbohydrate and protein are eaten at the same time, like a hamburger on a bun, both kinds of enzymes are demanded and shot into the stomach simultaneously, neutralizing or canceling each other out.

According to Shelton this kind of "haphazard" eating practice "inhibits" the digestive enzymes from doing their job — digesting and transforming solid food into a liquid form by which the body can then utilize and eliminate efficiently. This is why we can suffer from digestive related illnesses directly after eating and beyond.

So how do you know what foods combine well with what, and how is this going to impact your dining experience?

Rose outlines four basic food categories and recommends choosing whole grain and organic products when possible.

— Starches: breads (all types), rice (all types), potatoes (all types), avocadoes (technically a fruit but combines as a starch), legumes (lentils, beans, cooked peas), young coconut (large and green), cooked corn and pasta (all types)

— Flesh: Fish, eggs, chicken, meat (beef, lamb, pork, etc.) game, shellfish

— Nuts/seeds/dried fruit: nuts (all types), seeds (all types), dried fruit (all types), mature coconut (small and brown)

— Fresh Fruit: Citrus, bananas (combines with fresh fruit, dried fruit and avocados, but not with nuts), plums, nectarines, grapes, berries, other fruits

"With very few exceptions these four categories of foods should not mix with one another in the stomach," she said. For example, a starch food like potatoes should never mix with a flesh like steak, therefore making steak and potatoes an ill combined meal. Similarly, a starch like bread does not combine well with something from the nut category like peanut butter.

According to Rose, high quality dairy can be enjoyed with both flesh and vegetables. However, she advises choosing goats or raw cow dairy milk and cheese over pasteurized products. So now what can you eat with most of your staple meals needing an over haul? Rose says that it is easier than you think once you get the hang of it.

Here are ten of Rose's food-combining tips to live by:

— Foods in different categories should never be mixed in the same meal, but foods in the same category may be enjoyed at the same meal

— If you have a large appetite, eat more within the same food type

— Wait three hours after eating a properly combined meal before switching food groups, or wait 4-6 hours when consuming meals with flesh

— Never eat fresh fruit for dessert after a cooked meal, as it will cause fermentation

— Fresh fruit only takes thirty minutes to exit the stomach, so you may enjoy other foods thirty minutes after consuming fresh fruit

— All vegetables, except high-starch vegetables, may be enjoyed with flesh meals —All vegetables may be enjoyed with starch meals

— Caffeine is best consumed on an empty stomach

— If you are going to "mis-combine" a meal do it at night so that your body has plenty of time to move it through the stomach before the next meal comes through

— 70 percent dark chocolate bars make the perfect dessert for any food category

Rose said that each person's body is unique and the best way to tell if certain foods are combining well is to notice what happens. "If your stomach is calm and gas-free after a given combination, than that combination is okay for you."