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Acid vs Alkaline

acid vs alkaline
For years the importance of maintaining a healthy pH balance was largely ignored by dietitians. However, physicians take the matter very seriously. Too much acid or acidosis can pose very dangerous health risks including but not limited to kidney failure, heart disease, liver failure, cancer and insulin deficiency.

Often these conditions are attributed to other causes because the symptoms are cumulative and not immediate. Severe acidosis is comparatively rare but many people may suffer the effects of chronic low grade acidosis without knowing or understanding what it making them ill.

What is pH Balance

The letters "pH" actually stand for potential of hydrogen. The behavior of hydrogen atoms determines whether the body is acidic or alkaline. Ideally the body's pH should be 7.0 but a slightly alkaline 7.1 is fine also. Water's pH is 7, which is considered neutral. The general rule is pH under 7 is acidic, pH over 7 is alkaline.

When the body's pH is lowered, the kidneys respond with a change in metabolic activity to compensate for the acidity. Muscle tissue begins to break down producing strongly alkaline ammonia and bones release magnesium and calcium in an effort to restore proper pH balance. Over time, this constant break down of bone and muscle can lead to osteoporosis and muscle loss.

The Role Of Food in Maintaining Proper pH Balance

People wrongly assume fruits and vegetables that are high in acid like tomatoes and oranges will produce acidity in the body. In fact, the opposite it true. All fresh fruits and vegetables are considered alkalizing foods. They are rich in potassium and bicarbonate unlike acidic foods which are higher in sodium and chloride.

Dairy products, eggs, meat (including fowl and fish), grains, nuts and sugars are acid-yielding foods.

That is not to say these foods are unhealthy, of course, but only to caution that they should be eaten as part of a balanced diet that relies heavily on fruits and vegetables. About 35 percent of daily calorie intake should come from fruits and vegetables.

Potassium rich foods act as a buffer against the effects of sodium rich foods in their efforts to shift the body toward a healthy neutral pH balance. Because of the overwhelming consumption of fast food, processed foods and the overall decreased intake of fruits and vegetables, the ratio of sodium to potassium in the typical diet is now three to one in favor of sodium. The diet of early man (paleolithic man) was a 10 to 1 ratio in favor of potassium.

Bicarbonate, as in potassium bicarbonate is a naturally occurring compound in fruits and vegetables. Alternately, chloride is to sodium as bicarbonate is to potassium. Foods in boxes, bags, cans, packages, drive-thrus and restaurants are heavy in sodium and chloride which constrict blood vessels and increase the risks of heart attacks, strokes and Alzheimer's.

To Supplement Or Not To Supplement

In general, eating a diet high in whole, fresh fruits and vegetables should provide adequate pH balancing potassium and potassium bicarbonate. In some cases, supplementation may be beneficial but should be discussed with a health care provider. Potassium supplements come with a warning because they are not without risks.

A sudden and significant increase in potassium can have repercussions for the body's electrolyte balance since potassium essentially escorts sodium out of the body. This can lead to irregular heartbeats. High potency potassium supplements are not available over the counter.

Test kits are available in some health food stores and pharmacies which allow consumers to check their pH levels daily. The test strip can be touched to the tongue in the morning before any food or beverage is consumed and read instantly.

If in doubt, it can never do harm to increase the amount of vegetables and fruits in the diet. The key is for each person to find the balance that works best for them and not overlook the importance of maintaining a healthy pH. Remember, diseases generally do not thrive in an alkaline environment.

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