- Why Is It Relevant?
- What The Heck Is “Chronic Low-Grade Acidosis”?
- How Can It Undermine Your Health?
- What’s Kale Got To Do With It?
Healthy Blood Is Alkaline
Our blood needs to be slightly alkaline, 7.45, about that of seawater. Most Americans eat an acid diet, leading to acidosis. This low-grade acidity undermines health and leads to digestive issues (including GERD), osteoporosis, heart problems, chronic pain, depression, and more.
Sometimes called “alkaline deficiency”, a lack of alkaline foods in the diet causes this condition.
“Acid-Alkaline Balance” delivers 3 methods to return your body to a healthy alkaline balance. All three emphasize the importance of increasing your intake of green veggies.
Want Answers? Look Inside….
The Acid-Alkaline Balancing Act
What is alkalinity? What is acidity? What is “chronic low-grade acidosis”? What are the symptoms of being out of balance? What are the health problems associated with that? What can we do about it?
In this issue, we answer these questions. We talk about pH: what it is and what it does. We deliver an overview of 3 levels of treatment.
As it happens, this somewhat esoteric topic turns out to be fundamental to our health and well being over time. Its seeming irrelevance to those of us who consider ourselves healthy only underscores the danger and subtlety of an over-acid system.
As you read this issue, keep in mind that the body is a fuel burner. It burns fatty acids, amino acids, and sugar, using enzymes to do this.
The body wants to run slightly alkaline overall because alkaline minerals (which determine alkaline foods) keep the fire banked.
Otherwise, it would consume us. For many years, most Americans have been eating an acidifying diet, in essence sustaining a slow burn.
All mainstream medical practitioners accept that the body’s ability to maintain balance between acid and alkaline is crucial to health.
However, we assert that acid-alkaline balance may be the most important biochemical function among the body’s many balancing acts. Whether or not the integrity of the body’s basic alkalinity is kept intact informs all of its other functions.
Because of the acid nature of our overall diet, maintaining neutrality has become a struggle for our bodies.
In the effort to regain balance, alkaline minerals are robbed mainly from our bones and muscles. Furthermore, along the way, acids which are neither neutralized nor eliminated take up residence in our tissues.
What Is pH?
The acid-alkaline range is measured on the pH scale. pH is a measure of the “potential of Hydrogen” of a substance. (Keep reading.)
The scale ranges from 0-14 with 7.0 indicating neutral (pure water). Measures below 7.0 are acid while those above indicate alkaline.
This is how it works: Acids submerged in water release positive hydrogen ions (+H). The more +H released, the more acid the substance. (Hydrochloric acid is 0.0).
At the opposite end of the scale, alkaline substances release negative hydrogen ions (hydroxides, -OH). Again, the more negative ions, the more alkaline. (Sodium hydroxide is 14.0).
The normal pH of the body runs somewhat alkaline at 7.36-7.42. When the body’s pH exceeds 7.42, it enters a state of alkalosis.1 Alkalinity exceeding 7.8 is fatal – and rare. (You can read about it on Medline.)
1 In their book on alkaline lifestyle instruction, The pH Miracle, authors Robert O. Young, PhD, and Shirley Redford Young, report that a study of 1000 persons showed that the most healthy maintained a venous blood pH of 7.46.
Below 7.36, the body enters acidosis. Acidity below 7.0 is fatal. Recognized medical conditions of acidosis include lactic acidosis (from over exercise), ketoacidosis (a danger of diabetes), and renal acidosis, which can be a sign of kidney failure.
Healthy human life exists within a tight tolerance of .06 (6/100ths) of one point on a 14 point scale!
Chronic Low-Grade Acidosis
This is not a generally recognized medical condition. The term is quoted by Jack Challem, well-known nutrition reporter, who interviewed several authorities for his article on acid-alkaline balance.
“Chronic low-grade acidosis” illustrates the problem with eating a diet of preponderately acid-yielding foods. According to Loren Cordain, PhD2, “When acid-yielding foods lower the body’s pH, the kidneys [try] to buffer that acidity.
2 Professor of health and exercise at Colorado State University, Cordain is best known as the founder of the Paleo Diet.
Bones release calcium and magnesium [alkaline minerals] … muscles are broken down to produce ammonia [pH, 11.0, highly alkaline]…. by the time the response is all over, your bone minerals and broken down muscle get excreted in your urine.”
In the article, Anthony Sebastian, MD, an expert on dietary acidosis, notes that normal aging is an acid process which also breaks down bone and muscle, compounding the effects of the already acidified body. He adds that losses of calcium and magnesium [and potassium] can lead to mineral deficiencies and further deterioration.
These are the minerals that help protect us against “low-grade acidosis” and with that, against heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, insulin resistance, and even diabetes. Mild life-long acidosis also increases the risk of kidney stones and kidney failure.
Both Cordain and Sebastian have researched the dietary intake of our prehistoric ancestors. Cordain’s analysis points to that diet consisting of 55% animal foods and 45% plant foods. The works of both men and their colleagues show that the diets of hunter-gatherers were alkaline-producing.
The way most of us are eating today is forcing a fundamental shift in the body’s acid-alkaline balance. One can only suspect that insisting on eating in this unhealthy way has consequences beyond those we currently recognize.
The Truth (About What We Eat)
Study after study shows that 68-91 percent of Americans still don’t eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables.
Rather, the standard American diet (SAD) centers around meat and wheat. Animal protein and cereal grains are acid-yielding.
In fact, Sebastian says that grains are the most frequently consumed plant food in the country, accounting for 65 percent of all the plant foods eaten by Americans.
According to Cordain’s research, we evolved on a diet of 10 parts potassium to one part sodium. In the present day, this 10:1 ratio has disappeared. Instead, we live with a potassium to sodium ration of 1:3. Our bodies are waaaay too low in potassium and far too high in sodium, mostly as table salt (sodium chloride). This is a situation which is wreaking further havoc on our pH. (Potassium is an alkaline mineral found generously in fruits and veggies.)
According to Michael Murray, ND, numerous studies demonstrate that a low potassium, high sodium diet “plays a major role in the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and stroke.” The reverse diet protects against these same conditions.
There has also been a reversal in the consumption of naturally occurring bicarbonate, an alkaline component, while we are eating ever more chloride (acid) again in the form of sodium chloride, table salt.
Not only is chloride acid-yielding, it constricts the blood vessels, reducing circulation. Again, this adds to heart disease and other degenerative disease, including stroke and dementia.
Most of us eat large amounts of animal protein, including meat, fowl, and seafood. These foods release sulfuric acids and phosphorous, both acid-yielding minerals.
We don’t eat the alkaline mineral foods to offset the loosed acids. In the same camp, are the grains. Eating wheat, rye, rice, and corn also has a net acid-yielding effect. This is true whether one eats bread, pasta, or breakfast cereal.
Sebastian sums up by pointing out that low-grade acidosis is not so much a problem of eating too many acid-yielding foods as a problem of eating too few alkaline-yielding foods. He calls it “alkaline deficiency”.
The Consequences (About What We Eat)
Few of us are aware we are suffering from an alkaline deficiency much less understanding the physical consequences of the chronic condition. We have spoken of cardiovascular problems, including stroke and dementia, and of cancer and osteoporosis as well.
In his book, The Acid Danger, Wofgang Auer, Austrian naturopath, writes, “Someone who suffers from acidosis … most likely suffers from a stiff spine as a result of the chronic inflammation of the intervertebral joints. The small joints of the hands and feet are probably also affected. Chronic pain is usually the norm.”
Auer says that in such cases, the following surgeries are usual: gallbladder removal; tumor removal; full or partial resection of the stomach; kidney stone removal; surgery on the disks; pancreas surgery; joint replacement; and colon surgery for the removal of tumors.
He comments, “…acidosis can be linked, either as a trigger or as a result, to almost every disease.”
He goes on to list over 50 health problems associated with chronic acidosis. These are organized around the GI tract; muscles/joints; skin/hair/teeth; the metabolic system; vascular system; and health problems associated with the “entire organism”.
The latter include suppressed immunity, lack of energy, chronic pains, nervousness, depression, inability to cope with stress; low libido; chronic fatigue syndrome; and a general feeling of unwellness.
He advises the reader that everybody has acute acidosis from time to time. The most typical case being the soreness that follows overusing the muscles.
He goes on to recommend that if you “just don’t feel that great” a lot of the time and suspect it may be acidosis, begin treatment immediately. Auer calls such treatment “deacidification”; others call it “alkalizing”. By either name, it is an effort to return the body to a healthy acid-alkaline balance.
The “Alkaline Way”
Research for this issue of Nutrition News elucidated three approaches toward acid-alkaline balancing. 1) The “No Biggy” approach; 2) There’s probably a problem but it can be fixed; and 3) Clean up your act because you definitely need to change your lifestyle.
- In the “No Biggy” approach, there is no urgency. Not much to say here. If you’re eating “a healthy diet” (plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, plus fermented foods), acid-alkaline is not a concern. This from Nourishing Traditions by Fallon and Enig.
Cordain and Sebastian (the researchers quoted in Challem’s article and here) advise that we are probably not eating sufficient produce. Thus, eat at least the recommended five servings and save your bones and muscles.3
3 Actually, the general recommendation of the USDA My Plate is that you fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. In addition, serving sizes are based on age, gender, and activity level.
- The “Middle Way” takes the approach that there’s probably a problem but it can be fixed. In this section, we consider programs based on the work of Auer (The Acid Danger) and that of Christopher Vasey, ND, a Swiss naturopath, who has written several books on the subject. (We use The Acid-Alkaline Diet.)
- A meal should never consist solely of acidifying foods but should always include alkaline foods.
- The quantity of alkaline food should be proportionately large than acid-yielding foods to ensure that the body doesn’t draw from its reserves (i.e., bones and muscles).
- If you recognize (from the foods list) that you are eating a mostly acid-yielding diet, the quantity of alkaline to acid needs to be even greater.
- If you decide to cleanse with a diet of water and solely alkaline veggies and other plant-based foods, do not follow it for periods of more than one to two weeks. (Vasey calls this “draining acids”.)
In commenting on alkaline cleansing fasts, Vasey notes that the alkaline veggie diet is too low in protein and should be considered a short term therapeutic action.
Auer talks about other major lifestyle acidifiers. These include alcohol, smoking, coffee, and stress. Prescription and OTC meds also make their way onto this list as does “inadequate water intake”.
Water recommendations from all sources range from 1 ounce/2 pounds of body weight up to over a gallon daily.
Water is important because it helps the kidneys and the skin carry toxins out of the body. (These are our two major organs of elimination.)
Other ways to support these organs are working out enough to break a sweat; spa-type treatments such as sauna and hot baths with mineral salts followed by wrapping; and the use of diuretic herbs.
Besides plenty of fresh greens, the authors also recommend spirulina, other dehydrated greens, and digestive enzymes.
In particular, Auer recommends alkaline mineral powders for counter-balancing acid-yielding meals. A number of different brands of such powders are available. Make sure what you choose includes potassium and magnesium as well as calcium.
Stay away from those with sodium. Although it is an alkaline mineral, we get plenty of sodium in our diets, mainly as table salt. Auer’s own brand also contains selenium. An acid-yielding mineral, selenium redeems itself with its antioxidant and vitamin-E sparing properties.
- “Oh, boy, are we in trouble!” In this approach, it’s a given that we need to shape up our dietary lifestyle. In The pH Miracle, authors Robert O. Young, PhD, and Shelley Redford Young deliver chapter and verse on living an alkaline lifestyle. I want to state unequivocally that if you are suffering from a degenerative disease or having problems with resistant weight loss obesity: This is the lifestyle for you. Testimonials throughout the book impress us with the return to health experienced by those following the Youngs’ program.
This is not a book of integrative measures. It is based on the premise that the best road to health is through thorough alkalinity.
Even fruits are off the menu except as special treats. If you’re in trouble with your health OR if you have undergone cancer treatment, even if you are recovered, this is the fast way to regain your energy. (Chemo- and radiation are deeply acidifying.)
What’s Kale Got To Do With It?
Oh, my gosh!!! Did I ever expect to see kale as the “new berry”? I don’t think so! What a wonderful trend! The dark green leafy, highly alkaline veggie definitely has the Siri Khalsa Nutrition News Seal of Approval!
Kale is the easiest first step ever in bringing your food intake out of acidifying and into alkalizing.
Monthly readers may recall a few months ago, I reported that both of us and our friend/office manager were undertaking Haylie Pomroy’s D.I.E.T. (Did I Eat Today?) Because of our yogic teachings, we know that it takes 40 days to remove an old habit and replace it with a new one.4
4 We studied Kundalini Yoga with the late Yogi Bhajan for over a decade and together have over 20 years of yoga teaching experience.
We followed Haylie’s program (Fast Metabolism) for 6 weeks. Since that time, we have been going through 1-3 large bags of power greens weekly – and that’s not counting additional green veggies like broccoli and salad. Plus, we are big fans of Hawaiian spirulina.
FYI: We’re not saints. We also drink coffee, love dessert, and eat a lot of fruit (much of which we grow in our own backyard). Also, recently we helped celebrate National Donut Day. (Not very satisfying though.)
I bring up the power greens because we put them in everything: smoothies, soups, eggs, sautéed veggies, and on the bottom rather than rice for steamed veggies or over-easy eggs.
Alkalizing Tips For Tots-Teens – And You As Well
Of course, a smoothie with fresh berries and a ripe banana is the perfect way to serve up greens to the resistant. (Berries can even make a smoothie pink in case you have green-o-phobes in your household.)
First, put a cup+ of liquid in your blender. (We use unsweetened vanilla soy. Yes, I know some people don’t approve of soy.)
Second, add the greens and pulse them. Then, add the other ingredients. Use fruit that is ripe enough that no sweetener is needed. Ripe fruit contains the most alkalizing properties.
If you are going to cook your greens, stem them and pulse them in the food processor (rather than chopping). This breaks down the greens such that much more can be included in your dish. Several large handfuls easily disappear.
My favorite is large amounts of sautéed greens in a couple of scrambled eggs. This delivers a breakfast that keeps me going for 4-5 hours – even without toast! I love that!
There is a great deal of disparity in the listing of acid/alkaline foods. I recommend The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide by Brown and Trivieri, 2006.
Eat In Moderation*
Coffee & tea (not herbal)
Beef, pork and lamb
Give These A Pass
Any Carbonated drinks
Prepared foods and meals
In no period of our history as a nation have Americans been so concerned about the subject of diet and nutrition. Yet if we accept the premise that what we eat determines our health, then we must add the observation that in no period of our history as a nation have Americans eaten so poorly, a statement that the most cursory survey of current statistics can prove. – Fallon & Enig, Nourishing Traditions
Can’t Get Too Much
Green & yellow squash
Greens of all kinds
Sprouts of every type
* People, I remind you: I am not a purist. We each have to find what works for us, and to know when Will Power serves our best health interests.