What Should I EAT?

WHAT SHOULD I EAT?

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What Is pH?

A measure of Acidity and Alkalinity. From the French pouvoir hydrogene, pH describes hydrogen ion activity. A pH of 1 is the most acidic, 7 is neutral, and 14 is the most alkaline. Everything you eat or drink affects your pH balance.

Remember pH strips? They were handed out in grade school science class. Seeing the colors change was fun–if not as diverting as building a potato clock–but it was tough to comprehend how a funky little acronym could be such a vital key to good health.

“Paying attention to acid-alkaline balance is one of the most crucial ways you can affect your health status,” says Susan Lark, M.D., co-author of The Chemistry of Success: Six Secrets of Peak Performance. “It impacts immunity, digestion, bone strength, symptoms of joint disease, hormones, and the function of essential internal organs.” What’s more, a spoonful of alkalinity can also lessen the severity of colds, sore throats, and other winter woes.

The balance of acidity and alkalinity in your body allows essential chemical reactions to take place in cells and tissues.

Not all parts of the body are equal, pH-wise: For example, the stomach, with its fluctuating digestive juices, is more acid than the brain or blood, which are slightly alkaline (at about 7.1 and 7.4, respectively). The balances are maintained via various proteins, minerals, and kidney and lung functions.

In addition, everything you eat or drink affects pH balance, for good or for ill. Even breathing regulates pH: Inhaling brings alkaline oxygen into the system, and exhaling removes acidic carbon dioxide.

To function properly, cells need to be slightly alkaline; most Americans, however, suffer from an abundance of acidity. Stress, medications, illness, and highly strenuous exercise promote acid production; so do many of the foods favored in the typical Western diet.

Fatty, high-protein fast foods like cheeseburgers and french fries trigger the stomach to secrete extra amounts of acidic digestive juices. Refined flour and sugar (in this instance, the bun and ketchup) reduce to acid compounds once they’re metabolized. And that extra-large cola is extremely acidic.

Considering that too much acidity is associated with many degenerative diseases, from colitis to rheumatoid arthritis, this “value meal” isn’t such a bargain after all.

Buffer Breakdown

Age is also a contributing factor. “Acid-alkaline balance is relatively easy to maintain when we’re young and our regulating mechanisms are in good working order,” explains Lark. “But with each passing decade, starting in our 40s or even earlier, the efficiency of our buffering systems begins to decline.”

According to Lark, only 6 percent to 8 percent of the population produce naturally high alkaline levels well into old age; these people have excellent digestive function and lung capacity, and are more likely to be energized and healthy as the years go by. To find out whether your system tends to be acid or alkaline, answer Lark’s questionnaire (below) or self-test your saliva or urine using pH test paper. If you’re troubled by over-acidity, rebalance your diet to include more alkaline foods.

“What a person eats can have a huge impact on pH,” says Lark. Limit your intake of animal products, refined flours, and sugars, and put more alkaline vegetables on the menu.

Conversely, if you are overly alkaline (very rare), focus on acidic foods. To stay your healthiest, choose whole foods in this group, rather than nutrient-poor white flour and sugar. You can fine-tune your grocery list further by knowing which items within each food category are relatively more acidic or alkaline.

As macrobiotic instructor and chef Cynthia Briscoe advises, “The acid-forming foods are not just refined carbohydrates like white flour and sugar, but dishes that give you concentrated amounts of protein and fat.” She suggests reducing animal protein and increasing vegetable content by changing the format of a given meal. For example, instead of a grilled steak for dinner, prepare a salad topped with a few slices of the meat.

You’ll know when your natural balance has been restored because you’ll start feeling better. Briscoe recalls a student who after three days of classes and eating balanced meals, told her, “I woke up today with a happy little feeling in the middle of my stomach that I hadn’t felt for years!” Start thinking in terms of the acid-alkaline balance at mealtime, and see if that happy feeling is yours as well.

Are You Unbalanced?

To find out whether your system is generally alkaline or overly acid, you can have some fun running informal tests at home. One option is to use pHydrion litmus paper, which turns color when it comes in contact with saliva. For greatest accuracy, take the test immediately upon awakening. Tear off an inch of the paper and place it on your tongue for about 10 seconds, then check the results against the enclosed color chart.

According to nutritionist Nancy Appleton, Ph.D., a reading between 6.6 and 7.0 indicates acid-alkaline balance while a reading below 6.6 indicates over-acidity and a need to eat more alkalizing foods. Another option is plastic pH strips, which can be easier to read because the chemical reagent is affixed to the strips and tends not to bleed; find them at ph-ion.com.

When testing pH, keep in mind that readings can be affected by factors such as stress or any foods or liquids you’ve consumed. To offset these influences, test yourself several times over a week or two.

Because there are so many variables, Susan Lark, M.D., prefers to rely on personal health histories to identify over-acidity. The following yes/no questionnaire is condensed from Lark’s book, The Chemistry of Success.

1. After consuming fried foods, red meat, fast food, colas, or desserts, I don’t feel my best.

2. I eat refined foods like white flour and sugar regularly.

3. I regularly take aspirin, antibiotics, or unbuffered vitamin C.

4. Vigorous exercise often leaves me feeling exhausted.

5. After an hour of work at my desk, I’m mentally and physically tired.

6. My muscles often feel stiff and sore.

7. I have a history of osteoporosis, arthritis, or gout.

8. I’ve already had my 50th birthday.

9. I frequently catch a cold or the flu.

10. I am especially susceptible to sore throats, canker sores, or food allergies.

If you answer yes to five or more questions, you are quite likely to be overly acid. Even one yes could be an indicator, e.g., if you frequently catch a cold or the flu. (On the other hand, a true alkaline type could eat refined foods without suffering an acid backlash.)

What the Studies Say

Increasing pH lowers the risk of urinary tract infections and reduces symptoms of cystitis, according to a study published in The Journal of International Medical Research. In bladder infections, burning sensations occur when bacteria-laden acid comes in contact with the sensitive tissue. Highly acidic cranberry juice is commonly used as a remedy because it helps prevent the bacteria from clinging to the bladder walls. But study participants found symptom relief and some clearing of infection by taking 4 grams of sodium citrate, an alkalizing agent, in a glass of water three times a day for two days. To fight UTIs at home, Lark recommends taking 5 to 10 grams of buffered vitamin C per day in divided doses–and avoiding acidic foods–until the condition resolves.

Raising pH increases the immune system’s ability to kill bacteria, concludes a study conducted at The Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine in London. Viruses and bacteria that cause bronchitis and colds thrive in an acidic environment. To fight a respiratory infection and dampen symptoms such as a runny nose and sore throat, Lark suggests taking an alkalizing mixture of sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate.

Alkalines protect you against osteoporosis. When the body becomes overly acid, it releases buffering minerals into the bloodstream, such as calcium taken from bones. In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers gave post-menopausal women alkalizing potassium bicarbonate and found that the subjects’ mineral loss from bone declined and that the rate of bone formation increased.

Adopting a more alkaline vegetarian diet can improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, according to studies cited in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, and it may help treat gout and Crohn’s disease. Also, alkalizing lowers the risk of kidney stones by making uric acid more soluble.

ph Power Food Guide

When you know which foods tend to be acidic or alkaline, you can make smarter choices whether you’re dining in or out. The table below is NOT intended to be all encompassing. There is far more to healthy eating than can be presented here in one page. I will make available a book on this subject as soon as practical.

In the meantime, the table below is meant for the general public eating typical foods. These are not ideal but it is far better to have to some guidelines than none at all. Please check back for my book on healthy eating or watch your e-mail for notification that it has become available.

More Acidic

More Alkaline

Vegetables

Cucumber, Eggplant, String Beans, Sauerkraut

Mushrooms, Cauliflower, Corn, Broccoli, Peas, Onions, Sweet Potatoes, Squash, Asparagus, Carrots, Spinach, Sweet Peppers

Fruits

Pineapple, Quince, Kiwi, Kumquat, Citrus, Berries, Apples, Apricots

Melon, Papaya, Avocado, Dates, Figs, Persimmons

Grains

white flour

Whole grains, Buckwheat, Hominy, Millet

Legumes

baked beans in a sweet sauce or tomato sauce

Soybeans, Lima beans

Dairy Foods

yogurt

most cheeses, milk, butter

Animal Products

dry sausage, beef, pork

seafood, eggs, duck

Sweeteners

white sugar

maple syrup, brown rice syrup, honey

Condiments

vinegar, mayonnaise, pickles

Dutch processed chocolate, garlic, hot peppers

Beverages

colas, wines, juices such as citrus, apple, and tomato

mineral water, tea, beer

Chinese

sweet and sour soup, deep-fried pork in sweet sauce

egg drop soup, stir-fried vegetables

Italian

green salad with vinaigrette dressing, pasta bolognese

prosciutto and melon, linguine with clam sauce

Mexican

ceviche, carne asada with refried beans

guacamole, chicken mole with stewed beans

Resources

Books
Vitamin C and the Common Cold
Dr. Linus Pauling (1974)
Nutrition Against Disease
Dr. Roger Williams
Enzyme Nutrition
Dr. Edward Howell (1985)
Orthomolecular Nutrition
Abram Hoffer, Ph.D., MD and
Morton Walker, DPM (1978)
Foods that Heal
Maureen Salman (1989)
Nutrition: The Cancer Answer
Maureen Salman (1983)

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