Nutrition: Acid Vs Alkaline

Friday 04 May 2018

I have decided to look at acid and alkaline this week as it seems to be a natural follow on from bone health that we looked at last week. This is simply because Calcium, important in bone health, plays a vital role in alkalising the body, how, will become evident later.

Acid v Alkaline - it sounds complicated…..

There are many many articles and books on the subject of acid and alkaline. Some of them make the whole concept unnecessarily very complex and some are even contradictory but one thing that they all concur is that we are healthier human beings if our bodies are more alkaline than acid. My aim here is to simplify the whole subject, examine why it is of so much interest for people with cancer and other chronic diseases and how it can be achieved simply.

What do you mean by acid and alkaline?

It might be a good idea here to look at what we mean by acid and alkaline. To measure how acid or alkaline something is we use a pH scale, The pH scale goes from 0 to 14 with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline and 7 is neutral.

Generally speaking our blood/body  pH should stay around 7.35 – 7.45 which is slightly alkaline. (Note that parts of our digestive system are an exception because it is essential that our stomach has a pH of 2-3 which is very acid and our large bowel should also be slightly acid with a pH of??).   

When our cells are slightly alkaline they function well,  produce oxygen which provides energy and the cells excrete waste efficiently (carbon dioxide and water).  In other words they function unhindered to our benefit.

When our cells are acid oxygen production is very low and this leads to a general low energy state. When the cells have low energy toxins accumulate making the cell weaker and less able to function properly.

What makes our cells acid or alkaline?

Whether our cells are alkaline or acid is determined mostly by the food that we choose to eat. Foods are known as acid forming or alkaline forming. This is where it gets real. As I explained an alkaline cell produces oxygen and an acidic cell much less.

Acid and cancer

Most complementary health professionals agree with Dr. Otto Warburg, who won a Nobel  Peace Prize in 1931, for the discovery that unlike healthy cells in the human body cancer cells do not breathe oxygen, in other words cancer cells generally flourish more in an acid environment. The theory is that more alkaline the cell is, the more oxygen  it produces, the less the cancer will like it and it will find it difficult to flourish. So the thinking behind this is that a diet high in alkaline forming foods and lower in acid forming foods the greater our levels of oxygen and the less the cancer cells will like it.

I hope that you have not glazed over yet!!!

At this point it is important that common sense prevails. I can imagine that immediately you may be thinking, ok the less acid forming foods I eat the better. Well to a degree that would be right but looking back at blog 2 you can see that we need some acid forming foods as they have properties absolutely essential for our health. For example the protein rich foods, fish eggs etc. are acid forming but protein is essential for repair of tissues, aid healing, for the production of enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Without these life would not exist.  

The key is balance……

A guide to acid and alkaline forming foods
This is a general guide and as always there are some exceptions to the rule which I would not get too hung up over.

Acid forming foods are; animal protein foods, grains, beans and lentils, dairy foods, alcohol, coffee , fizzy drinks and sugary foods.
Alkaline forming foods are; fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.

Water is neutral.

So what should we eat?

In order for our bodies to be more alkaline we should eat predominantly alkaline forming foods. For general health a 60:40 ratio is recommended but to restore health it may be better to aim for an 80:20 ratio. 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acid forming foods.  

An easy way to do this without getting bogged down,  is to make sure that the diet is very high in fruits and vegetables. When planning a meal always ‘think’ where is the fruit or vegetable going to come.

Some examples

Breakfast add a banana or berries to porridge or muesli or have grilled tomatoes and mushrooms with an egg or make a smoothie using a mixture of fruits and vegetables,   

Lunchtime could be a large imaginative salad or a vegetable based soup even a sandwich can work if it is crammed with salad vegetables or eaten with a side salad or a mug of vegetable soup.

Evening The evening meal is generally easier, try to make your plate at least 50% vegetables . This can be quite easy to achieve visually if you are having salmon and vegetables or a chicken breast and vegetables but if a dish like a bolognaise is being made add extra vegetable to the mix like celery, peppers, mushrooms, sweet  corn etc. so that if the ingredients were laid out they would be predominantly vegetables.
Some people do get confused, quite naturally, because some foods appear to be acidic when we eat them like oranges or lemons but that is not important here. What is important is the residue or ‘ash’ that remains after the food as been digested and metabolised. Oranges and lemons leave an alkaline ash so are said to be alkaline forming.

There are a few exceptions to the rule in all of the food groups, for example Millet which is a grain is alkaline forming not acid forming like other grains and blueberries are acid forming not alkaline like other fruits but this would not cause me too much stress because  I have said if we focus on a good variety of fruits and vegetables the odd exception is going to make very little difference in the overall scheme of things.

Calcium The last point that I want to make is to mention calcium and its link with acid and alkaline. As we know we store calcium in our bones. Well, if our bodies are allowed to become too acid than we will draw calcium from the bones in a bid to neutralise the acid. This can of course then leave our bones vulnerable.  

If you remember when I blogged about bone health I suggested that it may be a good idea not to have carbonated drinks because they contain phosphoric acid, a classic time when we would call on our calcium reserves to neutralise this acid.
Next week I thought I would focus on Green food supplements, why they have become so popular and how they link with the pH of the body.

Blog originally written by Caroline June 2012

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