The Acid-Alkaline Issue 

By February 12, 2018 Health, Nutrition
Acid Alkaline Diet

Balance your diet and eat more plant foods to avoid all of the hype.

A truly balanced diet does more than provide the macro- and micronutrients necessary for good health — it also helps maintain other important chemical balances within the body, including proper pH.

Maintaining proper acidic vs. alkaline environment in the body is important for good health, with a too-acidic system being a potential host for a variety of chronic diseases, especially cancer.

Much of the hype has been on blaming meat, dairy and other animal foods as “acid-forming.” Some people go so far as avoiding healthy animal foods thinking they will avoid an acidic body and be disease-proof. The supplement industry is also cashing in with products claiming to save us from dietary acidosis by making the body alkaline.

For almost all of human existence, the human diet has been slightly alkaline without the need for special supplements or going to dietary extremes.

With the agricultural revolution of the past 5,000-10,000 years came a dramatic rise in processed grain consumption, which significantly added more acid-producing foods to the diet, disturbing the balance. Today, most “Westernized” diets are full of highly processed grains, especially wheat, which contributes to an over-acid state. Grain foods also replaced many vegetables and fruits in the diet, which were primarily those needed to maintain our healthy alkaline state, and also led us to the current overfat pandemic.

Excessive animal protein intake only adds to this problem.

Most of the food in our diet produces either an acid or alkaline (base) state which affects the entire body via the gut and bloodstream. Foods that are most acid-producing include grains (both whole and processed), sugar, milk products, meat, fish, eggs and salt. Foods most alkaline-inducing include plant foods such as vegetables, fruits and nuts. Fats and legumes are neutral. If we eat either too much acid or too much alkaline food, we risk creating an imbalance. For most people, the risk comes from eating too much acid food. Typically this is from too many grains such as bread and cereal, but too much milk and meat also contribute.

When the body becomes too acid, many problems can arise. Because the kidneys must work hard to re-establish the acid-alkaline balance, they can become more stressed, especially if water intake is not sufficient (discussed below).

Eating too many acid-producing foods can result in a general bodywide imbalance — a state of chronic acidosis. This can cause bone and muscle problems, such as fractures, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and muscle wasting. With aging, this increases the risk of falls, fractures and disability, and also leads to the loss of independence, all of which contributes to increased mortality and reduced quality of life.

Many other problems may develop too, such as kidney disease, high blood pressure, poor mineral balance (with significant loss of magnesium), asthma, cardiovascular disease and other conditions.

The answer to the problem of acid-alkaline imbalance is not to create an opposite imbalance by over-consuming fruit, taking some high-alkaline product or eliminating all acid foods. For example, eliminating high-quality animal protein from the diet can actually worsen bone and muscle problems. Instead, establishing balance in the diet is the real key to an optimal acid-alkaline state.

This means eating sufficiently from both acid and alkaline food groups. For most people, this means eating more fresh vegetables and fruits — 10 servings of plant foods daily for adults, and proportional amounts for children based on body weight. It also means reducing or eliminating refined grain products. Almost all the so-called “whole grain” products are highly refined.

Among the nutrients needed by the kidneys to help regulate acid-alkaline balance is water. Each of us needs a certain amount of water each day for optimal health. The best way to assess your need is by thirst, and to observe urine color — it should be relatively clear or with a slight yellow tint. A medium or darker yellow color probably means insufficient water intake. The best recommendation is to drink enough water throughout the day to maintain healthy urine color. This amount varies with each person.

As is often the best advice for improving health, balancing the diet is the first and best place to start. For most people, increasing fresh vegetable and fruit intake can improve acid-alkaline balance among many other benefits. This can be accomplished with 10 servings a day, with emphasis on a variety of organic vegetables.

8 Comments

  • M says:

    What is the significance to a more alkaline body by drinking alkalized water? I see many options for this type of water, would it also help?

  • Most excellently explained! Thank you!

  • Matt says:

    Confusing.
    Dr. Weil claims on his website, “Your body needs absolutely no help in adjusting its pH. Normally, the pH of blood and most body fluids is near seven, which is close to neutral.

    “This is under very tight biological control because all of the chemical reactions that maintain life depend on it. Unless you have serious respiratory or kidney problems,

    body pH will remain in balance no matter what you eat or drink.”

    • An extreme (and highly unadvisable) way to test this is to ingest extremely acidic compounds (or less acidic but in extreme amounts). What you’ll find is that the body is quite capable at buffering and regulating the acidity, but the systems that can do this eventually become overtaxed and can’t handle the load. What highly acidic foods do is they stress these buffering systems. Even though the buffering systems do succeed in maintaining the proper pH, as they become overtaxed, falter, and fail, the body’s pH begins to spin out of control. I would speculate that an important reason kidney failure and respiratory conditions are so common in chronic disease at large is because the systems that buffer and maintain pH (kidneys, lungs, etc.) have been chronically stressed, overtaxed, and have begun to fail.

      In other words, as long as the big pH regulating organs continue to work, pH will not go out of balance. However, they can become stressed and fail in the effort of keeping it in balance when the ingestion and creation of acids inside the body is too great.

  • Tony says:

    Is there a test that one can do to assess the level of acidity in the body,so as to avoid fixing something that may not need fixing?

  • Andrea says:

    Just wondering if you can explain how fermented foods fit into this – being highly acidic, yet having many other health properties. I find this dichotomy really confusing!

  • JohnD says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard this:
    “For almost all of human existence, the human diet has been slightly alkaline without the need for special supplements or going to dietary extremes.”

    What sources are there for that statement?

  • Joseph Shafer says:

    You might change your conclusions as to foods that cause acidity and alkalinity by reading ‘BioBalance by Rudolf Wiley. His in-depth research using very sophisticated venous blood analysis (post metabolism) of pH levels has definitively shown that milk products, fats, meats etc DO NOT cause acidity, rather they cause ALKALINITY. Yes, the urine becomes acid, but the internal body doesn’t. Agreed, sugars, carbs do create acidity, but so does a vegetarian diet. I know this will irritate most of the spiritual followers of the vegetarian diet, but the truth is the truth, even though we might wish it wasn’t the truth. This does not mean that the veg diet is wrong, only that the result is NOT alkalinity. In fact, most veg and/or carb diets make the urine alkaline but the saliva acid. Go figure. Wiley found from 25,000 patient samplings that the blood pH levels more closely followed that described in the saliva, not the urine. Unfortunately, most of what continues to circulate is based on faulty, misconception and research. Assuming that urine pH reflects internal pH is in error and research from the 1930’s where foods where burned to ash then analysed for pH found that veg was alkaline and fats, meats were acid and it was assumed from this process that digestion would lead to the same result justified by the urine. Two wrongs don’t make a right, nevertheless this misconceived pseudo-knowledge just keeps on going on like a perpetual motion object. The Paleo diet is a good reflection of pH knowledge. As indicated, the real killers are carbs from grains and refined sugars. The paleo diet, if using the calculation above, because of its high fat and protein content should acidify the person in an incredible way but this does not occur. It is full of fats, even in the morning meal. The balance between acidifying agents (most raw veg) and alkalising agents (fats and proteins) keep the ‘eater’ in pH balance. My own clinical experience supports this. Read Wiley’s book ( published already in the 1980’s) before any of you inundate me with accusations of heresy and request for excommunication from the world.

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