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Balance Acid and Alkaline Foods in Your Diet to Improve Health

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The Move to Raw Foods

It is not a coincidence that as diets have moved from raw natural foods to highly processed foods, loaded with chemicals, additives, and laden with sugars, that so many people are becoming overweight, fatigued, and literally debilitated with a myriad of chronic diseases and conditions.

The Extinction of the Hunter Gatherer

People, until relatively recently, were hunter-gatherers whose diets consisted of a combination of lean animal foods (including fish) and uncultivated vegetables and fruits. Studies show that the "average" ancient diet consisted of 55 percent animal foods and 45 percent plant foods. The animal foods included healthy fats as well as protein, and the plant foods consisted of fruits, stalks, seeds, leaves, roots, and tubers. Grains and cow's milk didn't enter the picture until about 7,000 to 10,000 years ago, too short a time for genetic adaptation. 

Today's Doctors and Nutritionist Weigh In

Many doctors, herbalists and nutritionists believe that a proper diet is the key to longevity, much more so than relying on the many pharmaceuticals created to treat (or sometimes just mask) the symptoms of diseases and conditions.

Acid Alkaline Imbalance 

Our bodies must stay in a very narrow ph level.  When excess acids are created by our bodies they must be neutralized. To keep our bodies in this desired  "homeostatic state"  our body reacts to the acid condition by depleting alkaline reserves. The result leaves the body in a weakened condition.

Understanding pH

pH (potential of hydrogen) is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. It is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. The lower the pH the more acidic the solution. The higher the pH the more alkaline (or base) the solution.

When a solution is neither acid nor alkaline it has a pH of 7 which is neutral.   

Body pH

The body is comprised of approximately 70% water.  The body has an acid-alkaline (or acid-base) ratio called the pH which is a balance between positively charges ions (acid-forming) and negatively charged ions (alkaline-forming). When we talk about body pH, we are not talking about the pH of the stomach.  When we refer to body pH we are referring to the pH of the body's fluids and tissues.

As humans, a normal pH of all tissues and fluids in the body (except the stomach) is slightly alkaline. The most critical pH is in the blood. All other organs and fluids will fluctuate in their range in order to keep the blood a strict pH between 7.35 and 7.45 (slightly alkaline). This process is called homeostasis. The body makes constant adjustments in tissue and fluid pH to maintain this very narrow pH range in the blood. It continually strives to a balance pH in a very specific pH range.  When this balance is compromised many problems can occur.   

Today's Diet and Its Effect on Body pH 

Most people who suffer from unbalanced pH are acidic. This condition forces the body to borrow minerals—including calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium—from vital organs and bones to buffer (neutralize) the acid and safely remove it from the body.

When the body reacts to neutralize a highly acidic condition it weakens itself.  If this condition is a common occurrence, and the body must consistently respond to highly acidic conditions chronic health conditions may result. 

What makes over acidity so insidious is that this condition may go undetected for years until permanent chronic health conditions may result  (similar to how another diet condition; pre-diabetes can occur as a result of long term carbohydrates loading leading to insulin insensitivity, eventually resulting in type 2 diabetes).

Scientific Evidence Confirms the Effect of Diet on Disease 

Overwhelming evidence from a variety of sources, including epidemiological, prospective cohort, and intervention studies, links most chronic diseases and conditions seen in the world today to physical inactivity and inappropriate diet consumption.

Chronic diseases present an enormous burden to society by increasing medical costs and human suffering). Recent data estimate that physical inactivity and poor diet caused 400,000 deaths in 2000, ranking second only to tobacco, and that it is likely that inactivity and diet will soon rank as the leading cause of death in the United States). This number may be an underestimate given that it reflects deaths attributable only to those with obesity, and physical inactivity and inappropriate diet impact mortality at any BMI. 

Although health problems such as diabetes, heart disease have been virtually nonexistent in underdeveloped countries, they are on the rise as these people change their diets and become more sedentary. 

Acid Alkaline Imbalance Effect on Health

An Acid Alkaline Balanced diet, according to many experts, is a vital key to health maintenance.  The concept of acid alkaline imbalance as the cause of disease is not new.  In 1933 a New York doctor named William Howard Hay published a ground-breaking book, A New Health Era in which he maintains that all disease is caused by autotoxication (or "self-poisoning") due to acid accumulation in the body.

There have been numerous doctors, herbalists and nutritionists since that time supporting the theory that diets that create an acid-alkaline imbalance in the body (over acidity) if left unchecked can weaken all body systems, and give rise to an internal environment conducive to disease.

Acidosis Health Effects

To be to acidic in the body can have far reaching consequences. For example, if the blood becomes too acidic the body will balance the pH at all costs. This can lead to common symptoms which include but are not limited to:
  • Acceleration of free radical damage, possibly contributing to cancerous mutations and premature aging
  • Bladder and kidney conditions, including kidney stones
  • Bone loss, weak and brittle bones, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, bone spurs and other osteo related conditions (A recent seven-year study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, on 9,000 women showed that those who have chronic acidosis are at greater risk for bone loss than those who have normal pH levels. The scientists who carried out this experiment believe that many of the hip fractures prevalent among middle-aged women are connected to high acidity caused by a diet rich in animal foods and low in vegetables. This is because the body borrows calcium from the bones in order to balance pH. Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
  • Brain fog
  • Cardiovascular damage, including the constriction of blood vessels and the reduction of oxygen
  • Chronic fatigue/low energy
  • Constipation
  • Diabetes
  • Frequent urination
  • Gastrointestinal disorderulcers
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD or acid reflux
  • Heart burn
  • Hormone concerns
  • Indigestion
  • Immune deficiency
  • Irritable Bowel
  • Joint pain
  • Lactic acid buildup
  • Low energy and chronic fatigue
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Mineral deficiencies
  • Muscle soreness
  • Obesity
  • Poor metabolism
  • Slow digestion and elimination
  • Yeast/fungal overgrowth
  • Weight gain/Difficulty losing weight

The idea is this: the more symptoms, the more acidic you may be, and the more urgent it is for you to begin an alkalizing program. 

Your Body pH Affects EVERYTHING

pH control impacts every biochemical process in the body. When pH balance is off and the blood becomes more acidic:
  • Microbes are affected. Microbes in your blood can, mutate, mirror pathogenicity, and grow.
  • Fatty acids are affected. Fatty acids which are normally negatively charged, take on a positive charge and instead of moving freely, become attracted to and begin to stick to the walls of the negatively charged artery walls. This state results in increased risk of diabetes. 
  • Enzyme function is affected. Enzymes that are created for specific functions are changed and therefore can no longer perform the required function well, if not at all. They not only can be ineffective, but they can also be destructive.
  • Oxygen delivery to cells suffers. More and more research is showing that low oxygen delivery to cells is a major factor in most if not all degenerative conditions.
  • Minerals assimilation can be affected. Minerals are very important. In the absence of minerals vitamins can't do their job. This can cause organs not to function properly and further contribute to a degenerative state to the body.  A good example is the effect of pH on the mineral iodine. When pH is too low and iodine is not properly assimilated it can negatively effect the thyroid. Malfunctioning thyroids have been connected to cancer, fatigue, depression, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, heart attacks, and more. Copper deficiency has been implicated in aneurysms (brain, aortic, etc.). Calcium and magnesium deficiency effects the bones. Current research also suggests that magnesium deficiency increase the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). The list goes on and on.
  • Insulin production can be affected. 

It is now becoming widely believed  that a shift to a pH-balanced diet can provide an environment which allows normal body function necessary for the body to resist disease. 

Body pH Testing

You can test your pH levels to determine if your body's pH needs immediate attention. Blood tests and urine are an accurate way to test blood pH. Saliva test can also be done.

Home pH test strips are available to determine your pH factor quickly and easily in the privacy of your own home.

Urine pH 

Urine testing may indicate how well your body is excreting acids and assimilating minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. These minerals function as "buffers." Buffers are substances that help maintain and balance the body against the introduction of too much acidity or too much alkalinity.

Even with the proper amounts of buffers, acid or alkaline levels can become extreme. When the body ingests or produces too many of these acids or alkali's, it must excrete the excess. The urine is the perfect way for the body to remove any excess acids or alkaline substances that cannot be buffered.

Urinary pH should fluctuate between 6.0-6.4 in the morning and 6.4-7.0 in the evening.   If the average urine pH is below 6.5 the body's buffering system is overwhelmed, a state of "auto toxication" exists, and attention should be given to lowering acid levels.  

When you test your first urine of the morning, because this is urine that has been stored in your bladder during the night this first flow should optimally be between a pH 6.4 to 6.8. If your first urine pH is higher than 6.8 your alkaline buffers are sufficient to neutralize the acidic foods and drinks you ingested the day before.  If your first urine pH is lower than 6.4, however, you are deficient in alkaline buffers such as bicarbonate, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. 

To get your body pH back in line you need to move away from acidic foods and drinks and begin ingesting liberal amounts of green leafy vegetables, low sugar fruits and healthy polyunsaturated fats. If you opt to instead test your urine later in the morning after a first pass, do it before eating any food.  Because this test will be after you have eliminated the stored urine which represents the acid load from the day before, the urine ph should be higher (above 7.2). If the pH is lower than 6.8 then you are in a state of latent tissue acidosis and you are deficient of alkaline buffers. 

Low ph does not necessarily mean ingestion of just sugary carbs and acid drinks; it could also mean be from a high protein diet that is not appropriately balanced with the proper fruits and vegetables that can provide appropriate alkaline buffers. Most meats when digested lower body ph through the production of nitric, sulfuric, phosphoric and uric acids.

Saliva pH   

While the saliva also utilizes buffers just like the urine, it relies on this process to a much lesser degree.  It instead relies more on activity of digestive enzymes in the body that are primarily manufactured by the stomach, liver and pancreas. Saliva pH reveals the flow of enzymes running through your body and shows their effect on all the body systems and your tissues.

Salivary pH should stay between 6.4 and 6.8.  If the saliva pH is too low (below 6.5), the body may be producing too many acids or may be overwhelmed by acids because it has lost the ability to adequately remove them through the urine. If the saliva pH is too high (over 6.8), the body may suffer greatly, e.g. excess gas, constipation and production of yeast, mold and fungus.

How to Determine Your Body pH Level 

The best time to test your pH is about one hour before a meal and two hours after a meal.  I would recommend doing the saliva and urine tests for 10 days in a row. Ignore the top three and bottom three tests because they're extremes. Average the remaining four to determine your pH.  You can retest a few weeks after changing your eating habits. 

pH Levels and What They Mean

 

 phrange.jpg (6843 bytes)

Healthy ph Levels

If your urinary pH fluctuates between 6.4 to 6.8 in the morning and between 6.8 and 7.2 in the evening, your body is functioning within a healthy range.

If your saliva stays between 6.5 and 6.8 all day, your body is functioning within a healthy range.

Your pH should always be between 7.2 to 8.4, right after meals and between 6.8 to 7.2 a couple of hours after meals.

Acidosis Effects on Body Chemistry

Your body is able to assimilate minerals and nutrients properly only when its pH is balanced. Not only may you be experiencing fatigue and other conditions with generalized symptoms that you might not consider may be the result of a acidic body condition but your problems may also be compounded in that such a condition may also impact the bioavailability of nutrients from your food, as well as from any supplements you may also be taking to improve your health and well being. It is therefore possible for you to be taking healthy nutrients and yet be unable to absorb or use them.

If you are not getting the results you expected from your nutritional or herbal program, look for an acid alkaline imbalance. Even the right herbal program may not work if your body's pH is out of balance.

Getting Back on Track

Several studies have shown that physical activity and proper diet are effective interventions to many of the chronic diseases seen today.

Acid and Alkaline Minerals and Foods

To determine if a food is acid or alkaline, it is burned and the ash is mixed with water. If the solution is acid or alkaline then the food is called acid or alkaline. Ash is the mineral content of the food. Nutritionally important alkaline minerals  include calcium (Ca+), potassium (K+), magnesium (Mg+), and sodium (Na+).  

In regards to diet, it is important to understand which foods create an acidic environment, and which foods help counteract an acidic environment. Determining what foods are right for your diet is not as straight forward as it seems. Food's acid or alkaline-forming tendency in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself. For example, grapefruits, lemons and limes are very acidic, however the end-products they produce after digestion and assimilation are very alkaline so they are alkaline-forming in the body. Likewise, meat will test alkaline before digestion but it leaves very acidic residue in the body so, like nearly all animal products, meat is very acid-forming.

To help you, I have included a brief summary of some specific foods and their effect on the body when digested (refer to Table 1 below).

Tips to Restore Acid/Alkaline Balance in Your Body

If your saliva and urine are too acid you would benefit from increasing the alkalinity of your body. Ways to do this include:

Eat a balanced diet.  You should not cut out all acid-forming foods - some are necessary, otherwise you probably wouldn't get enough protein and variety of nutrients,. The key to ph balancing the body is to shift the overall balance of your diet over toward the alkaline, and away from the excessively acid-forming diet of conventional western culture.

Eat mostly alkaline foods. The general "rule of thumb" is to eat 20% acid foods and 80% alkaline foods. Consume higher alkaline foods such as green leafy vegetables, broccoli, spinach, as well as mild alkaline fruits,and vegetables. You do not  have to be a vegetarian to gain the alkalizing benefits of fruits and vegetables.  Just a  handful of raisins, two dates, or a small banana each provide more than 300 mg of potassium.  In fact it takes just about 35 percent of total calories as fruits and veggies to produce a net alkaline load. 

Avoid the "strongly acid" foods. Avoid or at least minimize strongly acid foods and drinks.  

Limit mild acidic foods and drinks.  Limit mild acidic foods (e.g.,  grains, legumes, nuts) and drinks.

Lower your glycemic load.  Cut back on breads, pastas, and other grain-based foods, as well as "high-glycemic" foods such as potatoes. Besides causing potential acid conditions, higher blood sugar and higher insulin levels they are also nutrient-poor foods, compared with protein and veggies. Refined carbohydrates also effects coronary artery disease (CAD) risk. Refined carbohydrates are highly processed, resulting in removal of fiber, vitamins,minerals, phytonutrients, and essential fatty acids. Consumption of refined carbohydrates compared with whole grains increases the risk of CAD resulting, in part, from the increased glycemic load of these types of carbohydrates.

Limit artificial sweeteners. Artificial chemical sweeteners like NutraSweet, Equal, or aspartame, are extremely acid-forming. Consider natural sweetener stevia instead.

 

Supplement your diet. The following is just a partial list of potential supplements. 
  • Salts of the alkaline minerals cesium, rubidium.
  • Calcium citrate. This supplement is better absorbed than calcium carbonate (coral calcium is largely calcium carbonate).
  • Potassium is a crucial mineral for maintaining bone, mainly by promoting alkalinity.
  • Magnesium citrate. Absorbable magnesium is crucial to help build necessary buffers. Magnesium is often lost in urine as a consequence of too much acid in the body. If your urine is 5.8-7.2 take magnesium citrate to support healthy bones.
  • Sulfur acts as a buffer to maintain proper pH levels.
  • Buffered vitamin C, which is ascorbic acid formulated with the carbonate forms of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, might also have a slight alkalizing effect.
  • Phosphorus is a mineral that helps convert food to energy.
  • Kelp (Seaweed) is high in alkaline and other healthy nutrients.
  • Colloidal Minerals. Colloidal Minerals can help provide structural integrity for muscles, skin and hair, help eliminate toxins, supports enzyme function, enhance protein synthesis, provides electrolytes for cellular fluid balance, help regulate blood pressure and help supports the immune system. Consider a high quality pH-balanced product that contains a full spectrum of macro and trace minerals, that can be easily assimilated into the body.
  • Elder Bark, Hops and Willow are examples of supplements that may reduce stress (stress can create acidic conditions).
  • Enzymes for better digestion.Examples my include: Amylase, Cellulase, Hydrilla, Marshmallow, Papaya, Protease, Lipase, Pectinase / Phytase, etc.).

Food Acid/Alkalinity Table

Table 1  


FOOD CATEGORY High Alkaline Alkaline Low Alkaline Low Acid Acid High Acid
BEANS, VEGETABLES, LEGUMES Asparagus, Onions, Vegetable Juices, Parsley, Raw Spinach, Broccoli, Garlic, Barley Grass Okra, Squash, Green Beans, Beets, Celery, Lettuce, Zucchini, Sweet Potato, Carob Carrots, Tomatoes, Fresh Corn, Mushrooms, Cabbage, Peas, Cauliflower, Turnip, Beetroot, Potato Skins, Olives, Soybeans, Tofu

Cooked Spinach, Kidney Beans, string beans


Potatoes (without skins), Pinto Beans, Navy Beans, Lima Beans  
FRUIT Lemons, Watermelon, Limes, Grapefruit, Mangoes, Papayas Dates, Figs, Melons, Grapes, Papaya, Kiwi, Berries, Apples, Pears, Raisins Oranges, Bananas, Cherries, Pineapple, Peaches, Avocados Plums, Processed Fruit Juices Sour Cherries, Rhubarb, Canned Fruit Blueberries, Cranberries, Prunes, Sweetened Fruit Juice
GRAINS, CEREALS         Amaranth, Millet, Lentils, Sweetcorn, Wild Rice, Quinoa Rye Bread, Sprouted Wheat Bread, Spelt, Brown Rice White Rice, Corn, Buckwheat, Oats, Rye Wheat, White Bread, Pastries, Biscuits, Pasta
MEAT             Liver, Oysters, Venison, Cold Water Fish Turkey, Chicken, Lamb

Beef, Pork, Shellfish,
Salami
Luncheon meat, canned
Liver,  sausage

EGGS & DAIRY     Breast Milk Soy Cheese, Soy Milk, Goat Milk, Goat Cheese, Whey Eggs, Butter, Yogurt, Buttermilk, Cottage Cheese, Cream Raw Milk Parmesan cheese,
Processed (soft) cheeses, Hard cheeses, Gouda cheese,
Cottage cheese,
Homogenized Milk, Ice Cream, Custard
NUTS & SEEDS     Almonds Chestnuts, Brazils, Hazelnuts, Coconut

Pumpkin, Sesame, Sunflower Seeds

Pecans, Cashews, Pistachios Peanuts, Walnuts
OILS Olive Oil Flax Seed Oil Canola Oil Corn Oil, Sunflower Oil, Margarine, Lard        
BEVERAGES Herb Teas, Lemon Water Green Tea Ginger Tea Tea, Cocoa Coffee, Wine Beer, Liquor, Soft Drinks
SWEETENERS, CONDIMENTS Stevia Maple Syrup, Rice Syrup Raw Honey, Raw Sugar Processed Honey White Sugar, Brown Sugar, Molasses, Jam, Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Mustard, Vinegar Artificial Sweeteners, (e.g., NutraSweet, Equal, Aspartame, Sweet 'N Low), Chocolate

Note: While compiling our list we noted various inconsistencies between the acid- or alkaline-forming values given in the lists provided by many websites. Therefore Please don't take the above chart as any more than an approximate guide.

Recommended Reading:

  • Alkalize or Die by Dr. Theodore A. Baroody
  • The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health, by Robert O. Young, Shelley Redford Young 

About the Author

Jeff Behar
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA is a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, regularly writing about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, anti aging and alternative medicine. His work also often appears in several of the major health and fitness newsletters, health and fitness magazines, and on major health, and fitness websites. Behar is also a well sought after personal trainer, motivational speaker, and weight loss expert.

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 03 December 2009 16:17
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