The state of your health starts with the foods you eat. If your meals contain mostly meat, refined and overly processed foods, and simple carbohydrates, your body may become overly acidic. To be truly healthy, you need meals filled with the fruits and vegetables that promote the proper balance of acidity and alkalinity.
When you eat the typical Western diet, emphasizing heavy animal proteins and processed foods, you create acidity that adds to your health woes. Even worse, eating these foods regularly can increase the levels of toxins in your body, while causing significant wear and tear on other systems, particularly digestion. This way of eating is sometimes referred to as the Standard American Diet (SAD). According to many well-documented studies, the SAD produces a chronic low-grade, overly acidic state in the body. By understanding the impact your diet has on your overall health in terms of pH (acid/alkaline) balance, it becomes clear that an alkalizing diet can offer numerous benefits for long-term wellness and vitality.
The meaning of pH
You may have heard the term pH and been puzzled about its meaning. pH refers to the “potential of hydrogen.” Hydrogen ions contribute acidity to tissues and organs, such as the contribution of hydrochloric acid to the high acidity of stomach secretions. The scale used to measure pH is a logarithmic scale, which means that there is a tenfold difference between each number — ranging from 1 to 14. The lower numbers (1-6.99) represent the acid (or H+ donating) range and the higher numbers (7.01-14) represent the alkaline (or H+ accepting) range. Neutral is 7.0. Some body systems such as the blood (7.35-7.45) are more strictly regulated in terms of acidity/alkalinity than others. Urine has a broader pH range, from 4.5-8.0, which makes it an ideal body fluid for keeping track of adjustments and changes in pH.
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Acid/alkaline levels in the body
A nourishing diet is one of the single most important factors in health and healing. The body works hard to maintain specific acid/alkaline levels in its various organs, tissues, and fluids. The very controlled range of pH balance found within different systems of the body includes:
- Blood: 7.35-7.45 pH
- Muscle: 6.1 pH
- Liver: 6.9 pH
- Gastric juice: 1.2-3.0 pH
- Saliva: 6.35-6.85 pH
- Urine: 4.5-8.0 pH
- Pancreatic juice: 7.8-8.0 pH
Many of our key systems and organs including the kidneys, lungs, bones, and others have homeostatic mechanisms in place to respond to pH changes and readjust alkaline/acid levels as needed. A chronically acidic state can tax these homeostatic mechanisms, contributing to a number of chronic degenerative conditions such as gastrointestinal issues, osteoporosis, kidney disease, cardiac and circulatory issues, muscle wasting, and many others. For example, bone is called upon repeatedly to contribute calcium to the blood to help buffer an overly acidic environment. This process demineralizes the skeleton because the alkaline minerals calcium and magnesium are continuously removed from the bone to help reduce acidity. Increased calcium excretion from bone can also increase the risk of kidney stones.
Factors that affect pH levels
The foods you eat are one of the primary influences on the body’s pH. The right modifications toward a more alkaline diet can positively influence pH values within various systems of the body. Most fruits, for example, are acid-forming, with the exception of a few such as lemons and limes. Lemons and limes certainly have acidic properties but are actually alkalizing once digested, which is why these fruits are so highly recommended during a seasonal cleanse or detoxification program.
|Highly Alkaline||Moderately Alkaline||Mildly Alkaline|
Sprouts (soy, alfalfa, etc.)
Sea vegetables (kelp)
White haricot beans
New red potatoes
Most herbs and spices
|Mildly Acidic||Moderately Acidic||Highly Acidic|
Rice, soy, hemp protein
Freshwater wild fish
OTC and prescription drugs
Most dairy (except raw dairy, which can be slightly alkalizing)
Test your pH levels
There are various schools of thought on testing the body’s pH. Some clinicians advise testing urine, others advise testing saliva. pH paper or test strips are widely available at your local pharmacy or online, so you can experiment with both body fluids to see for yourself what the correlations are for your system. A fasting urine sample gives the most accurate reading. However, a first-morning urine may be overly acidic due to the retention of urine in the bladder for an extended period of time. Second-morning urine, prior to breakfast, can give a good baseline.
It is also important to note that any one reading has limited value, being just one data point. Since you are looking for a pattern, you should check your urine several times throughout the day and record your results over time. Two hours after a meal is a good time to test to see how your dietary intake has impacted your pH. Studies have shown that urine pH can show modifications in as little as two hours after a meal. Your goal is to be in the green or slightly alkaline range, which should be fairly easily accomplished by consuming a diet high in green leafy vegetables (alkalinizing foods) and lower in proteins and carbohydrates (acidifying foods).
Alkalinizing the urine increases toxin excretion
An added benefit of alkalinizing has been demonstrated in ongoing studies that show an enhanced detoxification effect with urine alkalization. In the Western medical setting, intravenous sodium bicarbonate (alkaline) is used to treat cases of acute drug poisoning. Other studies have shown that alkaline urine enhances the excretion of a number of pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, and inhibits the reabsorption by the kidney of xenobiotics (hormone-mimicking chemicals).
It makes sense that adopting a dietary lifestyle of ongoing alkalization can encourage small quantities of toxins to be removed from our bodies on a daily basis. We know that cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, kale, cauliflower, collards, and Brussels sprouts) have powerful compounds that aid the liver in its Phase I and Phase II detoxification processes and alkalinize the urine. Alkalinizing the urine while following a seasonal fall cleanse is a perfect adjunctive combination for safely excreting toxins. One of my favorite recommendations within this approach is to use a lemon olive oil drink, which has an alkalizing effect and also stimulates the liver and gall bladder to discharge toxins.
Another recommendation is a supplement called PectaSol Chelation Complex, which combines modified citrus pectin and modified alginates (derived from kelp). This safe and gentle formula has been clinically researched and shown to assist the body in eliminating harmful, acid-forming toxins and heavy metals, without removing essential alkalizing minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
The best way to alkalinize
The safest and most natural way to increase your alkalinity is to balance your diet. Some advocates of alkalinizing tend to make proteins and carbohydrates into the “bad guys.” This is an extreme view that doesn’t acknowledge the importance of these types of foods for normal metabolism, immune system support, muscle repair and building, ongoing detoxification, and energy metabolism.
However, the carbohydrate category in the Western diet tends to be highly processed, lacking nutritional value, and containing chemical additives. Similarly, the protein category in the Western diet tends to be overused with large portions of commercial animal proteins. An excellent alternative is to consume organic nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates, along with smaller portions of organic and grass-fed animal protein sources and high-quality plant protein sources, which are less acidic than their over-processed, commercial counterparts. These substitutions are not problematic in terms of alkalization; however, they do need to be balanced with frequent abundant portions of fresh organic alkalizing foods — mainly vegetables. You can ensure you’re achieving an alkalinizing balance by testing your pH levels regularly.
Increase your intake of vegetables and fruits high in alkalinizing minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Foods that provide excellent sources of potassium include red potatoes, avocado, Brussels sprouts, and many others. Green leafy vegetables have high magnesium content; and broccoli, sea veggies, collards, chard, and other greens are rich in calcium.
An alkalinizing mineral broth can be easily made by combining potatoes, celery, parsley, green beans, zucchini, beet tops, kale, onions, and seaweed in a full pot of water; simmering for an hour or two; and then pouring off the liquid for use. This makes a wonderful, mineral-rich liquid for a seasonal cleanse. Other alkalinizing food sources include liquid chlorophyll, green powder supplements that can be added to smoothies, soups or warm water, or the highly alkaline umeboshi plum paste made from a sour plum commonly used in Japanese cuisine.
Since gastrointestinal function can become compromised when the body reaches an overly acidic state, I also recommend my all-natural digestive supplement, called Integrative Digestive Formula, which contains a blend of digestive enzymes, herbs, and minerals. This formula can help to alleviate digestive discomfort such as heartburn and nausea while improving overall digestive function and nutrient absorption.
By making these relatively simple yet important changes in your diet, you will quickly feel the benefits of increased alkalization like reduced inflammatory symptoms and improved energy. For more diet recommendations and tips for a successful seasonal cleanse, visit www.dreliaz.org.