Acidity vs. Alkalinity
You can read about this subject (and I definitely have) all over the Internet, but sometimes it’s not explained well. I have to give kudos to Trevor Justice from the Vegetarian Health Institute for doing such an amazing job explaining this whole pH thing! So, I will do my best to bring this info to you in the least complicated blog post I can!
I’ve been mentioning pH, acidity, and alkalinity in several posts, so as promised, let’s get started! Let me start off by telling you that you don’t want a large acid load in you diet. Your body will have to work extra hard to neutralize these acids, and it does that by leaching alkaline minerals (calcium and magnesium) from your teeth, bones, and muscle. This does not mean that you shouldn’t eat citrus fruits. That’s where it gets slightly complicated.
Let’s go back to high school for just a second to review pH. pH is expressed on a scale where a pH of 7 is neutral, which is the pH of pure distilled water. Anything less than 7 is acidic, and anything greater than 7 is alkaline. Got it?!
Here’s some examples: (again, thanks to Trevor Justice)
2.2 Lemon juice
4.0 Wine and Beer
8.0 Sea water
8.3 Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate)
10.5 Milk of Magnesia
12.0 Soapy water
13.0 Lye (“drain cleaner”)
14.0 Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)
In case anyone ever tells you to take a product to make you more alkaline, it’s not really true. Only your diet can do this. Your body is very talented at keeping your blood’s pH between a tight range of 7.35-7.45. Our blood is rich in powerful acid-buffering molecules, like bicarbonate and hemoglobin, that immediately help neutralize the acids that are generated from food or metabolism.
When referring to “acidic foods,” it doesn’t mean that their pH is lower than 7, in fact it doesn’t really matter what their pH is to begin with, because it’s dropped into our stomach which contains hydrochloric acid. Due to the extreme acidity of your stomach, nothing can change the pH of your stomach or your blood for that matter. Foods consumed, especially those high in protein, cause the stomach wall to excrete hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is so potent it can eat through linoleum. Hydrochloric acid allows the protein-splitting enzyme, pepsin, to break down protein into it’s amino acids building blocks. These amino acids will then be reassembled by your liver. Because everything that enters your stomach is mixed with hydrochloric acid, it’s all acidic. Next, they will travel to your small intestine, where they are mixed with bicarbonate-rich secretions from your pancreas. This helps to neutralize them. These secretions bring the pH range of the food to 8, where they can be easily digested. So, no matter what you eat, it’s acidic in your stomach and alkaline in your intestine.
So, why are some foods “acid forming?” Proteins like meats and dairy, along with flour, most beans, nuts, and grains contain a large amount of sulfur-containing amino acids. (this is a condensed version) They also contain high energy-phosphorus containing compounds. When combined with water, both of these (sulfur and phosphorus) create acidic compounds. (sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid) So, when these high protein foods are metabolized the sulfur and phosphorus left behind combine with cellular water and sulfurous and phosphoric acids. This leaves an “acid ash,” which is why they are “acid forming.” This acid must be neutralized to protect the pH of our blood.
This neutralization takes place almost instantaneous and occurs in two places: your blood stream and your bones. In your blood stream, albumin and hemoglobin along with other molecules, quench the acidic hydrogen ions to maintain a safe blood pH of 7.35-7.45. Next, bone surfaces of your skeleton take up the acidic hydrogen ions through the blood that flows into your bone matrix and neutralizes them. This neutralization in your bones happens because calcium atoms are borrowed from your bone tissue, hence paying a high price. This steady drain of calcium leads to osteoporosis, which is quite common, especially among women. Hormone imbalances, lack of weight-bearing exercise, deficiency of vitamin D, K, boron, and manganese also lend to the increase risk of osteoporosis. So, the reason you want to reduce your intake of acid-forming foods (meat, dairy, sugar, refined flour,grains) is to protect your bones.
So, getting back to the pH of food. Most foods that are acid-forming, (sugars, meat, and dairy products) taste good to most people, but the produce that “acid ash” once eaten. Although citrus fruits like grapefruit and lemons taste acidic, they are actually alkaline-forming once eaten.
Alkaline forming foods should make up about 80% of your diet to help pay benefit to strong bones and healthy bodies. It’s also better for your kidneys since they are responsible for excreting these acids. Eating a high alkaline diet has even been shown to restore bone health.
Here’s an example of an acid/alkaline food chart that can be very useful in making healthy choices for that 80% alkaline-producing foods you need to consume! I have this same chart hanging inside one of my cupboard doors.
Here’s some simple solutions to help you get started:
Juice lots of vegetables, especially green varieties. Supplement with a morning green powder substitute table salt for sea salt substitute almond butter for peanut butter substitute apple cider vinegar for balsamic vinegar stay away from dairy and animal proteins as much as possible