Dr. Susan Brown, a clinician and author in Syracuse, NY, is best known for her expertise on bone health and impressive work with the Osteoporosis Education Project. So when I received a copy of her latest book, The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide: A Quick Reference to Foods and their Effect on pH Levels, I was extremely excited and interested in what this authority had to say on this important, yet often confusing topic.
Discussion of bodily pH is a natural extension of osteoporosis, because an imbalanced pH largely impacts bone loss—an over-acid condition uses calcium to alkalize blood, causing the body to break down bone. Dr. Brown explains that proper management of body pH is critical to not only bone health, but for the prevention of many chronic diseases.
Recently, the terms alkalizing and pH have become synonymous with good health, but what are the real facts behind the theory? pH refers to the acid/alkaline balance of blood, saliva, urine, or inter-cellular and extra-cellular fluids. pH is measured on a scale of zero to 14 with zero being most acidic, 14 most alkaline, and 7 neutral. Optimal pH for all bodily fluids is mildly alkaline, between 7.365 and 7.45.
Chronic acidity, even if mild, is associated with many disease states, including fatigue, systemic inflammation, osteoporosis, and impaired cellular metabolism and immune function. Acidity affects cellular metabolism by weakening the mitochondria—the part of the cell which produces ATP, our main source of energy. When ATP production is compromised, fatigue results and is further exacerbated by the low-oxygen environment created by over-acidity. Low-oxygen levels also support the ideal environment for proliferation of harmful microorganisms. These microbes may contribute to the suppression of immune cells already weakened by compromised nutrition in an acidic environment. Acidosis causes corrosion of tissues and increased free-radical production, both of which lead to systemic inflammation.
The body’s attempt to alkalize an acidic pH causes a depletion of mineral reserves. For example, calcium is leached from bone stores to buffer an acidic pH, which ultimately leads to osteopenia and osteoporosis. Potassium and magnesium stores also may become depleted, resulting in hypertension and inflammation.
The best way to determine how much your diet should be adjusted is to test your own pH levels using pH “strips.” Instructions are included in Dr. Brown’s book. “First morning” urine is the most reliable indicator of your body’s pH. If your body is moderately to extremely acidic, 5.9–6.4, then 80% of each meal should contain alkalizing foods.
Unfortunately, the typical western diet is highly acidic and a major contributing factor to rising incidences of chronic disease, degenerative conditions, and obesity in the United States. Here are some guidelines from Dr. Brown’s book to aid you in making more alkalizing meal and snack choices:
- High intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and spices with green leafy (which are rich in minerals and vitamins) and root vegetables (like yams and sweet potatoes) with lentils being particularly great choices.
- Meat, fish, dairy products, sugar, refined carbohydrates, coffee, and processed foods are highly acidifying.
- Lemon juice in water or a few tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar is an easy way to alkalize daily.
- Miso soup, seaweed, and ginger all help with digestion and are alkalizing.
Acknowledging that dietary changes can be difficult and possibly inadequate on their own, here are examples of excellent alkalizing supplements:
- Jarrow’s Yaeyama Chlorella—Green algae are the highest sources of chlorophyll in the plant world. Their phytonutrients support healthy cell growth and development and promote detoxification, especially heavy metal excretion.
- Mt. Capra Mineral Whey—A dehydrated goat’s whey naturally high in minerals like sodium, potassium, and calcium, which provide an alkaline action.
- Perque’s Magnesium Plus Guard—A mix of four fully ionized alkaline salt forms of magnesium. Its three transport cofactors optimize cell absorption.
- Natur-Tyme’s Marine Coral Calcium—Certain minerals, especially calcium, help to alkalinize the body and provide oxygen to cells. This premium coral yields roughly 70 trace minerals, 24% naturally-occurring calcium, and 12% naturally-occurring magnesium.
- Green Drinks—An easy way to consume several vegetable servings in a few gulps. Green drink powders, like vegetables, are very alkaline.
- pH Test Strips, by Body Rescue, can help you monitor your pH.
There are no hard and fast rules to determine whether a specific food is acidifying or not. Dr. Brown’s book, however, is an excellent reference guide on the relative acid or alkaline rating of almost every food imaginable, empowering you with the information you need to make deliciously healthful choices.
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