What It Is
Web travels can lead you to numerous articles on the benefits of getting your body ‘alkaline’. The premise in Christopher Vasey’s e-book The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health is that the body needs balanced quantities of acid and alkaline substances. Vasey provides easy test methods to determine your acid levels and instructs how to interpret these test results (I check mine occasionally using pH urine strips).
To give you the very basics about acid versus alkaline, water has a neutral pH of 7. The internal environment of our bodies is maintained at a pH of just about 7.0. This means our internal environment is neutral. Blood has a pH of 7.35 to 7.45, thereby being slightly alkaline. Your body fights hard to neutralize acids and maintain the proper pH in organs, tissues and body fluids. But it can only do that for so long before your body will be subject to osteoporosis and other health challenges. We have to give our body what it needs in the form of alkalizing fruits and vegetables, so that the delicate acid base balance can be properly maintained.
A well maintained alkaline environment ensures that the metabolic, enzymatic, immunologic, and repair mechanisms are functioning at their best. Some foods can have either an alkalizing or an acidifying effect; for instance leafy greens have an alkalizing effect.
There are critics who indelicately label this acid-alkaline diet stuff as hogwash. They maintain that the body has an extremely efficient system of maintaining bodily fluids at a slightly alkaline state and that the body regulates its blood PH at around 7.4. Whether the body self regulates blood pH or not, the topic of acidity versus alkalinity is one that I was completely unaware.
Even if it is but one narrow parameter of health, in this realm I give myself poor marks during the years prior to my health journey. Why? Although I did not run away from salads and vegetables, my diet was top heavy in favor of acidic foods and drinks such as sugar, processed foods, factory-farmed meats and too much non-organic coffee. I wasn’t balancing out the stress in my life with stress-reduction techniques.
Unmanaged stress can play a role in altering your body’s pH as well. Breathing becomes too shallow, failing to blow off carbon dioxide and allowing it to build up in your system, contributing towards an acidic internal environment. When my body slowly regressed into an acidic state, it also set the stage for opportunistic bacteria, like yeast and fungus. Yuck!
Dr. Robert Young, in his book The pH Miracle says health depends on an internal alkaline environment. Young discusses how a balanced internal environment can result in weight loss, increased stamina and strength, and a stronger immune system. Anything that positively affects the immune system should get your attention.
Maintaining a slightly alkaline state is one more quiver in the arrow for preventing a slide into disease. (And if you are lucky to be Al Kaline, the Hall of Fame ball player, you are always alkaline, as my husband points out.) There is growing awareness about how cancer and many diseases thrive in an acidic environment – so I plan to keep my internal environment inhospitable to disease!
It’s All About Balance
My overall health and vitality improved when I started to connect the dots between pH balance, inflammation, toxicity and what I was eating. By maintaining a balance of 70% raw foods most days, I manage to keep an appropriate pH level of around 6.5 or higher. And when I do have that highly acidic bowl of ice cream, I don’t stress about it because 70% of the time I am eating alkalizing foods. Most raw foods in my diet are fruits and vegetables (think green smoothies, green juice and salads), all very alkaline in nature.
Take a look at the chart “Food Effect on Acid/Alkaline Body Chemical Balance” in an article prepared by Dr. Russell Jaffe. You’ll see an alkalinity/acidity food spectrum, listing the most alkaline foods to the most acidic. In another article by Dr. Jaffe for the Century Wellness Clinic, he stated, “In foods containing large amounts of protein and fat, the acid-forming elements predominate over the alkaline-forming elements. Thus, cow’s milk and related dairy products are acid-forming, although goat and sheep milk/cheeses (with less fat and protein) produce less acid. The one dairy product exception is clarified butter (known as ‘ghee’ in Indian cookery), which has alkalizing short chain fats known as butyrates and caprylates.”
Start These Two Easy Routines
Drinking lemon water 15-30 minutes before breakfast is alkalizing. It’s now part of my routine – two cups of lukewarm water with one full squeezed lemon. Even though lemon has an acidic pH outside of the body, it is alkaline forming in the body.
And what about the stress factor? A powerful way to improve cellular health and negate the effects of stress is through deep breathing, something so easy to do yet forget anyway. Deep breathing has a vital impact on the body’s pH. According to nutrition expert Sam Graci, “Oxygen rids your body of stale, acidic carbon dioxide.” To make sure I get lots of deep breathing, I plan to continue my powerful stress-busting one-two punch – deep breathing and sweat therapy during my twice-weekly hot Pilates class.
More PH reading: