A 2012 review published in the Journal of Environmental Health found that balancing your body’s pH through an alkaline diet can be helpful in reducing morbidity and mortality from numerous chronic diseases and ailments — such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, vitamin D deficiency, and low bone density, just to name a few. (1)
How do alkaline diets work? Research shows that diets consisting of highly alkaline foods — fresh vegetables, fruits and unprocessed plant-based sources of protein, for example — result in a more alkaline urine pH level, which helps protect healthy cells and balance essential mineral levels. (2) Alkaline diets (also known as the alkaline ash diets) have been shown to help prevent plaque formation in blood vessels, stop calcium from accumulating in urine, prevent kidney stones, build stronger bones, reduce muscle wasting or spasms, and much more.
An alkaline diet — also known as the alkaline ash diet, alkaline acid diet, acid ash diet, acid alkaline diet and even sometimes the pH diet — is one that helps balance the blood pH level of the fluids in your body, including your blood and urine. Your pH is partially determined by the mineral density of the foods you eat. All living organisms and life forms on earth depend on maintaining appropriate pH levels, and it’s often said that disease and disorder cannot take root in a body that has a balanced pH.
The principles of the acid ash hypothesis help make up the tenets of the alkaline diet. According to research published in Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, “The acid-ash hypothesis posits that protein and grain foods, with a low potassium intake, produce a diet acid load, net acid excretion (NAE), increased urine calcium, and release of calcium from the skeleton, leading to osteoporosis.” (2a) The alkaline diet aims to prevent this from happening by carefully taking food pH levels into consideration in an attempt to limit dietary acid intake.
Although some experts might not totally agree this with statement, nearly all agree that human life requires a very tightly controlled pH level of the blood of about 7.365–7.4. As Forbe’s Magazine puts it, “Our bodies go to extraordinary lengths to maintain safe pH levels.” (3) Your pH can range between 7.35 to 7.45 depending on the time of day, your diet, what you last ate and when you last went to the bathroom. (4) If you develop electrolyte imbalances and frequently consume too many acidic foods — aka acid ash foods — your body’s changing pH level can result in increased “acidosis.”
Wondering what exactly “pH level” even means?
What we call pH is short for the potential of hydrogen. It’s a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of our body’s fluids and tissues. It’s measured on a scale from 0 to 14. The more acidic a solution is, the lower its pH. The more alkaline, the higher the number is. A pH of around 7 is considered neutral, but since the optimal human body tends to be around 7.4, we consider the healthiest pH to be one that’s slightly alkaline, and pH levels vary throughout the body, with the stomach being the most acidic region.
Even very tiny alterations in the pH level of various organisms can cause major problems. For example, due to environmental concerns, such as increasing CO2 deposition, the pH of the ocean has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 and various life forms living in the ocean have greatly suffered. The pH level is also crucial for growing plants, and therefore it greatly affects the mineral content of the foods we eat. Minerals in the ocean, soil and human body are used as buffers to maintain optimal pH levels, so when acidity rises, minerals fall.
Here’s some background on acid/alkalinity in the human diet, plus key points about how alkaline diets can be beneficial:
Your intake of minerals plays an important role in the development and maintenance of bone structures. (5) Research shows that the more alkalizing fruits and vegetables someone eats, the better protection that person might have from experiencing decreased bone strength and muscle wasting as they age, known as sarcopenia.
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.
One of the anti-aging effects of an alkaline diet is that it decreases inflammation and causes an increase in growth hormone production. This has been shown to improve cardiovascular health and offer protection against common problems like high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney stones, stroke and even memory loss.
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.
One study conducted by the Society for Minerals and Trace Elements in Germany found that when patients with chronic back pain were given an alkaline supplement daily for four weeks, 76 of 82 patients reported significant decreases in pain as measured by the “Arhus low back pain rating scale.” (6)
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 and prevent vitamin D deficiency, which is important for overall immune and endocrine functioning.
When cells lack enough minerals to properly dispose of waste or oxygenate the body fully, the whole body suffers. Vitamin absorption is compromised by mineral loss, while toxins and pathogens accumulate in the body and weaken the immune system.
Research published in the British Journal of Radiology showed that cancerous cell death (apoptosis) was more likely to occur in an alkaline body. (7) Cancer prevention is believed to be associated with an alkaline shift in pH due to an alteration in electric charges and the release of basic components of proteins. Alkalinity can help decrease inflammation and the risk for diseases like cancer — plus an alkaline diet has been shown to be more beneficial for some chemotherapeutic agents that require a higher pH to work appropriately.
Limiting consumption of acid-forming foods and eating more alkaline-forming foods can protect your body from obesity by decreasing leptin levels and inflammation, which affects your hunger and fat-burning abilities. Since alkaline-forming foods are anti-inflammatory foods, consuming an alkaline diet gives your body a chance to achieve normal leptin levels and feel satisfied from eating the amount of calories you really need.
Here are some key tips for following an alkaline diet:
Whenever possible, try to buy organic alkaline foods. Experts feel that one important consideration in regard to eating an alkaline diet is to become knowledgeable about what type of soil your produce was grown in — since fruits and vegetables that are grown in organic, mineral-dense soil tend to be more alkalizing. Research shows that the type of soil that plants are grown in can significantly influence their vitamin and mineral content, which means not all “alkaline foods” are created equally.
The ideal pH of soil 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.
If you’re curious to know your pH level before implementing the tips below, you can test your pH by purchasing strips at your local health food store or pharmacy. You can measure your pH with saliva or urine. Your second urination of the morning will give you the best results. You compare the colors on your test strip to a chart that comes with your test strip kit. During the day, the best time to test your pH is one hour before a meal and two hours after a meal. If you test with your saliva, you want to try to stay between 6.8 and 7.2.
Best Alkaline Foods:
Anti-Alkaline Foods and Habits:
Foods that contribute most to acidity include:
What other kinds of habits can cause acidity in your body? The biggest offenders include:
Here are some simple and delicious ways to include more alkaline foods in your diet:
Certain foods on the “highly acidic list” might surprise you, such as eggs and walnuts. These might be acidic in your body, but don’t let that scare you away from eating them. They contain a host of other health benefits like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which still makes them valuable.
The bottom line is that a healthy balance is what we’re shooting for. As far as your pH is concerned, it’s possible to become too alkaline, and having some acidic foods is both expected and healthy. Our problem is more a matter of not taking in enough alkaline-promoting foods rather than taking in too many acids from healthy, whole foods. Eat a variety of real, whole foods (especially vegetables and fruit) and limit consumption of packaged items, and you’ll be on your way.
Source: dr. axe
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