The Alkaline Diet - Is It For You?

Before outlining the alkaline diet, it's important for you to know a little of the theory behind it.

alkaline diet saladMany nutritionists and health care professionals believe one of the keys to good health is to maintain the body's correct acid/alkaline balance. During digestion, all foods release either an acid or alkaline base into your bloodstream. Fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts release an alkaline base, while meats, fish, dairy products, caffeine, sugar and salt produce an acid base.

Eating the wrong combination of these foods, which has become more prevalent since the introduction of processed and fast foods, leads to a more acidic biochemistry. And this leaves you more vulnerable to conditions such as heart disease, arthritis and cancer.

As your blood is slightly alkaline, with a normal pH of 7.35 to 7.45, the theory proposes that eating more alkaline and less acid producing foods is a simple way to maintain this balance. Excess acid forces the body to neutralize it by leaching alkaline minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium from its stores (generally the bones), which can lead to chronic and degenerative diseases. Medical practitioners generally don't share this view, although genetic research suggests a link between acid forming diets and modern diseases.

Should you try an alkaline diet?

There are a number of symptoms that suggest your acid/alkaline balance is disrupted:

  • Fatigue/anxiety:
    Lack of energy
    Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Excess mucus:
    Nasal congestion
    Frequent colds, flu and infections

  • Appearance:
    Dry hair
    Dry skin
    Weak nails
    Weight gain

  • Muscle/joints:
    Muscle pain
    Leg cramps

  • Organs:
    Acid indigestion
    Yeast overgrowth
    Cysts (breast, ovaries)
    Bladder problems
    Kidney conditions
    Cardiovascular symptoms
How to test your acid/alkaline balance

There are varying opinions on what is the correct acid-alkaline balance, but the ratio is generally between 6.5 and 7.5 on the pH scale. This applies to your body fluids, including your saliva and blood. Your stomach is acidic, a condition necessary for food digestion.

You can test your own pH levels by buying pH test strips from your local health food store or pharmacy. Test your saliva an hour before meals or two hours after. If you test it first thing in the morning - before thinking about breakfast (which can stimulate saliva secretion and alter your pH reading) - it should read between 6.8 and 7.2.

You can also get pH strips to test your urine first thing in the morning. The reading should be between 6.4 and 6.8.

A full test from your health practitioner might include blood, saliva and urine testing.

Apart from substances you ingest, certain bodily processes also affect your acid-alkaline balance. Brisk movement releases lactic acid and carbon dioxide, which becomes carbonic acid and water. And the hormones released during stressful episodes promote an acidic environment. So it makes sense to take counter measures to bring your body back into balance.

[For a list of acid-producing foods, please click on Acidic Foods List.]

What is the alkaline diet?

The alkaline diet consists of eating 75%-90% alkaline forming foods and 10%-25% acid forming foods. If your body tests in the higher acidic ranges, you can also take mineral supplements that include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chromium, selenium and iron. And there are five chlorophyll-rich supplements that nutritionists recommend to re-alkalize the body:
  • Alfalfa
  • Barley grass
  • Chlorella
  • Spirulina
  • Wheatgrass

For a full list of alkaline producing foods, click on our Alkaline Diet chart.

It's important that you consult with a qualified health professional before embarking on any new dietary or exercise regimen.

Gathering information online is fine for research purposes, but you need a real live professional to monitor your progress if you attempt to make drastic changes to your lifestyle. Unless you're a health professional yourself, you aren't equipped to objectively observe your body's responses to a new diet or exercise program. So whatever your chosen course of action, please be sure you enlist the support of a qualified professional.

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