An alkaline diet is a not strictly a diet with rigid rules, but is more a foundation for good health. Following this type of diet means typically consuming approximately 80% alkaline forming foods, and 20% acid forming foods.
PH is the measure of how acid or alkaline a substance is. PH stands for ‘Potential Hydrogen’, meaning the potential of a substance to free hydrogen ions. The greater the potential, the lower (more acidic) the ph number.
The PH scale goes from 0-14. 0 is the most acidic, 14 is the most alkaline. 7 is considered neutral. The values separating each increment increase by multiples of 10 at each unit, in either direction from the midpoint.
This is an interesting question as different parts of the body require different PH values to function optimally and these vary greatly throughout the body. For example, the PH of the stomach is approximately 2, yet pancreatic juices require a PH of 7.5 to 8.8. The body will go to great lengths to ensure it maintains these. Our bodies work hard to ensure the right PH for the right body part.
The body must be able to balance its PH, and uses a ‘buffer’ to achieve this balance. Minerals are either acid or alkaline, and can be used as this buffer. If the body is too acidic, an abundance of alkaline minerals will help the body release ‘stored acids’ as it seeks to balance itself. This is a way of helping the body release acids stored in body tissues.
Our ideal PH is between 7.36 and 7.42 (urine).
So to buffer out acids from the body tissues, we need to provide an abundance of alkaline minerals for the body to use to ‘lure’ these acids out. We also need to drink plenty of water to support the kidneys to eliminate, and include exercise which supports the lungs in their role of elimination.
One of the best and easiest ways to do this is to include plenty of greens in your diet. If you’ve ever been told to ‘eat your greens’ there’s lots of good reasoning for this. Greens tend to be packed with alkaline minerals, the greener the better. Alternate your greens though, the body needs variety and daily intake of the same greens can cause build up of ‘alkaloids’, the chemicals the plants use to defend themselves in nature.
You can also drink your greens, there’s many ‘superfoods’ which also offer this abundance of minerals. Drinking wheatgrass is excellent, as is spirulina, chlorella, sea vegetables etc. There are many formulas offering good quality supergreens.
When a food is burnt, the remaining ash will have a PH value. This is measured to determine once a food has been digested whether the remains are alkaline or acidic. Furthermore, food can have an effect on the digestive processes, stimulating an alkaline or acidic response. Incompletely digested foods may increase acidity in the digestive tract.
Vegetables are our main source of alkaline minerals, which is why nutritional therapists repeatedly advise clients to eat 9 portions of veg/fruit a day. 5 is good but more is better, aim for 9. (There’s lots of other reasons too: fibre, other nutrients, phytochemicals etc).
We need both alkaline and acidic minerals from food as these all have a role to play in health. For good health we need more alkaline forming minerals than acidic and our bodies need to be slightly alkaline for optimum function. We need these in balance, and often with a focus on increasing foods abundant in alkaline minerals. What we don’t need is sugary, processed junk foods which are highly acidic in themselves.
There are over 100 minerals, each of these is either acid or alkaline. Acid minerals include phosphorus, chlorine, iodine, sulphur and silicon. Alkaline minerals (and those we often need more of, include iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese.
The PH of our body is not only affected by food. Other bodily functions and lifestyle also have a part to play, including:
• Chemical reactions in our bodies from digestive processes
These can also push us towards a more acidic state so it’s good to be aware of this. Lifestyle choices may increase acidity in the body, where others can be seen as more alkaline. Excessive exercise and stress are acidic to the body, as is burning the candle at both ends. Relaxing activities tend to have the opposite effect.
• Enzyme function: enzymes require a neutral PH to function. With reduced enzyme function our biochemical transformations cannot function optimally. Enzymes are essential for life.
• Healthy Mucus Membranes: an acidic environment will irritate the mucus membranes throughout the body and can lead to lesions. This can affect the digestive tract and digestive function especially. Excess acids contribute to congestion of the intestinal tract.
• Energy: as the the body alkalinises, energy levels rise
• Reduce Inflammation: this is helpful for all conditions, especially those ending in ‘itis’. Inflammation is a progression towards disease which we should seek to reduce rather than live with.
• Joint Health: our joint health is heaviliy dependant on alkaline minerals, the connective tissue around joints needs alkaline minerals for strength and structure
• Healthy bones: our bones need alkaline minerals for strength
• Mood: Mood and food are closely related and mood can be improved through an alkaline diet.
• Nervous system: our nervous system requires alkaline minerals, depletion may result in stress and anxiety.
• Immune Health: excess acidity may lower immune function.
• Skin, Hair & Nails: all require alkaline minerals for health
• Overall health: acidification is involved in many disease pathways.
These are just some of the reported benefits.
Our diets and lifestyle often move our bodies towards a slightly acidic state, if not eliminated these acids are stored in the body. The body will use up alkaline minerals to balance any over-acidity, but over time the alkaline minerals can become depleted and this may progress us towards chronic disease. The modern lifestyle and diet encourage mineral depletion, with negative consequences on our health.
Symptoms of Acidosis:
• Poor sleep
• Physical and mental exhaustion
• Loss of enthusiasm for life
• Loss of sex drive
These symptoms exist because they are caused by lack of the minerals needed to buffer acids in the body. The body is either not getting enough or is using up the minerals too quickly. Poor diet, excess stress and excess or too little exercise may contribute. Further acidosis may lead to further health issues.
1. Drink plenty of pure, clean water each day. Adequate water supports the kidneys to eliminate acids.
2. Add alkaline drops to water, we suggest Viridian Sports Electrolyte Fix
3. Eat plenty of alkaline foods (see chart). Lots of vegetables and salads.
4. Include raw foods: this ensures a good enzyme intake. Enzymes are essential to break down foods properly. An enzyme deficiency may interrupt the process of breaking foods down fully, and leave partially undigested (acid forming) foods in the system.
5. Chew food well, this helps digestion physically, and chemically helps the release of the enzymes necessary to break down and absorb nutrients from food.
6. STOP putting acidic foods and drinks into your body – see chart.
7. Consider your lifestyle. If stressful try to make changes. Consider a monthly massage.
8. Take alkaline minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron & manganese) or alkaline green drinks. Our favourite is Dr.Schulze Superfood.
9. Take a daily shot of wheatgrass.
11. Add sea vegetables to food or take supplements, such as Kelp or Irish Moss.
12. Include herbal teas. Nettle tea is excellent and supplies iron which helps metabolise strong and weak acids.
Kylie Williams is a Co-Director of Therapy Organics, and also a Bowen Technique Therapist. She is passionate about natural medicine to optimise health.See more Articles by Kylie
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