Acidic vs. Alkaline - What does this mean? Why is it important to my health?

What Does Acidic vs. Alkaline Mean?

There is a lot of discussion on the internet about whether you should have an acidic or an alkaline body for optimal health. But nobody really explains what this means, why it is important to know, or how to help your body achieve its best state.

According to Elizabeth Lipski in her book, Digestive Wellness, "Our bodies strive to maintain our blood pH between 7.3 and 7.5 (or a urinary pH of 7.0). Our metabolism, immune system, and repair mechanisms work most effectively within this narrow pH range."

Most people have a more acidic body environment which tends to be the result of:

  1. Eating foods and drinks that cause acidity in the digestive tract, including: Processed foods, Fried food, Caffeine, Alcohol, Sugar, Soft drinks, and Preservative.
  2. Stress - the day-in-day-out, chronic stress most of us don't realize we're living with.
  3. Toxins - in the air, the food we eat, the water we drink
  4. Immune reactions - allergies, food sensitivities, etc.

In her book, Lipski also asserts that an acidic internal body environment is also a "microbe's playground, in which bacteria, fungi, and parasites flourish and replicate with abandon." - think of Candida, SIBO, etc. She later explains that when the Acidic body is neutralized these various organisms can no longer thrive. "Many health-care practitioners recommend killing parasites, fundal, and bacterial infections with medications and herbs. Nutritionist often find, however, that simply rebalancing internal pH can achieve the same antimicrobial effect, without drugs."

Having a proper, or more Alkaline, body pH, also means the body can properly digest real, whole, natural food - vegetables, fruits, grains, meat, nuts, etc. 

A big reason so many people are popping Tums and other acid relievers like candy these days is because their body is too acidic, usually because of poor food choices. The poor food choices causes the acidity which doesn't allow the body to properly break down food and the GI tract basically becomes a pollution site where food sits and decomposes or ferments. 

It is a vicious cycle.

For those of us living with Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn's disease it is important to eat real food and it will be beneficial to try and get our internal body pH into the 7.3 - 7.5 range - which means our body will be able to break down food, heal, and eventually thrive.

This is what I have found to be true over the past 5 years. Today I am the healthiest I have been since my Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis in 1998.

Achieving a More Alkaline Body

A more Alkaline body can be achieved especially by eating:

  • Dark leafy greens,
  • Crunchy vegetables, 
  • Vegetables and Fruits with dark, vibrant, and varied colors, 
  • Raw Nuts and Seeds, 
  • Grains and Legumes that have been properly soaked and prepared, 
  • Good quality Fish and Meat
  • Drinking good quality Water & Herbal teas.

To make certain foods more bioavailable to the body the following suggestions are advised:

Nuts and Seeds should all be bought raw, then soaked in fresh water overnight (8-12 hrs.). Drained and rinsed very well, then dehydrated in a 115 degree F oven or food dehydrator - when they are properly dried they will keep for up to 2 weeks in the cabinet or a couple of months in the refrigerator. 

Grains & Legume should be soaked for 8 hrs. before you cook them (smaller grains like quinoa, millet, and amaranth only need 2-3 hrs.). This helps to break down the enzymes in them that our body can't break down for itself. It also makes the nutrients more available and easier for the body to use.

How Do I Know What I Am?

Wondering whether you have an acid or alkaline system?

Testing is easy and there are two methods: saliva and urine. Urine is more accurate.

You can buy Ph strips at your local pharmacy or natural foods store. Using your first morning urine, dip a 2-3" strip of the pH paper into your urine stream. Then compare and match the color to the chart on the back of the box. An optimal pH is between 6.5 and 7.5, with 7.0 being completely neutral. Anything from 6.5 and below is acidic.

The neat thing is this. If your morning pH is low you can immediately help to bring your body into a more Alkaline state by the food choices you make throughout the day - beginning with your first drink and meal.

Examples of Alkaline-forming foods include: sea salt, green tea, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, cashew, almonds, lentils, asparagus, cauliflower, sweet potato, broccoli, parsnip, garlic, rutabaga, lime, grapefruit, lemon, raspberry, avocado, pear, apple, nectarine.

More complete charts can be found elsewhere on the web to illustrate which foods make the body more Acid vs. Alkaline. Don't assume, though, that just because a food, such as a lemon, is acidic that it will be acid-producing in the body.

I used to be Acidic, all the time (this was pre-2011 when I changed my "Eating Lifestyle") and found that cutting down on  caffeine, removing all sugar except the occasional spoonful of honey or maple syrup in my tea, and eating more greens and vegetables, and no "white" foods like bread, pasta, or cookies really helped get and keep my body in the Alkaline range.