Most of us never consider our gut health when we are thinking about nutrition. We never think about the acid/alkaline balance of our blood. Many doctors and nutritional experts stress the importance of pH because a balanced pH protects us from the inside out. Disease cannot take hold in the body when pH balance is in sync.
This balance is crucial to our health because it is the imbalance that allows unhealthy organisms to flourish. This damages tissues and organs and can compromise the immune system.
Proper pH balance in our body is crucial to maintain overall health. Your body is able to assimilate minerals and nutrients properly only when its pH is balanced. If not, you can create a whole host of issues for your system. Disease, inflammation & other forms of discomfort can occur when our body is out of pH balance.
So how do we get proper pH balance? Remember back in science class, when we studied pH? It is short for the “potential of hydrogen”. It is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of our body’s fluids and tissues. The scale of measure for pH ranges from a scale of 0 to 14. The more acidic the solution, the lower the pH. The more alkaline a solution is, it will record a higher pH.
A pH of 7 is perfectly neutral. Some doctors and nutritionists believe that the healthiest pH is one that is slightly alkaline. Optimally, we want a pH of around 7.36. This number can fluctuate during the day but a normal range for a male or female is normally between 6 and 7.5.
So How Is pH Affected?
The kidneys are what maintain our electrolyte levels throughout the day. Electrolytes include calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. When we eat a diet rich in acidic substances, the electrolytes are used to combat acidity. High instances of acid forming substances in our bodies rob us of these trace minerals. They take them from the bones, organs, cells and other tissues within our body. They especially wreak havoc on or digestive system. When cells come up short on minerals the can no longer proper dispose of waste or oxygenate completely. Vitamin and nutrient absorption is compromised and sometimes even grinds to a halt. Minerals are lost and toxins and pathogens can accumulate in the body and can do a number on your immune system.
Let’s look at some foods that cause acidic reactions in your body.
- Antibiotic abuse
- Artificial sweeteners
- Low levels of fiber
- Compromised nutrient levels in foods due to poor farming
- Lack of exercise
- Excess meat sources in the diet (non-grass fed products)
- Pesticides & Herbicides on vegetables and fruits
- Poor chewing and eating habits
- Processed foods
- Shallow breathing
Long term abuse from an acidic diet can come in the form of arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and all of the other diseases of aging. Do you understand why it is important to balance your pH?
The list could go on and on and I am sure you get the idea. What effects can acidity have on your body and overall health? You can develop allergies, be fatigued, frequently get sick, increased instance of headaches, increased inflammation and joint pain, skin problems and even weight gain.
How Can We Achieve A Better pH?
Although there are many factors that contribute to our sources of acidity and toxicity in our environments, the biggest contributor to an unbalanced pH is what we put in our mouths.
When we consume high quality organic fruits and vegetables they contain large amounts of potassium which is a natural buffer against acidity. The traditional fair of most American diets contains little in the way of fresh fruits and raw vegetables. It’s of the utmost importance to get these items back into your diet. High quality vegetables and “green” sources of these foodstuffs should be added to everyone’s diet. Take extra care in washing these items as well so you get rid of any potential threat of pesticide or herbicide. Eat them raw if you can or lightly steamed. Overcooking of vegetables poses the risk of nutrient loss.
Staying away from all processed foods is also of great value. If it comes in a bag, box or can, it typically is not something we should put into our bodies. We are all pretty aware of some of the “bad items” in these foods but a lot of people forget that one of the main culprits “junk food” is sodium chloride. While salt is generally a good mineral to include in your diet, the sodium chloride in most processed foods is highly refined and can have adverse effects on the body. This generally comes in the form of blood vessel constriction or inflammation. One of the most highly refined forms of sodium is Monosodium Glutamate or MSG for short. Avoid this substance at all costs. It will do your body good to not consume these substances.
A few other items to avoid are processed meats and conventional meat sources. Eating too much of the wrong types of animal protein can cause sulfuric acid to build up in the blood as amino acids are being broken down. Stick to lean grass fed types of beef, organic free range chicken and turkey.
Another culprit that creates acidic conditions in your gut are most grains. As a general rule, I do not eat most grains. On the average, most Americans ingest most of their plant food quota from processed corn or wheat. When I say most grains, I mean the processed grains found in whole wheat bread, pasta and just about any other boxed foods. The grains that I do eat from time to time are Jasmine rice, oatmeal and I eat organic corn when it is in season up in the Midwest. I don’t eat a lot of it, but my body can tolerate it and there is nothing better than Steak, broccoli and a cob of organic corn. It’s an indulgence that I allow myself when it is in season. Other than the aforementioned, items. I would eliminate ALL processed grains and corn from your food plan. I will not go into the nastiness that is GMO food sources and processed grains. That would be another article altogether and there is already enough information on it out there. Research it. The problem with our diet is more a matter of not ingesting enough alkaline promoting foods rather than taking in too much acid.
One of the strangest paradoxes in our diet is that most of us in this country consume a high amount calcium-rich dairy products which can cause some of the highest rates of osteoporosis or other bone density problems. How can this be so? Because dairy products create acidity in the body. When your bloodstream becomes too acidic, it will steal calcium (a more alkaline substance) from the bones to try and balance out the pH level. So one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis is to eat a lot of green leafy vegetables that are alkaline in their properties. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts can also help in the fight. These vegetables contain glucosinolates which are converted into a number of chemicals which may have anticancer properties.
Some of the acid forming foods that were mentioned such as dairy (eggs mainly), Oatmeal and Rice may be acid forming in your body but do not be afraid to eat them. They contain a whole host of health benefits like anti-oxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids. A healthy balance is what we are going for here as far as pH is concerned. If you do choose to eat eggs, select organic if possible, and look for eggs that were produced by free-range hens. If you know a local farmer to support in your area then that is even better. Here is an interesting article on eggs.
Now that we know about acidic foods, the best way to maintain a good pH is to introduce alkaline foods into the diet. Foods such as fruits, mushrooms and vegetables promote a good pH. Some of the best alkaline producing foods can be citrus fruits, dates, raisins and spinach. Oddly enough some acidic fruits such as grapefruit, oranges and tomatoes do not create acidity within the body at all. They do just the opposite and contribute strongly to a good alkaline environment.
Here is a good list of alkaline foods that I eat.
- Green Beans
- Lettuce (Greens)
- Peppers (All)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Wheat Grass
- Coconut (fresh)
Alkalizing Protein & Nuts
- Macadamia Nuts
- Whey Protein Powder (Choose a good one!) (NutraBio or BioTrust are both 3rd party tested.)
- Lean grass-fed Beef (Organic & Free range if possible)
- Chicken (Organic & Free range if possible)
- Turkey (Organic & Free range if possible)
- Pork (Some)
- Fish (All kinds, be mindful of farm raised fish or fish from contaminated areas.)
These are just a partial list of foods that I eat on a regular basis. Not a lot of processed stuff there. I won’t say that I am perfect, because I still eat tuna out of a can and use organic frozen vegetables from a bag, but I try and limit my processed food intake greatly.
A Few Final Notes
When you are preparing vegetables, try and eat them in their raw form. Over cooking them depletes alkalinizing minerals and nutrients. Lightly steam them or eat them raw. You can also try juicing. Check out Mike Cernovich’s site for some great information.
When choosing fish, be mindful of where it comes from. It is getting harder and harder to find fish not contaminated with pollutants or other harmful agents.
There are a lot of good alkalizing spices and seasonings out there as well. Items such as chili pepper, curry, ginger, miso, mustard, most herbs, sea salt and cinnamon.
In recent years, alkaline drinks and water have become popular. Trader Joe’s even has a brand of it. Alkaline water usually has a pH of 9 to 11. I am not sure of the benefits of it, regular distilled water is fine to drink. You can also drink filtered water from a Reverse Osmosis system. It is slightly acidic but still a better option than tap water or bottled water that comes in BPA laden containers. There are also certain drinks that are excellent sources of alkaline such as Apple cider vinegar, fresh squeezed fruit juice, mineral water, green juices and any kind of juiced vegetable product.
Good pH balance from an alkaline diet can also help reduce hair loss because the hormone that causes male and female pattern baldness is reduced in the scalp in alkaline conditions.
Lastly, you can test your pH by purchasing strips at your local health food story or pharmacy. You can measure pH via saliva or urine. If you decide to test with a urine sample, make sure you tests with the second release of the morning for best results. During the day, the best time to test pH is one hour before a meal. You can compare the colors on your test strip to the chart that comes with the package.
Best of luck! And remember that good gut health is the best indicator of overall health.
Be the BEST YOU EVER.