Problems with Acidity in the Diet
by Elizabeth McMillanVirtually all types of diseases thrive in an acidic environment. In fact, too much acidity has been linked to inflammation, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease, chronic pain and other chronic conditions. Understanding acidity or pH levels, the symptoms of high acidity, and which foods are acidic or alkaline can help improve your health and extend your longevity.
The acidity of the body is measured using pH levels, similarly to testing the pH of a pool. Individuals can determine their pH levels by using a simple urine test. For best accuracy, the test should be performed first thing in the morning. Optimal pH levels are between 6.5 and 7.5. The pH is acidic when it is below 6.5 and alkaline when it is above 7.5. When the body is acidic, minerals are taken from your bones and organs to help neutralize the acid and remove it from your body, causing mineral deficiencies. These deficiencies can go undetected for years and may only be found when your symptoms become more severe. Some of the symptoms of mild acidity include yeast infections, fatigue, weight gain, acne, allergies, cavities and premature aging.
The modern Western diet, specifically dairy, sugars, meats and grains, contribute to an acidic body. In addition to the foods we consume, the body can become acidic due to metabolism. As food is burned for energy, waste products are produced, and these are typically acidic. The body needs to neutralize the acid produced and then excrete the waste. Excess waste causes the kidneys to work harder and can result in kidney infections, bladder infections and kidney stones. Interestingly, one study suggests that reducing acidity through diet may help slow the progression of kidney disease.
The foods you eat play a role in maintaining a proper pH level. Diets consisting of acid forming foods will cause the body to become more acidic. Conversely, eating too many alkaline producing foods will cause the body to be too alkaline. So, it is essential to you eat a balanced diet to help ensure that optimal health.
Unfortunately, one cannot determine acidity by taste. For example, many people think lemons are acidic. Although lemons are scientifically classified as acidic, they are alkaline forming in the body. During digestion, the citric acid in the lemon is oxidized into water and carbon dioxide in the body. There are food charts available that label common foods based on the impact they have on the body’s acidity.
The average person needs to eat about 70 to 80 percent of alkaline foods to help maintain body pH. This means that one should fill their plate with fresh fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens and the remaining portion should be filled with lean proteins and grains. This will ensure a balanced diet. Additionally, drinking enough water throughout the day will help the kidneys filter waste and restore pH levels.
All of life depends on maintaining proper pH levels. Optimal pH levels help regulate metabolism, optimizes enzymes in the digestive system and keeps the immune system functioning properly. When the body becomes too acidic or alkaline, you can be plagued with a variety of chronic diseases and illnesses, inflammation and pain. Learning how to properly maintain a pH level will help keep you healthy and extend your longevity.
Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS, is an integrative nutritionist at Rose Wellness, in Oakton. For more information, visit RoseWellness.com.