Getting your pH balance right is one of the most important factors in the prevention of chronic disease and maintaining health and well being.
The pH of the body must be maintained within a narrow range otherwise proteins denature, enzymes cannot function and death occurs pretty quick. Blood pH is slightly alkaline and kept between the tiny increments of pH 7.38 and 7.42.
Being so critical to staying alive, pH balance is an obvious metabolic priority. But if we eat a diet that constantly challenges this balance, over time other aspects of health will erode.
All foods we eat are metabolised to compounds that inﬂuence the pH of the body. Proteins break down and create acid by-products such as uric acid. Fruits and vegetables breakdown providing the body with alkalizing minerals.
Overall our typical western diet tend to overload the body with acids. Causing acidosis. A condition where the body is constantly having to detox acids.
Alkaline minerals are what act as buffers to excess acids in the system. Our 4 main alkaline minerals, calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium combine with the acids, putting them into a neutral state. Keeping us safe. However if there are insufﬁcient alkaline minerals available from our food, the body will demineralize bone instead. The body has other tricks up it’s sleeve to maintain the status quo. The kidneys for example play a crucial role in ﬂushing out excess acids. However with the best will in the world if the balance is constantly tipped towards acidosis, then health is bound to suffer.
High levels of acids in the system all the time can be too much for the body to deal with and in an emergency attempt to keep us safe, they will be deposited in tissues, causing conditions such as gout, joint and muscle pain and arthritis.
Acids that the body has managed to neutralize must be disposed of. This can also become too much for the system to deal with leading to certain kinds of kidney and gall stones – a build up of deposits.
If the body has to demineralize bone on a regular basis to keep the balance the risk of developing osteoporosis is increased.
A constantly high level of acid in our urine will create the right conditions for urinary tract infection, because bacteria thrive in this acid environment. The body knows this risk so the bladder doesn’t like to hold onto acidic urine for too long, leading to what may be perceived as a weak bladder.
Excess acid in our system long term will reduce the oxygen holding capacity of the body. This more anaerobic environment encourages pathogenic fungal, mould, bacterial, and viral overgrowth. It also creates the conditions in which cancer has the advantage.
So this simple imbalance can be just a little perilous to our long term health and well being. Chronic conditions aside acidosis can cause fatigue, headaches, sleep problems, poor digestive function, acne and aches and pains.
So how do we avoid acidosis? Well we have to get the balance right in our diet. Generally speaking eating a lot more fruits and vegetables is what is needed, whilst cutting down on the most acidifying foods, like hard cheese, meat and cereal foods. We are told to eat dairy for the calcium, but actually the acidifying affect of certain dairy foods negates the minerals gained.
Eating more fruit and vegetables is essential but sadly in our modern world not necessarily enough. Modern farming techniques have resulted in our food being deﬁcient in minerals, so I consider mineral rich superfoods essential today.
Balancing the System
As you can see above, the beneﬁt you get from the alkalizing foods is generally quite small compared to how acidifying foods certain foods like cheddar cheese are. For example for every apricot sized chunk of cheddar (+26.4) you eat, you’ll need ﬁve and a half apricots (-4.8) to compensate!
Getting the pH balance right with just foods therefore can be tricky, especially if you eat a lot of cheese. But there are other superfoods that we can add into our daily regime to help keep the balance.
Alkalizing Super Foods
This grass and the juice of the grass is exceptionally high in potassium and also has good levels of calcium. It is therefore very alkalizing to the system. The powder is easy to use. Take a heaped teaspoon and stir it into a little juice like apple juice and take it like a shot. You can do this 2-3 times a day, especially when indulging in acidifying foods.
If you take a lot of barley grass make sure you also have moderate amounts of good quality salt in your diet, such as unreﬁned sea salt or himalayan crystal salt. This will keep your sodium and potassium levels balanced, which is important as these minerals work as a pair.
Like barley grass is alkalizing, with high levels of potassium and good levels of calcium and magnesium.
Sea Kelp (Kombu)
This food is almost pure minerals, and in perfect balance for the human body. The calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium levels are the same ratios as found in human blood. There is no better way to support the mineral levels in your body. All seaweeds are beneﬁcial in this way. Sea kelp can be taken as a supplement. The powder can be added to smoothies and other seaweeds are great for making Asian style foods.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Again cider vinegar is very high in potassium, with good levels of calcium and magnesium. This is the reason people have good results taking it for conditions like arthritis. What it is doing is helping neutralize acids stored away in joints.
One of the best ways to up the mineral proﬁle of your diet is to take a vegetable juice everyday. Vegetable juicing is the best multi-mineral/vitamin supplement you can take . Juicing leafy greens is an especially good way to get your magnesium and calcium levels up.
Dried ﬁgs and apricots are very high in potassium making them a great snack through the day or with the cheese board!
Magnesium & Calcium Rich Foods
Many of the superfoods mentioned already are high in potassium, but magnesium and calcium are minerals commonly deﬁcient in our food. So here are the best magnesium and calcium rich superfoods. Sea kelp, Cacao (pure dark chocolate) – very high in magnesium, dark leafy greens, broccoli, watercress, pumpkin seeds and also sesame seeds, brazil nuts, almonds and cashew nuts. Mackerel and other wild oily ocean ﬁsh. Baobab powder – high in calcium.
I asked Appleseeds Herbalist Thea what remedies she recommends for treating acidosis…
Celery seed is good for cleansing the body of uric acid for conditions like gout, rheumatism and arthritis.
Nettles (which can be made into a tea, taken as a tincture, juiced or eaten as a vegetable), are rich in minerals and detoxify the blood.
Burdock is a powerful blood detoxiﬁer – tea or tincture.
Birch leaf is anti-inﬂammatory and acts like aspirin in relief of pain caused by build up of acids.
Meadowsweet is a natural antacid, anti-inﬂammatory and anti-rheumatic.