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Alkalize your diet!

I spent a morning tea time last week with the ladies of the Limerick Lawn Tennis Club talking about how good digestion and the pH levels of our bodies effect bone strength and general health.

Salad Greens are Alkaline

But what is pH and why is it so important?

We measure how acidic or alkaline something is by the amount if hydrogen ions present, and we use the pH scale to describe this. The lower the number is the more acidic the reading (and the higher the number of hydrogen ions present). The pH level of vinegar is about 2, which means that it is very acidic. Anything with a pH of 7 is neutral, and above that is alkaline.

Your Body and pH Levels

When it comes to our bodies, we function best when the majority of our cells have a slightly alkaline environment. There are some variations within the body depending on what is most useful for the local function. The stomach, for example, needs a very strong acidic environment to kill off harmful bacteria, help to break down foods and activate its digestive enzymes. Mucous membranes, such as the digestive tract, uterus, lungs and sinuses, are usually slightly acidic.

An Alkaline pH

But most of the body prefers to be just slightly on the alkaline side of neutral. Blood, for example, has a slightly alkaline pH of between 7.34 and 7.43, and the body will prioritise keeping the blood to this pH as it is involved in so many vital activities. Read on decorative Element

Your Acidic Diet may Lead to Loss of Bone Mass

Our incredibly clever body has systems in place to continually work towards bringing us back to alkaline again- it will often draw calcium from the bones to make up the deficit. Osteoblasts, the cells that produce bone tissue, function less efficiently, while osteoclasts that break down bone tissue have been shown to release more calcium from the bones in acidic conditions. A 2001 study compared changes in calcium levels and bone density in a group of people given a high acid diet to a group given a more alkalising diet, and found a definite association. The group following a more acidic diet experienced greater loss of calcium and bone mass.

Modern Diet and Lifestyle Lean Your Body towards Acidity

A wholefood diet would provide the resources a healthy person would need to achieve the balance efficiently on a daily basis. Unfortunately, our diets tend to lean more towards acidity than alkalising, as do modern lifestyles. Pollution, alcohol, smoking and high stress lifestyles added to a poor diet can tip our bodies too far out of balance to recover effectively; especially when the nutrients required to help bring us back to alkaline are in short supply or poorly absorbed.

Your Body’s PH Level and Your Health

In such conditions, most of the basic chemistry that needs to happen within us will struggle from digesting and metabolising foods to keeping our cells healthy and functioning. We become less able to do anything from keeping our bones strong to having enough energy to get out of bed in the morning. It is difficult to stress just how important the pH levels in our bodies are. In fact, studies have shown how alkalising the diet can improve a range of conditions, from kidney stones to rheumatoid arthritis, chronic back pain and many more.

You Need an 80 / 20 pH Balance

The key word is balance. We need to ensure that we are eating an appropriate balance that gently keeps us where we need to be - usually the 80-20 rule applies here, eating 80% alkalizing and 20% acidifying foods for best results.

Acidic and Alkalising Foods

Generally speaking, animal proteins will be most acidic; grains (such as wheat, oat, rye, rice) will be more on the acidic side, unless sprouted in which case they become more alkalising; and vegetables, especially raw vegetables, and seaweeds are largely alkalising. Most fruits produce an alkalising ash in our body, but eaten in excess the sugar they contain may produce acidic conditions in the body.

But the answer is not to stop eating everything acidic, but rather to gently bring things back to centre by adding in more alkalising foods, and making wiser choices about which acid-forming foods are most useful to us. Most sugars, especially refined sugars and artificial sweeteners will be highly acid forming and unnecessary for our body. Alcohol and caffeine would also be on the avoid list.

Improve Your pH Balance Gradually

To get the right balance we may need to both improve and supplement our diet in a number of ways, depending on our own individual nutritional profile. To begin with you may need to gradually increase the levels of alkalising foods, and gradually reduce the more acidic elements, until you find a balance that works for you.

Diet Changes to Increase Alkaline pH

Make sure to include some dark berries in your breakfast, cover half of your lunch and dinner plate with a good variety of vegetables, sprout some beans and grains, try sprouted breads, millet and buckwheat pasta for an alkalizing variety. A classic way to increase the vegetable content of our diets is with vegetable juicing. For those with less time or an inefficient juicer try a supergreen powder containing a variety of alkalizing ingredients, such as spirulina, chlorella, vegetables, sea-vegetables and fruits. A supergreen smoothie can be a fantastic way to start the day, or an easy snack to whip up mid-morning or take to work.

Diet Changes to Increase Alkaline pH

Make sure to include some dark berries in your breakfast, cover half of your lunch and dinner plate with a good variety of vegetables, sprout some beans and grains, try sprouted breads, millet and buckwheat pasta for an alkalizing variety. A classic way to increase the vegetable content of our diets is with vegetable juicing. For those with less time or an inefficient juicer try a supergreen powder containing a variety of alkalizing ingredients, such as spirulina, chlorella, vegetables, sea-vegetables and fruits. A supergreen smoothie can be a fantastic way to start the day, or an easy snack to whip up mid-morning or take to work.

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Try my Seaweed salad recipe.