All About Balance (pH)
It’s a concept that’s fairly new to most people: the food you eat contributes to the acidity or alkalinity of your body. Why should you care about your body’s pH? Because when your body’s pH drops even slightly (meaning it has become more acidic), the likelihood of ailments increases. If your objective is to thrive and live in optimum health, your potential of Hydrogen matters!
In case you flirted your way through science class like I did, listen up. Here's a refresher. The acid-alkaline balance relates to the chemistry of our body's fluids and tissues as measure by our blood pH. pH is the measurement of hydrogen ions in a solution. The more ions is has, the more acidic. On the pH scale, anything above a 7.0 is alkaline, meaning it has more oxygen. Anything below 7.0 means it's acidic, and has less oxygen. This fact will show it's importance below.
A healthy or neutral pH for your body is about 7.365 (slightly alkaline). What can you do to keep it in this healthy zone? The simple answer is to choose more foods that are alkaline-forming. The food you eat has a direct effect on your pH—you can increase the pH level in your body (making it more alkaline) by incorporating a greater portion of alkaline-forming food into your diet.
"Most of us live an extremely acidic state internally, and this tends to cause a majority of weight and body fat issues that people deal with on a daily basis. Additionally, energy is correlated with the alkaline balance within your body. When you find the perfect balance of alkalinity, your energy typically increases."
-Devan Kline, owner of Burn Boot Camp, explains. He also teaches that:
Acidity = Sugar Overload = Rapid Aging = Lower Energy = Inactivity = Less Muscle = Higher Body Fat
If you’ve never heard about pH balance and its very important role in your health, you’re probably wondering how your body has coped with any imbalance you’ve had to this point in your life. Luckily, your body comes equipped with a natural buffering system that keeps your overall pH within a small range so it can function. The bad news? This buffering system comes at a long-term cost when it’s constantly working to balance an overly acidic pH. This is called acidosis.
When your body is in a state of acidosis, this buffering system compensates by drawing on stores of minerals found in your body. Its number one source for alkaline-forming minerals? Your bones, teeth, tissues + organs! For example, because Calcium neutralizes acid, it gets leached from your bones to bring your pH back into balance. Over time, this process contributes to the development of osteoporosis.
Acidosis is often a silent factor if you’re prone to fatigue: since acidity is a stressor in your system, cortisol levels rise, impairing sleep. Contributing to overall stress, acidosis is also believed to be a leading cause of other concerns, including kidney stones, reduced levels of growth hormone, loss of lean muscle mass and increased body fat!
Constant, low-grade acidosis affects your body at the cellular level. It’s responsible for an increase in free-radicals (those damaging molecules we try to fight by eating antioxidant-rich foods) and a decrease in cellular energy. On top of that, bacteria and viruses crave acidic environments to grow in, contributing to still more health challenges. Research shows that cancers can’t develop in an alkaline environment—that alone is a pretty compelling reason to take control of your pH!
So what causes acidity? Acid-forming foods, not to be confused with naturally acidic foods like citrus fruits. “Alkalizing” here refers to the effect foods have once digested (not their pH level outside the body), so foods like apple cider vinegar (highly acidic outside your body) can actually be highly alkaline-forming inside the body. Meat, poultry, fish, grains, dairy, and salt are acid producing when digested, while most fruits and vegetables, sea vegetables and green tea are alkalizing. Chlorophyll is a fantastic way to create an alkaline body (hint: if it’s dark green, it’s good for you!). In one of my favorite books "Crazy, Sexy Diet", Kris Carr explains that pH is not only affected by food, but by anger, lack of exercise, stress + more!
How can you tell for sure if you are in the right range? Litmus pH Test Strips! Use them once a week to test your urine and make sure you are in the range you should be. Head over to the forum under "Product Review" to see which ones I use. I have also given a list of acidic/alkaline foods under "Nutrition" as a basic guideline. If all this scientific talk has got your head spinning, do not stress. (Really, I don't want you in acidosis...) Here is a simple cheat sheet.
Foods to eat:
75 - 80% alkaline foods like most vegetables, fruits, sea vegetables and green tea
20 - 25% acidic foods like organic meats and fish, dairy, oils and most grains and nuts
Foods to avoid: Alcoholic beverages, caffeine and processed foods . Packaged foods are often full of hidden offenders and microwaved meals are full of sugars and salts. Over cooking also removes all of the nutrition from a meal! Try to consume plenty of raw foods and at least 8 glasses of clean, pure water daily.
To take it home - an alkaline diet increases energy, decreases inflammation, and strengthens the immune system. Most importantly, perhaps, is that disease cannot flourish in an alkaline body! Happy, healthy cells love oxygen. Unhealthy cells (like cancer, viruses, bacteria + other microorganisms) hate it! They prefer an acidic environment and I, for one, would rather not let them take residence in my bod!
Sources and Additional Reading:
Carr, Kris. "Crazy Sexy Diet", 2011.
Institute for Integrative Nutrition, 2012.
Kliment, Felicia Drury. "The Acid Alkaline Balance Diet." June, 2002.