When the fall and winter months arrive, we naturally crave more warming foods, which means we tend to increase our consumption of animal foods. People eat much more fish, but many also consume more fowl — especially chicken, turkey, and eggs – as well as beef, pork, and wild game.
These foods warm us, to be sure, but there is a big downside. Animal food consumption increases the acid levels of our blood, fluids, kidneys, digestive tract, and cells throughout the body. As acid levels rise, we age more rapidly. Increased acid in the digestive tract makes it a hothouse for harmful bacteria and viruses. Inflammation spreads, triggering a process that can lead to an array of degenerative and life-threatening diseases. Kidneys, bladder, sex organs, and bones get weaker. Cells become deformed. Many cells die, others form scar tissue, and still others can become malignant. In other words, elevated acid levels are dangerous to every aspect of our health and longevity.
Animal foods are not the only sources of acid, however. White sugar, white flour, processed foods, carbonated beverages, and foods containing yeast all increase the body’s acid load. Among the most acidic substances people consume every day are soft drinks, especially cola. Colas are rich in phosphates, which are acids. They also contain abundant quantities of sugar, caffeine, and other acidic substances. It’s worth noting that soft drinks are so acidic that they can remove the rust from a car’s bumper and dissolve the lining off the aluminum can in which they are contained.
Other foods that are essential for our health can be mildly acidity. Among the most important of these are many whole grains, including brown rice, which is has a mildly acidic effect, especially if it is not prepared properly.
There are other ways we increase our acid levels. The first is through increased stress, which releases fatty acids into the blood stream, thus making the blood more acidic. A second is by avoiding exercise. Unless you belong to a gym, or are an avid practitioner of yoga, a martial art, or some other indoor exercise, you very likely get less physical exercise during the darker end of the calendar. That means that you sweat less and breathe more shallowly – both of which increase the acid levels in your body, as well.
People who maintain their alkalinity experience tremendous resistance to all forms of illness, including both communicable diseases, such as the flu, and degenerative disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer.
The fall and winter are important months for healing, to be sure. But there can be hidden patterns lurking at this time of the year that can have a profound and often negative effect on our health. Above all else, during these months we must guard our alkalinity.
Acid-Alkaline Balance: One Of The Keys To Good Health
The relative state of acidity or alkalinity of any organism is referred to as its “pH”, which stands for potential hydrogen. A substance’s relative pH, or acid-alkaline state, is measured on a scale from 0 to 14, with 7 being the balance point. Water, which makes up about 70 percent of an adult’s body weight, has a pH of 7, perfectly balanced. Anything below 7 is an acid; anything above 7 is an alkaline.
Your blood, cells, and tissue fluids fall within a range of 7.35 to 7.45, which means that your body is inherently alkaline. Your brain is constantly monitoring your acid-alkaline balance, and goes to great lengths to ensure your body’s continued alkalinity. Unfortunately, that has become extremely difficult in a world in which the diet and lifestyle are overwhelmingly acid-producing.
Your kidneys and lungs are the primary organs for maintaining your alkalinity. The kidneys remove acid from the blood and eliminate it through the urine. The lungs remove carbon dioxide, an acid, from the blood and replace it with oxygen, an alkalizing substance. If you don’t breathe deeply, your carbon dioxide levels can become elevated, which means that your acid levels are climbing. Deep breathing, such as during exercise, infuses the blood with life-giving oxygen (alkalizing), and pumps out carbon dioxide from your body, thus removing significant amounts of acids.
If you become too acidic, your brain will signal the release of minerals – especially calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium — from your bones and other tissues. These minerals neutralize the acids and restore the alkaline balance. But if your diet is rich in acidic foods, and your lifestyle largely sedentary, acids will accumulate in pockets throughout your body, especially in your fat cells, digestive tract, reproductive organs, muscles, and liver. These organs will release these acids on a steady basis, especially when you are under stress, thus causing an ongoing acid drip into your blood and vital organs.
The Primary Source Of Acid Or Alkalinity
To maintain or restore alkalinity, we must control protein and processed foods, on one hand, and eat an abundance of vegetables and fruits on the other.
Once consumed, protein is converted into uric acid, a powerful acid that must be extracted from your blood by your kidneys and excreted by your urinary tract. Foods that contain moderate amounts of protein, such as beans, have a moderately acid-producing effect on the body, while high-protein foods, such as animal foods, are highly acidic. Both chicken and turkey are acidic, and beef and lobster even more acid-producing. So, too, are dairy products, including cheese, yogurt, and milk. Cow’s milk is more acidic than goat’s milk. (See chart, below.)
White sugar is also acidic. Inside the body, sugar is converted to triglycerides, or fatty acids, which raise blood acid levels. Other processed foods, such as white bread and white rolls, are also converted to triglycerides, or fatty acids, and thus are acid-producing, as well. Chocolate, which contains caffeine, sugar, and other acidic compounds, is one of the most acid-producing foods we can consume.
Not all sweeteners are acid, however. Rice syrup and raw honey are both alkalizing. Processed honey, however, is acidic.
Alkalinity is determined by a food’s mineral content. The more minerals in the food, the more alkalizing it is. Seaweed, one of the most mineral rich foods available to us, is among the most alkalizing foods we can eat. Green and leafy vegetables – which are very rich in minerals and vitamins – are also alkalizing. Most fruits are alkalizing.
When it comes to acid and alkalinity, green vegetables give us something in addition to minerals – they give us oxygen. The chlorophyll in green vegetables carries oxygen into our blood streams, thus increasing the blood’s oxygen content and alkalizing it in the process.
Sweet, colorful vegetables also alkalize the blood, as well. Thus, beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage, pumpkin, squash, mushrooms, asparagus, and rutabaga are all alkalizing. Burdock, broccoli, lotus root, daikon, onion, sweet potatoes, and yams are all highly alkalizing, indeed among the most alkalizing of all the vegetable kingdom.
There are exceptions to the vegetable and fruit rule, however. Swiss chard, zucchini, and tomatoes provide a weak, or low, acidity. Prunes and cranberries are moderately acidic.
Whole grains, which contain complex sugars, are mildly acid producing, but the kind of salt one uses to cook grains can determine the degree of its acidity and their health effects. Standard table salt, which is 99.9 percent sodium chloride, is acidic. On the other hand, sea salt, like the sea itself, contains a rich array of trace minerals and is highly alkaline. Cooking whole grains in sea salt, therefore, alkalizes the food somewhat.
The Toxins In Your Tissues
Acid accumulation in your tissues and digestive tract creates one of the most conducive breeding grounds for disease. Harmful bacteria, viruses, fungus, molds, and yeast thrive in warm, acid-rich environments. Candida Albicans is just one of the bacteria that flourish in the acidic environment provided by excess consumption of sugar and protein.
Not only do these substances directly injure health, but they produce acidic compounds, including hormone-like substances, that further impair our health. Bacteria that flourish in the intestinal tract produce estrogen-like compounds that can contribute to breast disease, including breast cancer.
The immune system must engage these disease-causing agents. But if we continue to consume excess quantities of protein and sugar, the conditions can support the illness, which means the battle may tilt in favor of the disease.
Meanwhile, the more acid in the system, and the greater the immune reaction, the more inflammation we suffer from. As inflammation increases, so too do the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a wide variety of cancers.
High acid levels can deform the DNA coding of our cells, and thus trigger new commands that tell cells to replicate beyond their healthy limits, and thus become cancerous.
Interestingly, new research has shown that alkalized blood promotes apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells. Cells work in neighborhoods, with the local community exercising great control over the behavior of individual cells. If a group of cells start to behave in ways that are contrary to the common good of the overall system, the local cells will demand that the misbehaving cells either reboot, and thus start behaving in a healthy manner, or initiate its self-destruct sequence, which will then eliminate them as a threat to the system. Scientists are now finding that the alkalinity of our blood and tissues plays a major role in whether unhealthy cells actually listen to the commands of their neighborhood, and thus start to behave again in healthy ways.
High blood acid levels are also one of the primary causes of osteopenia and osteoporosis. Bones and teeth are the body’s mineral reserves and thus part of the body’s defense against high acid levels. However, the more your body is forced to release calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium from your bones in order to alkalize your blood, the weaker your bones become.
Scientists are now showing that the following conditions are just some of the illnesses that arise from an overly acidic condition. At the same time, any of these disorders can serve as signs of an overly acidic condition.
Chronic constipation or diarrhea
Chronic indigestion, heartburn, nausea, acid reflux.
Chronic cravings for sugar and other processed foods
Chronic skin discharges, acne, rashes, rosacea, cold sores
Fatigue, nausea, dizziness
Osteopenia and Osteoporosis
Various types of cancers
Weakened or compromised immune system, slow healing, and susceptibility to colds, flus, and other infections.
What To Do
Clearly, the relative alkalinity of our blood and tissues is one of the most important factors that determine our health, especially since it is the consequence of our food choices, and therefore largely under our control. Not only can we use the acid-alkaline balance to prevent disease, but we can also use it to guide us in the recovery from any number of ailments, ranging from the common cold to much more serious conditions.
Okay, so what should we eat?
Ideally, our diets should be composed of at least 60 percent alkalizing foods, and 40 percent acid producing foods. Many researchers insist that that ratio should be 80 percent alkalizing foods, and 20 percent acidic.
We can get a lot closer to that 60/40 ratio by adopting the following recommendations:
- Eat three or four servings of green and leafy vegetables each day, such broccoli, collard, kale, mustard, endive, Chinese cabbage, green cabbage, watercress, bok choy, and asparagus.
- Eat at least two servings a day of round and sweet vegetables, such as onion, squash, rutabaga, turnip, sweet potato, and yam.
- Eat at least two servings of roots, including carrot, daikon radish, lotus root, and parsnip.
- Eat daily servings of highly alkalizing fermented foods, such as miso, tamari, shoyu, pickles, and sauerkraut.
- Cook your food with a pinch of sea salt (you don’t need more than a small pinch of sea salt to alkalizing the grain). That goes especially for whole grains, such as brown rice and barley.
- Eat sea vegetables several times per week. A tablespoon size serving is all that is needed to provide an abundance of alkalizing minerals, including calcium.
- Eat at least one piece of fruit per day, preferably one that will grow in your climate.
- Chew each mouthful of your food extensively. As an experiment, consciously chew a few mouthfuls of food. You will realize that you must chew each mouthful at least fifty times in order to fully masticate the food. Chewing also infuses the food with saliva, which is a highly alkaline substance (consisting primarily of alkaline salts and the enzyme amylase, which begins the digestion of carbohydrates). Thorough chewing – preferably fifty times a mouthful – is the first step in alkalizing your system.
- Eat foods that are alkalizing and rich in friendly flora, or probiotics. High quality miso, tamari, shoyu, pickles, and sauerkraut all provide the body with essential probiotics that alkalize digestion. Miso soup, tamari and shoyu broths are excellent ways to alkalize the entire digestive tract, as well as your blood and tissues. If necessary, take a probiotic supplement. There are many organic, food-based probiotic supplements available in natural foods stores.
- Sit comfortably when you eat. Eat with gratitude and consciously accept your food into your body. Eating while agitated or under stress will prevent you from chewing. It will also increase stomach and bile acid production, which will increase the acid levels of your food.
- Eat foods rich in fiber. Fiber binds with acids and other toxic substances and eliminates them from your body. Fiber is present in all plant foods. The minerals and fiber will neutralize acids and make digestion much easier and efficient.
Below is a chart that reveals the relative acid and alkalizing effects for most of the foods we eat each day. Look at the chart closely and manipulate your diet so that your acid and alkaline levels are balanced in favor of alkalinity
In addition, walk daily and, three times a week, do some form of exercise that elevates heart rate and causes your body to perspire. Such activities can include a sport, a martial art, yoga, aerobic dance, or swimming.
Be aware of your breathing. Take regular breaks throughout the day to breathe deeply. Emphasize exhalation whenever you think about your breathing. Exhalation will restore a deeper and more natural breathing rhythm.
By restoring your alkalinity, you will experience a tremendous increase in energy, deeper sleep, emotional balance, and greater clarity of thought. You will also be resistant to all kinds of illnesses, including major disease. Alkalinity is the key to good health. Your path back to alkalinity is as close as your next meal.