Friday, April 3, 2009

Big Acidifiers: Acid-Alkaline Balance, Part 2

I cut way back on eating refined sugar in my mid-thirties. This one dietary change made me feel so much better that I've continued to eat little sugar to this day. I wasn't measuring my pH back then, but based on what the books tell me now, it's likely that reducing my sugar intake improved my acid-alkaline balance, and that, in turn, contributed to my improved health and well-being.

Here's a little more about how this works.

To keep the bloodstream healthy, the body strives to keep the pH of blood in a fairly steady range. Most books will tell you this is between 7.35 and 7.45 on the pH scale of 0 to 14, where pure water ranks a neutral 7; anything below 7 is acidic, while above 7 is alkaline.

The body works hard to keep the blood in its narrow and just slightly alkaline range. If we eat acidifying food such as refined sugar, the body will buffer and excrete the excess acid produced as the sugar is metabolized. The kidneys will filter out at least some of this excess acid and excrete it in urine. Excess acid also leaves the body through sweating and breathing.

If needed, the body can pull minerals such as calcium out of the bones to help buffer the acids – which is why chronic overacidity can contribute to conditions like osteoporosis. If our bodies become too acidified for our buffering and excreting systems to keep up, then acids will build up in our tissues. Over time, this will nudge our cells into chronic acidity and out of the range of optimum performance, setting us up for more illness.

Sugar is one big contributor to the chronic overacidity that often results from a typical western diet. As Michelle Schoffro Cook writes in The Ultimate pH Solution, "Sugar makes our bodies' pH very acidic, and with the average North American consuming 150 pounds of sugar annually, that's a great deal of acidity to overcome."

One reason we eat so much sugar is that it's a major ingredient in processed or "faux" food, as Cook terms it. In fact, as the Global College of Natural Medicine reports, "Three-quarters of the sugar Americans consume today comes from 'hidden' sugars found in processed foods."

These processed food products are acidifying for more reasons than just the sugar. The grains that often form the basis of processed foods – wheat, rice, corn – are themselves acid-producing in the body. Most saturated animal fats -- another common ingredient in processed food -- also contribute to acidity. And, as Michelle Schoffro Cook notes, the chemicals added to so many foods are also likely to add to acid levels in the body.

I'll mention one last thing you're better off avoiding if you want to maintain a healthy acid-alkaline balance, and that's soda pop. As Sr. Susan Brown and Larry Trivieri Jr. state in The Acid Alkaline Food Guide, "Carbonated soft drinks are among the most acidifying substances found in the supermarket."

Primary pop ingredients include phosphoric acid, carbonic acid, caffeine, sugar, and corn syrup, all of which are considered highly acid-forming. Drinking diet soda doesn't help, because artificial sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame will also acidify us.

I'm sorry to be the bearer of such bad news to any pop lovers reading this! I did go through a Dr. Pepper period myself, but fortunately it was a long time ago, and it was short. Now I'm convinced that my body is better off as I stick with drinking water and herbal teas, unsweetened.

1 comment:

The Veggie Queen said...

Thank goodness that I never developed a soda habit. I didn't grow up drinking it and go out of my way to avoid it. On the other hand, my husband Rick thinks that soda is good. But even he has started mixing it with mineral water to cut down on the sugar. Every little step helps.