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January 21, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 8 Faves: 0

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.

Prizza

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.

Pissed!

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.

pH

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

Wheat Grass

  • Cucumber
  • 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
  • Sprouts
  • Avocado
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • 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)

Hatch

  • Dairy products
  • Artificial sweeteners and refined sugar
  • Drugs, such as antibiotics, steroids, etc.
  • Chemicals, heavy metals, preservatives, and pesticides
  • Nicotine
  • Processed foods
  • Soda, energy drinks
  • Refined grains (white bread, pasta, and white rice)
  • MSG
  • Processed oils, fake fats, trans fats
  • Soy sauce and vinegar (except raw apple cider vinegar)
  • Table salt
  • All roasted/salted nuts (choose raw!)

References:

http://www.energiseforlife.com/acid-alkaline-food-chart-1.1.pdf

Carr, K. (2011). Crazy sexy diet. Guilford, CT: Morris Book Publishing, LLC.

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8 Comments

  • Very interesting, Christina. I didn't know that almost everything I put into my body is acidic. :-) So, I suppose my question would be, if our bodies want so badly to reach balance, why do we crave all of the acidic foods? It seems odd that we would have to eat things our bodies do not want if it is exactly what our bodies need. I just don't seem to get the same dopamine rush from cucumber that I get from pizza, ya know? I understand that my stomach wants the easiest foods to break down, so that is why I choose refined sugars and easily digestible pastas and things like that. So why wouldn't, at some point, my body stop my stomach from wanting the terrible things and say "Hey, your acidic! Give me some alkaline!" It just seems odd to me that if I need it so badly that I don't want it at all. Have I just trained myself to love horrible things? Any input you have would be very appreciated.

  • Enjoyed your blog, excellent entry. The only question that I am left with is how is roasting a nut decreasing the nutritional value of it? I can understand not salting it, but it seems roasting it would be fine.

  • Nice blog - I had no idea eggs were acidic. I do buy egg beaters egg whites, are those high in acid also? I like soy sauce too - is the low sodium okay to eat or are you thinking everything in moderation?

  • Hi Rex, thanks for your feedback. There was a point in my life where everything in my diet was on that acidic list as well! I thought I was fine, as I wasn't overweight and my energy levels didn't appear to be suffering. In retrospect, my body chemistry was completely out of balance and I was an inflammation factory! However, all I wanted was sugar, simple carbohydrates, such as pasta and white bread, and fried foods. I wanted those acidifying foods because my body was addicted to them. Every time I popped a sugary snack in my mouth, my dopamine and opioid receptors would throw a party and I'd be flooded with the feelings of satisfaction and euphoria associated with these chemicals. What I didn't realize, though, was how hard my pancreas had to work to pump balancing insulin through my body. This cycle creates sugar rushes, crashes, and cravings. After a while, our body gets tired and abnormalities occur -- obesity, diabetes, chronic inflammation, and disease. Not only that, when we become too acidic, our body will dip into our mineral reserves (calcium for example) from our bones, teeth, and organs to rebalance our inner pH. Though this is OK sometimes, and what makes our body so smart and savvy, the long-term consequences are chronic health problems. It wasn't until I started shifting my body to a more alkaline state that I was able to see the true benefits of it. Like I said, I was never overweight or chronically tired, but my body did slim down and I felt much more energy. I actually didn't know how sick I really was feeling until I knew what it was like to feel GOOD. Not only that, my mood, sleep patterns, and skin improved, and I no longer craved the acid-forming foods that led to my disease. I can talk about this forever, but you'll know what I mean once you start trading in some of the acidic foods for alkalinizing foods. I hope you do!

  • Hi Dayton, the most important thing to know about "roasted nuts" is that they are actually deep fried -- usually in rancid oils, both of which are incredibly acidifying and not health-promotinfg. If you want to purchase roasted nuts, look for "dry roasted" varieties. Better yet, buy your own raw nuts and roast them yourself in the oven just enough to bring out the aroma and flavor a lot of people like. I prefer raw nuts because they are in their most natural state -- their nutritional content has not been altered by roasting, toasting, etc.

  • Hi Nancy, good question about Egg Beaters Egg Whites. I know a lot of people use them as low-fat, low-cholesterol alternative to eggs in the shell. The problem with egg beaters is they are a processed food, with additives such as preservatives and emulsifiers. Eggs can be eaten once in a while, and I eat them myself sometimes. My motto with food is that it should be consumed in its most natural state as often as possible. For that reason, I choose eggs over Egg Beaters.
    I love soy sauce too! I wish it didn't have so much acidifying wheat in it (50% soy and 50% wheat). Some good alternatives to soy sauce are organic low-sodium Tamari (made with very little wheat, or none at all if you can find the gluten-free kind) or Bragg's Liquid Aminos (even better because it's organic, sodium-free, and wheat-free). Both alternatives are very satisfying and easy to find. I have been able to find both at large grocery stores, such as Kroger. I don't miss regular soy sauce at all!

  • noooooooo *on knees cursing the sky* why have you betrayed me roasted nuts!? WHY!!!??

  • Thanks for the reply! I guess you have guilted me into trying to eat healthier. :-) I will miss my acidity. haha

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