At naturopathic college, over 20 years ago now, we were taught that acid was bad and alkaline was good. And over the years we have been told that green and raw is good because it is alkaline and meats and grains are bad because they are acid.
Supplement and super food companies led the line. They told us that acid was bad because it caused an acidic stomach and urine (causing ulcers and infections), leached minerals from bones (causing osteoporosis) and we were told that cancer lived in an acidic state. This belief fuelled the vegetarian movement and the growth of green super foods and juices. The relationship between diet and acid/alkaline of the body has been studied for decades.
But is acid really bad?
image via pinterest
Changing a diet from processed foods to fresh, unprocessed and whole foods will always yield a significant health improvement. I have seen this with most of my clients. But does it mean the new diet is the diet that we have evolved to eat.
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14; pure water has a neutral pH of 7. Acids range from 0 to 7, and alkaline ranges from 7 to 14 on the scale.
Table below is from wikipedia
As you can see your pH levels vary throughout your body: your stomach, for example, has strong acids (a reading of 1) to digest protein and control adverse microbial pathogens, whereas the small intestine is made alkaline by pancreatic and gall bladder juices.
It creates this environment naturally, without the aid of alkaline supplements and fluids to digest carbohydrates and fats.
Below are the average pH levels throughout the digestive system.
1. Mouth saliva 6.5 to 7.5
2. Stomach 1.0 to 2.4
3. Small intestine 5.2 to 8.5
4. Large colon 4.5 to 7.3
Drinking plenty of alkaline green juices will affect the acidity of your stomach, which in turn affects the way you digest protein. Digestive discomfort, wind, bloating, reflux are some symptoms that can be caused by not enough acid. Why are we taking enzymes, HCL with pepsin and bitters to assist with digestion? On one hand are we alkalizing our digestive system and on the other hand putting acid back in or stimulating more acid.
One of my nutritional mentors, Chris Kresser expresses this best: Here are some myths debunked, simply.
Foods do leave behind acid or alkaline ash. The type of ‘ash’ is determined by the relative content of acid-forming components such as phosphate and sulfur, and alkalis such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. In general, animal products and grains are acid forming, while fruits and vegetables are alkali forming. Pure fats, sugars, and starches are neutral, because they don’t contain protein, sulfur, or minerals.
Foods we eat change the pH of our urine. If you have a green smoothie for breakfast, for example, your pee a few hours later will likely be more alkaline.
But urine pH is not a good indicator of the overall pH of the body, nor is it a good indicator of general health.
The body’s acid–alkaline balance is normally tightly regulated by buffering agents, the respiratory system, and the renal system, keeping the arterial blood pH between 7.38 and 7.42.
We cannot influence our blood pH by changing our diet. High doses of sodium bicarbonate can temporarily increase blood pH, but not without causing uncomfortable GI symptoms.
The kidneys are well equipped to deal with ‘acid ash.’ When we digest things like protein, the acids produced are quickly buffered by bicarbonate ions in the blood. This reaction produces carbon dioxide, which is exhaled through the lungs, and salts, which are excreted by the kidneys. During the process of excretion, the kidneys produce ‘new’ bicarbonate ions, which are returned to the blood to replace the bicarbonate that was initially used to buffer the acid. This creates a sustainable cycle in which the body is able to maintain the pH of the blood, with no involvement from the bones whatsoever.
Eating for a disease state is not a solution this does not address the underlying cause of ill health, which could be multifactorial: stress, environmental, poor digestive health, nutritional deficiency and so on.
The pH of your body will balance out naturally when it is healthy.