The Power of pH: Balancing Our Body Chemistry with Food
By Christina Pasternak More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the FOOD-A-MINS Blog Series
Modern medical and technological advancements have distanced us from listening to our bodies and understanding the relationship between food and health. The creation of processed, pre-packaged convenience foods and drive-thrus have robbed us of food freedom. We’ve become sugar-addicted zombies and a breeding ground for inflammation, chronic pain, and disease.
When we do get sick, we don’t treat ailments the way nature intended. We rely on the sledgehammer effect of prescription drugs to make us feel better. Rather than connecting our symptoms to the cause of our disease, we tuck them away with medication so that we won’t have to think about them anymore. No change. No cure.
I know this because I treated my disease with medication for years, and when my symptoms resurfaced, I was prescribed another drug...and another. I was given medications to treat the side-effects of my medications! It wasn’t until I learned about the connection between our body’s acid-alkaline balance and optimum health that I finally started to understand my illness. Not only that, I started to understand how to get better.
Crash Course in pH
Disclaimer: I failed chemistry in college. Not kidding. I just didn’t get it. Mostly because I was too busy acidifying my body with jello shots, cigs, and 2 a.m. pizza slices. Once all that caught up with me, though, I decided to think outside my prescription bottle and learn the basics.
Without getting too complicated, the pH of our body fluids and tissues tells us how acidic or alkaline we are and is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. A neutral pH is 7.0, with alkaline being above 7.0 and acidic being below 7.0. What’s really important to know is that our body is happy and healthy within the very narrow and slightly alkaline pH range of 7.35 to 7.4. When your body starts creating abnormalities - everything from pimples to congestive heart failure - it’s trying to tell you that your body chemistry is out of whack. Don’t interpret that annoying pimple as a death sentence, but listen up, because your symptomatology is talking to you; it's asking you to cut the crap and be a little nicer to yourself. That means making better food and lifestyle choices to re-balance your body’s pH to a slightly alkaline state.
Food Frenemies and Lifestyle Low Blows
The average American’s diet and lifestyle makes it very difficult to maintain a balanced body chemistry. Alcohol, coffee, soda, processed foods, refined grains, and sugar (to name just a few examples) are not only highly acid-forming, but they are highly consumed. Think of these foods as your frenemy. You know who she is. She encourages you to let loose. Have a little fun. Throw a party. Okay, you say, but nothing crazy. Before you know it, she’s created a Facebook event, invited all 972 of her “friends,” trashed your house, watched her boyfriend steal your roommate’s wallet, and left you to clean up the mess. Ditch that bitch! She’s acidic.
On top of being fueled (or exhausted, depending on how you look at it) by food frenemies, our pH also takes a hit due to lack of exercise, chronic stress, drugs, smoking, poor sleep, and unaddressed emotional baggage. Living in a ready-set-go world that discourages self-care and perceives processed and chemically-preserved products as food can create a dangerously acidic pH - an internal environment in which diseases are born and thrive.
A for Alkalinity
It’s important to know that our body is able to handle naturally occurring acids formed by systemic functions, such as respiration, digestion, and cellular breakdown. We run into problems when our excessively acidic diet and lifestyle choices overwhelm and compromise our body chemistry. Rather than flooding your system with acid-forming foods, you can shift your pH to a more alkaline state by replacing some of those choices with more alkalinizing plant foods, such as green smoothies and juices, veggies, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and low-glycemic fruits. These unprocessed powerhouses build up our reserves of chlorophyll, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and oxygen - everything we need to achieve and maintain a slightly alkaline and health-promoting pH.
When our body chemistry is in balance, we experience more energy, less mood swings, better sex, less sick days, better sleep, and less unhealthy food cravings. Going back to eating the way nature designed us to eat can (and will) change your life.
Acid or Alkaline?
Whether a food is mildly acid-forming or mildly alkaline-promoting doesn’t matter as much as having an overall understanding of the best foods to eat to achieve a balanced pH and the foods to limit, or avoid altogether, due to their highly acidic qualities.
The ideal goal is to eat 60-80 percent alkaline-forming foods and 20-40 percent acid-forming foods, with the optimum goal being an 80-20 ratio. Below is a list of very alkaline and acidic foods. A good starting point is identifying some of the acidic foods you eat the most and replacing them with alkaline foods. If a food isn't on the list, it's likely mildly to moderately acidic and can fall into your 20 percent.
VERY ALKALINE FOODS
- Alkaline water/non-carbonated mineral water
- Green drinks
- Himalayan salt
- Grasses, especially wheatgrass
- Vegetables - all kinds (starchy varieties should be limited)
- Leafy greens - all kinds (kale, spinach, cabbage, collards, spring greens, mustard greens, arugula, chard, endive, etc.)
- Sea vegetables/seaweed/algae (kelp, nori, chlorella, spirulina, etc.)
- Most herbs and spices
- Raw tomato (cooked are acidic)
- Lemon, lime, and grapefruit (Other fruits are mildly acidic because of their high sugar content. However, they can be included in your 80% alkaline ratio due to their highly nutritious and cleansing qualities, especially when combined with leafy greens.)
- Raw chia seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds
- Quinoa, buckwheat, spelt, millet, and amaranth (not wheat)
- Lentils and other beans/legumes
- Raw almonds, brazil nuts, coconut, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts
- Almond Milk
- Cold-pressed oils (avocado, coconut, flax, hemp, and sesame)
VERY ACIDIC FOODS
- Alcohol, coffee, and black tea
- Animal protein (red meat, poultry, fish, and eggs)
- Dairy products
- Artificial sweeteners and refined sugar
- Drugs, such as antibiotics, steroids, etc.
- Chemicals, heavy metals, preservatives, and pesticides
- Processed foods
- Soda, energy drinks
- Refined grains (white bread, pasta, and white rice)
- Processed oils, fake fats, trans fats
- Soy sauce and vinegar (except raw apple cider vinegar)
- Table salt
- All roasted/salted nuts (choose raw!)
Carr, K. (2011). Crazy sexy diet. Guilford, CT: Morris Book Publishing, LLC.