The acid-alkaline balance in the body (Pt. 2)

The alkaline diet

Our bodies reflect what we eat, drink, think, and do. Therefore, our diet should be aimed at alkalizing our body in order to prevent illness and disease by more safely meeting its needs.

An alkaline diet consists of not only alkaline nutrients, but also avoidance of immune-intolerant foods and optimal hydration. It is also about taking care of the soil we grow our food in. Research shows that the type of soil that plants are grown in can significantly influence their vitamin and mineral content, which means that not all alkaline foods are created equally. This is why organic foods, because they are grown in a more mineral dense soil, tend to be more alkalizing (4).

The ideal soil pH for the best overall availability of essential nutrients in plants is between 6 and 7. Acidic soils below a pH of 6 may have reduced calcium and magnesium, and soil above a pH of 7 may result in chemically unavailable iron, manganese, copper and zinc. Soil that’s well-rotated, organically sustained and exposed to wildlife/grazing cattle tends to be the healthiest (3).

The 7 principles of the alkaline diet

According to Dr. Russell Raffe, MD, PhD, CCN, in order to follow an alkaline diet, there are 7 basic principles to follow (4):

1) A wide variety of fresh, high-quality, whole foods

The basis of eating an alkaline diet is to eat predominantly whole foods grown organically. Focus should be on eating plant-based, including fresh vegetables and fruits, lightly toasted nuts and seeds, lightly steamed vegetables, sprouts of grains and beans, fermented foods, freshly squeezed fruit juices, and vegetable juices. All these foods retain active enzymes that enhance digestion.

A wide variety of whole foods is advised, as eating the same foods repeatedly limits digestive and nutritional variety and also increases the likelihood of becoming reactive to those foods if digestion is weak, stressed, or compromised. Focus should be placed on a diverse selection of foods that are easier to digest, assimilate, and eliminate.

Super foods are those foods that are considered specially healing, such as:

  • Seeds, nuts, and sprouts
  • Dark fruits & berries
  • Sea vegetables and mushrooms
  • Lentils, beans, and artichokes
  • Healthy oils, vinegars, and spices
  • Fermented/Probiotic foods

2) 60-80% alkaline forming foods:

The majority of our diet should be alkaline, approximately 60% if the person is already in good health. If the immune system is compromised, the person is reacting to certain foods, or their health needs to be restored in any way, Dr. Raffe suggests an 80% alkalinizing diet. This will help calm the immune system and support digestion.

3) Immune system friendly foods:

Foods that cause the immune system to react should be avoided, at least until the root cause has been addressed. A test can be done to determine which foods each individual’s immune system is reacting to. The test is known as the ‘LRA by ELISA/ACT’, a therapeutic and diagnostic test that can analyze hundreds of common substances known to cause immune reactions, by measuring the reactivity of white blood cells (lymphocytes).

Since many allergic reactions or sensitivities are delayed, occurring hours to weeks after exposure, the immune system can be triggered by any number of these substances without the sufferer being aware of the link. In that case, the body shifts into a constant defensive mode. Identifying and eliminating the substances that are causing these reactions can lighten the burden on the immune system allowing the body to restore and repair itself.

While the body is healing, healthy substitutes can be used instead. For a complete list, including recipes, please check this link:

4) Healthy ratio of complex carbohydrates to proteins and fats. The recommended ratios are as follows:

  • 60-70% plant-based complex carbohydrates:

The alkaline way eating plan should be rich in complex carbohydrates from vegetables, and legumes (beans, peas and lentils), as well as seasonings, spices, and herbs.

  • 15-20% quality protein:

Proteins should be approximately 15-20% of your total calorie intake. This is the equivalent of approximately 50 to 60 grams of protein per day. Sources of protein may include organic eggs and dairy products, whey protein, as well as deep cold-water fish such as mackerel, sardines, tuna, herring, and salmon. Additional protein sources include nuts and seeds, sprouts, nutritional yeast, blue-green algae, miso, and mushrooms. ‘Complimentary proteins’ can be added by pairing grains with beans, and/or gains with dairy. Protein requirements may be higher in the case of pregnancy, recovery from chronic illness, intense exercise, or other specific needs. In special circumstances, working with a healthcare professional is advised.

  • 15-20% healthy fat:

Fat should be 15-20% of your daily calories. Focus should be on healthy ‘omega-3 essential fats’, which enhance the body’s energy production, protein production, and tissue repair. Food based sources of protective ‘omega-3 essential fats’ are found in fresh nuts and seeds as well as cold-pressed organic oils such as avocados, olive oil, safflower, flaxseed, walnut, sesame, peanut, and pure deep-sea fish oils. Other sources include borage, black currant, grape-seed and evening primrose oils. Unless you eat line-caught, oily, deep-water fish more than three times per week, ‘omega-3’ supplements are recommended. When selecting ‘omega 3’ supplements those obtained from uncontaminated sources and not oxidized during processing are the freshest. Unsaturated, non-hydrogenated “expeller-pressed” and preferably organic or oils such as olive, grape seed, coconut, and peanut, along with exotic oils such as avocado, almond, and mustard seed are highly recommended. Trans fats and hydrogenated oils should be avoided entirely as hydrogenated oils can interfere with liver enzymes and are associated with higher cholesterol levels. These artificial oils can also have a negative effect on immune function and are known to promote certain types of tumors. Solid cooking fats such as margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils, lard, and Crisco should be avoided, as well as deep-fried fast food.

For more information on this, please check our blog on fats.

5) Probiotic and fermented (Cultured) foods and drinks:

The term ‘probiotic’ means ‘promoting life’. A healthy gastrointestinal tract is home to a plentiful variety of beneficial (probiotic) bacteria responsible for keeping our bodies and immune systems in balance. Poor diet, stress, illness, and antibiotics can deplete these beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to proliferate. Probiotics in food or drink can colonize the gut with beneficial bacteria.

Some probiotic-rich foods and drinks are:

  • Kombucha (fermented tea)
  • Kefir (fermented milk)
  • Yogurt (dairy or nondairy, with live cultures)
  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • Kimchi (a spicy fermented cabbage common in the Korean diet)
  • Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
  • Microalgae (freeze dried)
  • Hatcho Miso soup
  • Pickles
  • Olives
  • Natto (a fermented soybean)

6) Plenty of fiber and water:

As compared to traditional cultures who consume 40-100 grams of dietary fiber from whole, lively foods, Americans consume far too little food fiber, around 10 grams.

A minimum daily fiber intake of at least 40 grams is recommended. The beneficial ‘roughage’ from fiber makes the stool bulky and soft and helps to maintain a shorter transit time (the time from food consumption to waste elimination). A healthy transit time ranges from 12–18 hours. This reduces the opportunity for unhealthy bacteria and yeast to dominate in the body. Adequate fiber encourages wastes to be eliminated easily and comfortably on a regular basis. Doing this means less toxic waste matter will be reabsorbed back into circulation.

Plentiful water intake is also key to health, especially when consuming a high-fiber diet. Water helps fiber do its job of efficiently moving wastes through the body. Room temperature, warm water or healthy tea is a better option, as cold water can really slow down digestion. Fresh lemon juice, lime juice, and/or ginger act as digestive aids and alkaline enhancers while enhancing the taste of water.

7) Healthier food combinations:

The way foods are combined can have a tremendous impact on digestion, and therefore overall health. Just as the typical American diet is unhealthy, the American meal, usually represented as meat (protein) and potatoes (starch), combines foods in the least effective manner.

The art of healthy food combining is an important aspect of balanced nutrition, as it lessens wear and tear on the digestive system. Food combining is especially important in the case of digestive discomforts (acid reflux, bloating, leaky gut, heartburn, irritable bowel, diverticulosis, or other digestive problems).

Basic eating and food combining tips for optimal digestion and assimilation are:

  • Simple meals, those with fewer ingredients, digest better
  • Overeating is not recommended. We should eat until 75% full, leaving 25% for digestion
  • Foods that digest faster should be eaten first
  • Fruit juices and healthy sweets should be eaten on their own (30 minutes before or 2 hours after a meal has digested)
  • Concentrated proteins (meat, fish, or eggs) should not be combined with starches/carbs, especially while digestion is weak or repairing. Each of these can be eaten at separate meals
  • Green, non-starchy vegetables pair with everything (except fruit)
  • Cold water with meals should be avoided as it dilutes digestive juices and reduces digestive ability. Warm water or broth to start any meal or 1 hour after meals is a better option. Hot tea during or at the end of a meal may assist with digestion.

Best alkaline foods

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: they promote alkalinity the most. Some of the top picks include the green leafy vegetables, the cruciferous vegetables, wheat grass, mushrooms, citrus, tomatoes, avocado, summer black radish, cucumber, oregano, garlic, ginger, green beans, endive, cabbage, celery, red beet, watermelon and ripe bananas.
  • Raw food: Ideally we should try to consume a good portion of our food raw. Juicing or lightly steaming is also a good option, as it can help release the nutrients stored in fiber. Cooking depletes alkalizing minerals and enzymes.
  • Plant proteins: Almonds, navy beans, lima beans and most other beans are good choices.
  • Alkaline water has a pH of 9 to 11. Distilled water is fine to drink. Water filtered with a reverse osmosis filter is slightly acidic, but it’s still a far better option than tap water or purified bottled water. Adding pH drops, lemon or lime, or baking soda to water can also boost its alkalinity.
  • Green drinks: Drinks made from green vegetables and grasses in powder form are loaded with alkaline-forming foods and chlorophyll, which is structurally similar to our own blood and helps alkalize it.

Acidic foods and habits

An acid forming diet results in cells that are too acid. When this happens, the cell slows down its energy production partially or completely. Another side effect of acid cells is that the body pulls minerals from them and from bones to protect the body from this acid load, causing osteoporosis.

Foods that contribute most to acidity include (3):

  • High-sodium foods: processed foods contain high amounts of sodium chloride (table salt) which constricts blood vessels and creates acidity
  • Cold cuts and conventional meats
  • Processed cereals
  • Caffeinated drinks and alcohol
  • Oats and whole wheat products: All grains, whole or not, create acidity in the body. Americans ingest most of their plant food quota in the form of processed corn or wheat
  • Milk: Calcium-rich dairy products cause some of the highest rates of osteoporosis. That’s because they create acidity in the body. To buffer this acidity in the bloodstream, the body steals calcium (an alkaline mineral) from the bones to try to balance out the pH level. Because green leafy greens also contain calcium, balanced with other minerals, consuming these every day is the best way to prevent osteoporosis
  • Peanuts and walnuts
  • Pasta, rice, bread and packaged grain products
  • Antibiotic overuse
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Chronic stress
  • Declining nutrient levels in foods due to industrial farming
  • Low levels of fiber in the diet
  • Lack of exercise and over-exercising
  • Excess animal meats in the diet (from non-grass-fed sources)
  • Excess hormones from foods, health and beauty products, and plastics
  • Exposure to chemicals and radiation from household cleansers, building materials, computers, cell phones and microwaves
  • Food coloring and preservatives
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Pollution
  • Poor chewing and eating habits
  • Shallow breathing

Measuring your pH at home

The first morning urine pH is a good indicator of the body’s mineral reserve and its acid/ alkaline state. This is because the body routinely uses overnight rest time to excrete excess acids. This capacity varies based on toxin load and individual ability to make energy, to make toxins inactive, and to excrete them (4).

To test pH, one can purchase a packet of pH test paper with a test range of 5.5 to 8. For best results, a 6-hour to 8-hour period of rest prior to pH testing is needed.

The pH strip is inserted in the urine collected and as the tape comes in contact with urine it will change color. The color relates to the urine’s acid or alkaline state and ranges from yellow to dark blue. A chart is usually found on the package and it can be used to match the color of the test strip. Results should be recorded daily or periodically based on the person’s needs or as recommended by a health care provider.

Any number below 7.0 means urine is on the acid side. The lower the number, the more acid the urine. Ideally, the first morning urine pH should be 6.5 – 7.5. If the first morning urine is neutral or just slightly acidic, this is an indication of a healthy alkaline pH. If the readings are below 6.5, this is an indication of an acid pH. Increasing the body’s mineral reserves can help alkalinize the body.

In conclusion

We have seen how the cells in our body function better when our body’s pH is maintained at a constant alkaline level. For that to happen our diet has to contain a high percentage of alkalizing foods. This, together with a sensible food combining approach can make a great difference in our overall health, and consequently, the health of our heart.

Thank you for reading.







The acid-alkaline balance in the body (Pt. 1)

Cell energy is an essential aspect of heart health that is made possible by the delivery of nutrients through the circulatory system. A key part of a cell’s energy production is detoxification. Cell detoxification keeps excess acid from building up, without which the cell would have to shut down its energy machinery (1). This would not only affect the health of the cell, but it would create an overall state of acidosis in the body.

We saw in our previous blogs how acidosis can prevent the flow of lymph, allowing dangerous toxins to build up in the body. How can we keep this from happening? The answer is in an alkaline diet, which provides the minerals necessary to buffer this acid and allows the body to have the pH it needs to perform all its functions. In this blog, we will talk about the balance of acid vs. alkaline in the body, we will look at what an alkaline diet looks like and how it can improve heart health.

The health of our cells equals the health of our body

As part of their healthy metabolism, cells produce acid. In order to buffer this acid they must receive minerals. The most alkaline minerals are calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium bicarbonate, manganese, and iron (2). When enough of these nutrients are inside cells, the cell can have a healthy mitochondria to produce energy. When this is not the case, the cell begins to shut down and it is forced to go into ‘survival mode’, where it cannot make the protective molecules that are necessary to guard us from toxins (1).

Normally, the kidneys maintain our electrolyte levels (calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium). However, when we are exposed to overly acidic foods, these electrolytes are used up to combat acidity (3). The consequences of this could be devastating, because, as we know, electrolytes are essential for heart and brain function, among other things. This is where an alkaline diet comes to the rescue.

What is an alkaline diet?

An alkaline diet is one consisting of foods that contain mainly alkaline minerals. Alkaline minerals have a certain pH that our body needs to stay in a healthy balance. In this sense, the pH in our body is determined by the mineral density of the foods we eat, and because of this, we could say that pH health and mineral balance go together.

A 2012 review published in the ‘Journal of Environmental Health’ found that balancing the body’s pH through an alkaline diet can be helpful in reducing the symptoms associated with conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, vitamin D deficiency, and low bone density, among others (3).

Why is the right pH necessary for optimal health?

Our body requires a very tightly controlled blood pH level of about 7.365–7.4. This is necessary because most functions in the body can only happen at a specific pH. For example, the enzymes in the stomach need a different pH to those of the pancreas in order to be activated. Because of this, the body will go to extraordinary lengths to maintain safe pH levels. Consuming too many acidic foods can cause electrolyte imbalances, changing pH levels to a state of acidosis.

When we look at the optimal pH of the body, health then can be seen as a matter of balance between acid and alkaline cells. What does this mean? The cells of our bodies are always seeking for a healthy balance to keep us alkaline. Even a small shift toward more acid is linked to a great increase in disease and loss of cell resilience. When our bodies are in a more acidic state, they are weaker and more vulnerable to disease; our defenses and ability to repair from usual wear and tear are down. When our bodies are in a healthier, more alkaline state, they are more resilient and can resist and recover from illness more effectively (4).

The foods that we choose have a great impact on our health, they affect our acid and alkaline balance. The common ‘Standard American Diet’, high in sugar, meat, dairy, soda, coffee, tea, alcohol, nicotine, processed foods, and so on, is quite imbalanced and increases our risk of ill health, in part by contributing to an excess acid load. Burdened by this excess acid, our bodies have a harder time resisting sickness and bouncing back from stress, resulting in fatigue, illness, and infection risks. Acid makes our bodies more acidic, and less resilient. This state is known as ‘metabolic acidosis’ (4). High degrees of acidity force our bodies to rob minerals from the bones, cells, organs and tissues. This accelerates the aging process, causes gradual loss of organ functions, and degenerates tissue and bone mass. On the other hand, when we enjoy a diet rich in greens, plants, fruits, vegetables, minerals, and antioxidants, our cells become more alkaline, and more resistant to everyday stress (3).

A very acidic diet can be the cause of:

  • Kidney disease
  • Auto-immune disorders
  • Premature aging
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Weight gain, obesity and diabetes
  • Bone disorders: osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Bladder, kidney stones
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Joint pain, aching muscles and lactic acid buildup
  • Slow digestion and poor elimination
  • Yeast/fungal overgrowth

What does ‘pH level’ mean?

pH is short for the ‘potential of hydrogen’. Our pH is the measure of how acid or alkaline we are (our body’s fluids and tissues). pH is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. A pH of 0 is absolutely acid, 14 is completely alkaline and 7 is neutral. Our bodies seek to maintain a slightly alkaline pH of approximately 7.35 in the blood of our veins as they bring blood back to lungs and heart to be recharged. This is considered to be the optimal pH, slightly alkaline. Also, pH levels vary throughout the body, with the stomach being the most acidic. Even very tiny alterations in the pH level of various organs can cause major problems (4).

Having a balanced (more alkaline) body pH can lead to less illness and infection, lowered cancer risk, better digestion, abundant energy, more restful and restorative sleep, reduction of yeast and parasite hospitality, increased mental alertness, and more (4).

Alkaline foods also have more electrolytes, those that our heart needs to function properly. Compared to the diet of our ancestors, the food we eat has significantly less potassium, magnesium and chloride, but significantly more sodium. The ratio of potassium to sodium in most people’s diets has changed dramatically. Potassium used to outnumber sodium by 10:1, however with the ‘Standard American Diet’ the ratio has dropped to 1:3 as people eat three times as much sodium as potassium on average. All of these changes have resulted in increased ‘metabolic acidosis’. This, in conjunction with low nutrient intake and lack of essential minerals like potassium and magnesium, has caused the pH levels of many people’s bodies to be less than optimal (3).

Benefits of an alkaline diet

An alkaline diet will provide a more balanced pH level of the fluids in the body, including blood and urine. This helps protect healthy cells and balance essential mineral levels in the following ways (3):

  • Prevention of plaque formation in blood vessels
  • Stopping calcium from accumulating in urine
  • Prevention of kidney stones

More benefits of an alkaline diet are (4):

  1. Protects bone density and muscle mass

More than 40 million Americans currently suffer from bone loss, as osteoporosis or osteopenia (a major cause of hip fracture). Among Caucasian women over 65, one in two will suffer a fracture due to osteoporosis.

Scientific and medical communities now widely accept that an acidic diet plays a key role in bone loss and weakening of bones. This happens because acidosis increases the loss of minerals from bones and joints, where mineral reserves (magnesium, calcium, and a dozen others) are stored.

When cells are too acidic, calcium and magnesium are drawn from the bones. Cells that build bone are less effective, and the cells’ pH balance is affected. Chronic metabolic acidosis depletes bone and causes osteopenia (lower bone density) and eventually osteoporosis (loss of bone mass with risk of fractures).

Animal studies confirm that even small changes in pH make a big difference in bone and cell function. In one animal study, bone loss increased by 500% with a pH change of just 0.2 units. This shows how even a small change in cell pH induces big problems over time.

Fortunately, this process can be reversed, and new bone can be built, even in those with longstanding deficits. Intake of minerals through the diet has an important role in the development and maintenance of bone in the body. Research shows that the more alkalizing fruits and vegetables someone eats, the better protection that person might have from this decreased bone strength and muscle wasting as they age. An alkaline diet can help balance ratios of minerals that are important for building bones and maintaining lean muscle mass, including calcium, magnesium and phosphate. Alkaline diets also help improve production of growth hormones and vitamin D absorption, which further protects bones in addition to mitigating many other chronic diseases.

  1. Lowers risk for hypertension and stroke

By decreasing inflammation and causing an increase in growth hormone production, alkaline foods have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and offer protection against high cholesterol, hypertension, kidney stones, stroke and memory loss.

  1. Lowers chronic pain and inflammation

Studies have found a connection between an alkaline diet and reduced levels of chronic pain. Chronic acidosis has been found to contribute to chronic back pain, headaches, muscle spasms, menstrual symptoms, inflammation and joint pain.

  1. Boosts vitamin absorption and prevents magnesium deficiency

An increase in magnesium is required for the function of hundreds of enzyme systems and bodily processes. Many people are deficient in magnesium and as a result experience heart complications, muscle pains, headaches, sleep troubles and anxiety. Available magnesium is also required to activate vitamin D, which is important for overall immune and endocrine functioning.

  1. Helps improve immune function and cancer protection

Cells need minerals to properly dispose of waste and oxygenate the body. Minerals are also needed for vitamins to be absorbed. A high mineral-vitamin diet prevents the accumulation of toxins and pathogens in the body that would weaken the immune system.

  1. Can help with healthy weight

Consuming an alkaline diet gives the body a chance to achieve normal leptin levels, which decrease hunger.

  1. Diabetes Protection

Studies show that even the slightest degree of metabolic acidosis produces insulin resistance and systemic hypertension. A strongly acidic diet, combined with excess body weight, lack of physical exercise, and aging, may result in metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. These conditions, in turn, may lead to impaired cardiovascular health. In contrast, increased intake of alkalizing foods can help reverse these.

An organ that is tightly related to diabetes is the pancreas. This important organ has three main functions (5):

  1. Making insulin
  2. Making digestive enzymes
  3. Making bicarbonate

The pancreas is a great example of the acid-alkaline balance needed in the body. It produces bicarbonate (alkaline) to neutralize acids coming from the stomach to provide the right pH for the pancreatic enzymes to be activated. The pancreas also provides digestive juices, which contain pancreatic enzymes in an alkaline solution to provide the right conditions for digestion to be completed in the small intestines.

Without enough bicarbonate, the pancreatic enzymes produced by the pancreas cannot be activated which allows undigested proteins to stay in our digestive system and finally penetrate the blood stream, where they start allergic reactions.

Acid producing diets destroy the pancreas because as the levels of acidity rise in the body, the pancreas has to work harder to maintain bicarbonates. Without sufficient bicarbonates, the pancreas is slowly destroyed, insulin becomes a problem and diabetes is the end result. Because the pancreas is the organ that controls the body’s pH, by making bicarbonate ions, when the pancreas starts failing, the whole body starts getting more acid. This bicarbonate is needed as a buffer to maintain the normal levels of acidity (pH) in blood and other fluids in the body. Ironically, the pancreas is also is one of the first organs affected when general pH shifts to the acidic.

Once there is an inhibition of pancreatic function and pancreatic bicarbonate flow, there naturally follows a chain reaction of inflammatory reactions throughout the body. The reactions would include even the brain as acidic conditions begin to generally prevail. Decreasing bicarbonate flow would boomerang hardest right back on the pancreas, which itself needs proper alkaline conditions to provide the full amount of bicarbonate necessary for the body.

  1. Liver protection

Not only is the pancreas affected by a highly acidic pH level, the liver is also greatly affected. In the same manner, because of the important role played by the liver in removing acid waste from the body, liver function is also particularly at risk when acids accumulate. When acidity prevents the liver and pancreas from regulating blood sugar, the risk of diabetes and thus cancer increases. On the contrary, when the body is bicarbonate sufficient it is more capable of resisting the toxicity of chemical insults.

  1. Kidney Protection

An alkaline diet contributes to the health and protection of our kidneys, another most vital organ in our body. Our kidneys remove wastes, help control blood pressure, and help keep bones healthy. An alkaline diet contributes to lowered risk of kidney disorders, such as kidney stones, kidney disease, and kidney failure.