Why Do You Want To Alkalize Your Body?
According to the Alkaline Diet, when your blood and tissues are slightly on the alkaline side of their homeostatic pH range, your body works more efficiently. When your body is more on the acidic side, the body begins a cascade of imbalance, manifesting as fatigue, weight gain, sickness, irritable bowels and so on.
On the the other hand, when we eat alkaline forming foods such as certain fruits, vegetables and other components in our diet and nutritional intake we can expect to experience the following:
- Energized Feeling – Enhanced vitality, well-being and positive outlook
- Healthy Weight – Metabolism regulated for fit physique
- Immune Boost – Cold, flu and sickness occurs less
- Youthful Appearance – Aging process is slowed, sometimes reversed
- Digestive Health – Digestion and elimination is optimized
- Cancer Prevention – Promotes healthy cell growth
Two Simple Ways to Alkalize Your Body
1. Add Lemons To Your Water
Lemons contain citric acid which is a strong acid, YET, once ingested, lemons are highly alkalizing to the body. In fact, lemons are one of the most alkalizing foods you can eat.
2. Drinking A Daily Tonic of Baking Soda & Purified Water
Add 1 teaspoon of good ol’ Arm & Hammer Baking Soda to an 8 oz glass of purified drinking water and you have an alkalizing tonic. Baking soda, chemically, is sodium bicarbonate. The bicarbonate component is highly alkaline and is used in your body as a buffer to maintain pH balance and optimal function. Drink only one of these tonics daily. Less is more.
If you have a sodium restricted diet do not consume this as baking soda is part sodium. Consult with your doctor if you are thinking of taking it regardless.
Acidic Foods Can Have An Alkalizing Effect
It’s very important to understand that eating an acidic food does not automatically mean it makes your body more acidic. With the same premise, eating an alkaline food does not mean it will have an alkalizing effect on your body… to the contrary, it has the potential to result in your body releasing acids, resulting in acidifying your body.
The primary example of this phenomenon can be demonstrated by the lemon. A lemon contains citric acid. Although diluted within the fruit, pure, concentrated citric acid is pH 2, which is a strong acid, able to eat through clothing and more.
But guess what? Lemons, despite being acidic themselves, happen to push our bodies to be a little more alkaline. Somewhat of a paradoxical effect.
Acidic Foods / Substances That Alkalize Your Body
- Grape Fruit
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Alkaline Foods That Acidify Your Body
- Animal Meats
Here is an excellent article listing 74 Alkaline Foods complete with photographs and explanations.
Use Good Sense and Listen To Your Body
Now, don’t eliminate meat and everything in your diet that has been classified as “acid-forming” because the Alkaline Diet theory says so; consider other components to determine how healthful that food will or will not be for your health. You want a balance of acid forming foods and alkaline forming foods… with the emphasis on more alkaline forming foods like vegetables. As always, we want balance.
And remember! Always listen to your body. Some things may be extremely health enhancing and beneficial for the majority of individuals but may be a disaster for you and your unique body composition and physiology. Don’t ignore your body.
The Theory of Alkalizing Your Body
The evidence that eating alkaline forming foods have a direct effect on increasing (alkalizing) our blood pH has not been scientifically proven. It is a theory and in many ways has been disproven. More information about this debate is found further in this article.
Whether these alkaline forming foods achieve their health results through blood pH (alkalizing the body, so to speak) or through other means, there does, nonetheless, appear to be an overwhelming correlation with alkaline forming foods and good health.
What Is Alkaline? What Does Alkalizing Mean?
When people in the health community talk about certain foods, drinks or supplements having an alkalizing effect on the body, what they mean is that these foods help increase our body’s blood and tissue pH, ever so slightly, toward being a tad more alkaline within the body’s natural, healthy range. To make your body very alkaline would be fatal. Don’t worry, under normal circumstances, that is a very hard feat to accomplish.
To fully understand this concept you need to understand a few simple ideas about acids and bases, the pH scale, and how they relate to the human body.
Acids and Bases
All of us are familiar with acids. Strong acids like battery acid (sulfuric acid) or stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) are extremely corrosive and can eat through many materials. Now, there’s always a flip side to the coin. On the opposite side of the spectrum to acids are bases. Ammonia, often diluted to be used as a cleaning agent, is a very strong base. Lye (sodium hydroxide), which is traditionally used in soap, is also a strong base. In its pure, concentrated form, lye can melt through skin (remember that scene from Fight Club?). Yikes!
In the middle of acids and bases are substances that are pH “neutral,” such as distilled water. Most biological life thrives within environments around this pH range.
What is pH? The pH Scale Measures The Strength of Acids and Bases
The pH scale is a measurement of how acidic or basic a substance is, with neutral substances in the middle. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. At the bottom of the scale is pH 0 and categorizes substances that are the most acidic. Only the strongest of acids, like pure battery acid (sulfuric acid), are a pH of 0. They are the most corrosive.
As the pH increases, a substance becomes less acidic (corrosive) and more harmless, until it reaches a neutral pH of 7. A substance with a pH of 7, such as distilled water, is neutral and is neither acidic nor basic.
As the pH of a substance increases beyond neutral 7, the more basic it becomes. The strongest of bases (such as lye) being pH 14, is just as toxic and destructive as the strongest of acids.
The pH scale is logarithmic with pH 7 as the 0 point. All this means is that the difference in alkalinity or acidity between whole numbers is a factor of 10; in other words pH 8 is 10 times more alkaline that pH 7. We won’t go any further than that.
Just remember, in general, extremes can be dangerous (pure acids or bases) and sticking to middle ground is safer (neutral substances).
So an acid is acidic and a base is basic or also known as being alkaline. The term alkalizing means it’s effect increases the pH. It doesn’t mean it’s making something alkaline, just pushing it more toward the alkaline side of the scale.
The pH of the Human Body
The pH of the human body’s blood and tissue is tightly regulated between a more neutral but slightly alkaline range of 7.35 and 7.45. Homeostasis or body equilibrium is typically at pH 7.4 and doesn’t deviate much. If your body goes below this range (below 7.35), you will suffer from acidosis (too acidic). If your body goes above this range (above 7.45), it will suffer from alkalosis (too alkaline). Both conditions are fatal and you will die. Serious stuff, huh? But remember, not to worry, this is not easy to achieve. It does illustrate just how precise the human body is regulated. A healthy body sits in a balance, around that midpoint of 7.4.
Stress, improper diet and other factors cause our body to be slightly more acidic or below 7.4 and result in body imbalance, sickness and disease.
A stress-free environment, internal harmony, as well as a balanced diet containing alkalizing foods, helps our bodies maintain a more neutral pH (7.4 or a bit higher) and keeps our bodies healthy and working optimally.
Debate About the Validity of the Alkaline Diet & Alkalizing Foods
I always try to provide the most accurate information; information you can trust. So, as I stated earlier, the ability of our diet to alkalize our bodies is a theory, not concrete science. There is a fervent debate going on whether this theory has any substantial, credible evidence to support it.
Promoters of the Alkaline Diet have stated that what we eat can have a direct effect on our blood, tissue and urine pH. Alkaline forming foods have been proven to have a direct impact on our urine pH but not our blood or tissue pH.
Because alkaline foods have been proven to increase urine pH, the alkaline diet has been advocated for individuals with recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), compromised kidney function and for the prevention of kidney stones.
In regards to blood and tissue pH, however, there are three main unaddressed problems.
1. Alkaline forming foods have not been demonstrated to have a direct effect on blood pH. They do affect urine pH, however this is not a marker for overall health.
2. A more alkaline blood pH has not been demonstrated in scientific studies to be linked to overall health, with the exception of renally impaired patients.
3. The correlation between a more acidic body and cancer has been cited as proof that a more acidic blood pH allows cancer to emerge and flourish. Others refute this claim, stating that the increased blood acidity in cancer patients occurs after the cancer, as a result of the cancer itself. Natural byproducts of cancer cell growth create an acidic environment, so it appears we may have mistakenly bobbled the causality of the acidic environment and the cancer.
Having looked at both sides, the evidence is not there to support the specific claim that these foods can “alkalize” our blood pH. Even if they could, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that a more alkaline blood pH is the source of increased health benefits.
Despite Potentially Flawed Theory, “Alkalizing Foods” Are GOOD
It is true that your body’s pH is tightly regulated by sophisticated buffering systems and your kidneys play the most critical role in maintaining a precise blood pH. Your blood pH will virtually remain at a standstill no matter what diet you throw at it (in the short term). Now, just because your body faithfully maintains this pH, regardless of diet or supplementation, this is not to say that there isn’t a greater strain on your body to achieve this.
It has been proven that athletes recover after certain muscle exhaustion exercises, as in weight lifting, faster when given sodium bicarbonate. The extra bicarbonate is able to more quickly buffer the momentary rise in lactic acid that occurs from muscle fatigue. The lactic acid is the “burn” you feel when you are performing exercises and what accumulates afterwards resulting in muscle soreness the next day.
Providing your body with the right ingredients can help it maintain its equilibrium with less strain. Despite the overwhelming evidence that suggests alkaline forming foods do not have an effect on blood pH, they nonetheless are extremely good for your health and you will receive their benefits regardless.
I hope this article was more informative than confusing. Please feel free to ask me any questions you have or things you’d like clarified. Just comment below. I’m always more than happy to help.
Research the Debate Further!
If you are interested in researching this debate further, I’d like to point out a balanced selection of great articles that are for, against and somewhere in the middle of backing the validity of the Alkaline Diet.
Energise For Life | Author Ross Bridgeford isn’t going to refute that the body’s pH is NOT regulated by what you eat but he is going to point you to scientific literature that proves the healing ability and health benefits of the Alkaline Diet with his article “Alkaline Diet Proof: Scientific Evidence.”
Chris Kresser | From author Chris Kresser’s blog we get a very thorough scientific analysis through a highly researched evidence based approach, along with links to his references. If you have a science or health background Chris’ stuff is great material. Finish his first article, dispelling the myth of foods ability to regulate pH, acidic urine pH being a marker for osteoporosis and the role of the kidney in pH regulation. After that, in his follow up article he tackles giants such as body pH and cancer, muscle wasting in acidic body pH and even the paleolithic diet as a strictly alkaline diet.
Natural News | Author Dr. Daniel Zagst dismantles the scientific theory underlying the Alkaline Diet in a pithy article. He talks about how pH is regulated, cancer and alkaline diet and the nutrition you miss out on when you eliminate acid-forming foods such as meats, legumes and beans.
Holistic Squid | Author Emily Bartlett is not going to let you demonize the meat in her diet. The Alkaline Diet has no effect on blood pH. She also offers follow up articles on why grassfed beef is good for you, why butter (from pasture-raised cows) is a superfood and why you should celebrate your secret love for bacon.
ARTICLES MORE BALANCED
Dr. Ben Kim | From author Dr. Ben Kim’s health blog we get a good scientific explanation of body pH and buffering systems that allow for its precise regulation. While he concedes that foods do not impact the overall pH of the blood, he makes the excellent point that eating a lot of acid-forming foods can tax the buffering systems and force the body to leach from undesirable sources, such as the calcium phosphate within bone and teeth. Interestingly, this is in direct contradiction to Mr. Chris Kresser. I like that Dr. Kim talks about a balance of both acid-forming foods and alkaline-forming foods … with an emphasis on alkaline foods.
Denver Naturopathic Clinic | Author Jacob Schor, ND broaches the Alkaline Diet dilemma in a balanced perspective, taking into account the overall health benefit of the patient. He believes the theory behind the Alkaline Diet is “malarkey” but following the diet improves their health, albeit for different reasons. The article also explains acid ash and alkaline ash, the historical foundations for the diet.
Baking Soda Articles
Examine.com | Amazing article enumerating the health benefits of Baking Soda, all supported with scientific studies. Each physiological claims or health benefit is ranked by level of evidence with links to the research articles. Also, provides specific supplemental dosages for various health related applications.
Progressive Health | Author Brad Chase provides a provocative article about a baking soda regimen curing stage 4 prostate cancer. Be very careful about thinking of baking soda as a cure for all types of cancers. It may significantly help some patients with some forms of cancer. Also, there are some seriously misguided doctors out there dangerously abusing this treatment modality and harming their patients. With that said, it is an interesting article. Also visit the scientific study link, below the article link. The study demonstrated sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to inhibit cancer metastases.