Acid and Alkaline Balance
by Carrie L'Esperance
people are completely unaware of the importance of applying the proper balance
of food types in the daily diet. For optimal energy and to maintain health, a
balance between the acids and the alkalis of the body is essential. The
acid-alkaline balance varies with the individual and his or her stress level.
Generally it ranges between 75 percent and 85 percent alkaline-producing foods
to between 15 percent and 25 percent acid-producing foods in the diet.
In humans, organs such as the kidneys and the large intestine eliminate waste
and toxins, maintaining the internal environment in the most ideal condition.
However, there are limitations: If we eat too many poison-producing foods, or
not enough of the materials needed to clean out poisons, then our internal
environment changes beyond the body's control. It deviates from the optimum
conditions in which our cells can live, and the cells become sick and die. Many
illnesses are the result of the body's attempt to clean up its internal
environment. The body secretes and maintains many different kinds of fluids; the
most important is blood, which has a pH level of 7.4 -- slightly alkaline. This
alkalinity has to be kept almost constant; even minor variations are dangerous.
With too acid blood, the heart relaxes and ceases to beat; with too alkaline
blood, it contracts and ceases to beat.
The most striking observation one can make about the general North American
diet is how overabundant the acid-producing foods are in the daily food intake
of most individuals. This problem is intensified while traveling because most
restaurants do not offer high-quality vegetable, fruit, and grain dishes to
balance out the concentrated protein foods such as meat, fish, and poultry.
Our bodies have built-in regulators -- called blood buffers -- to prevent
increased acidity that work to keep the pH from fluctuating. For instance,
exercise and movement make the blood more acid, but breathing deeply and rapidly
for a minute or two is the body's natural way of decreasing this acidity.
An individual with too much acid in the system will experience all manner of
adverse physical dysfunctions, such as a susceptibility to colds and flus.
Conversely, an individual who maintains a system that is mostly alkaline will
experience good general health and well-being. This is not to say that alkaline
is better than acid in the system, but that the amount of acidity needed to
maintain health is far less than the amount of alkaline chemical actions. The
balance of the two is essential.
When ingested, all foods are either acid- or alkaline-producers. All natural
foods contain both acid- and alkaline-forming elements; in some, acid-forming
elements dominate, in others, it is the reverse. It is not the organic matter of
foods that leaves acid or alkaline residues in the body, but the inorganic
matter (sulphur, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium) that
determines the acidity or alkalinity of the body fluids.
Foods comparatively rich in acid-forming elements are generally high protein
-- animal products and most grains. Foods comparatively rich in alkaline-forming
elements are most fruits and vegetables. Alkaline grains are millet, buckwheat,
and sprouted grains.
The most common causes of an overly acidic condition are the
over-consumptions of fats, proteins, sugars, white flour products, and milled
white rice. Chemicals added to or absorbed by foods -- such as coloring,
preservatives, pesticides, and synthetic drugs -- are also acid to the system.
Another dangerous combination is sugar and animal foods eaten together. Taken
separately, protein and sugar are not so harmful; Eskimos consume a lot of
animal foods but not much sugar, and they have a low incidence of cancer.
Primitive Eskimos, who consume as much as ten pounds of meat daily -- consisting
of raw fish and blubber -- have hardly any signs of circulatory diseases. The
reason they do not develop vascular diseases is because most of the food they
consume is raw. The body does not have to secrete large amounts of enzymes,
because the food is in an easily digestible state. In India, people consume a
lot of sugar, but not much meat. They also have a low incidence of cancer.
Although grains are acid forming, they neither cause nor promote cancer if
grown organically. Whole grains have important fibers that promote healthy
digestion, compared to meats, which contain no fiber to help push foods through
the system. Whole grains with garden vegetables and sea vegetables, fresh green
salads, and fruits should comprise the bulk of the diet -- with vegetable,
fruit, and herbal beverages taken between meals. Meat, fish, dairy, sweets,
alcohol, and nuts should be kept to a minimum.
The morning after a dinner party where one has overindulged, it helps the
system to eat plenty or oranges or fresh fruits to balance the acidity.
Excellent teas for overacidity in the system are alfalfa, blessed thistle,
buckthorn, dandelion, motherwort, mullein, red clover, watercress, and yarrow.
If you crave sugar, try cutting down on salt intake and begin to replace foods
containing refined white sugars with foods that contain "black" sugars
such as date, malt, maple, and molasses. Black sugars are less acid-forming, and
they contain alkaline-forming minerals and vitamins, which help in the
combination of glucose in the body. Craving sugar can also be a sign to increase
the protein in your diet.
It is important to discourage children from sugary foods by giving them
unsulfured dried fruits such as mango, pineapple, figs, papaya, raisins, banana
chips, and other dried mixtures that can be purchased or can be made at home. If
you use raisins, be sure they are organically grown since raisin crops are
highly contaminated with pesticides. Dried foods travel well and maintain their
nutritional quality, but they should be consumed within a year's time. Vitamins
in pill form may cause acidity in the system if they are overused. Therefore, it
is best to obtain nutrition from foods.
The famous Dr. Sagan Ishizuka, founder of Japanese Macrobiotic Medicine and
Diet, believed that foods are the highest form of medicine. He divided foods
into two activating categories: potassium and sodium. Potassium salt activates
oxidation and sodium salt inhibits oxidation. Therefore, if one eats mostly
grains and vegetables, which contain much potassium, the blood will oxidize well
and allow better physiological functioning. On the other hand, if one eats more
meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, which contain high amounts of sodium, blood
oxidation is inhibited, leaving much poisonous acid. This is the reasoning
behind the observation that when people balance these elements they live longer.
The Japanese custom is to cremate people when they die. It is believed that
their ashes will be white if they ate a balanced diet, and black if they ate a
lot of animal foods. This is how they can tell if a monk lived intelligently. In
the United States we say, "You are what you eat."
BASIC ALKALINE-FORMING FOODS
Alkaline-forming foods should make up 75 to 85 percent of the diet. The
following is a basic list of such foods. There is some inconsistency in the
various charts and lists available, so I have listed these foods by using and
combining all of the charts.
1. Fruits, including citrus (except cranberries, plums, prunes, and rhubarb).
2. Vegetables, particularly sea vegetables, mustard greens, parsley, and
3. Alkaline grains -- millet, buckwheat, and sprouted grains.
4. Human milk, nonfat milk, goat's milk, all cheeses, plain yogurt, and egg
5. Tofu, soy sauce, and miso.
8. Spices and herbs (except garlic).
9. Mineral, soda, and well water.
10. Natural wines and sake (no sulfites or pesticides).
11. Almonds, brazil nuts, and all sprouted seeds.
12. Lima beans and sprouted beans.
BASIC ACID-FORMING FOODS
Acid-forming foods should make up 15 to 25 percent of the diet, depending
upon lifestyle. If a person is more active, more fuel is needed than for a less
1. High protein foods, especially animal foods -- meat, fish, dairy, and egg
2. Brown rice, barley, wheat, oats, rye, corn, and breads.
3. Cashews, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, macadamias, and filberts.
4. Butter, cream, and nut oils.
5. Lentils, navy beans, kidney beans, and adzuki beans.
6. Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks.
7. White sugar and sugar substitutes, brown sugar, milk sugar, cane syrup,
malt syrup, maple syrup, and molasses.
8. Cranberries, pomegranates, plums, prunes, and rhubarb.
9. Artificial and chemical additives and drugs.
Fats are considered one of the three major nutrients. They also lubricate and
cleanse. Fats are neutral in the system unless they are overused; then they
create acidity in the body.
article is excerpted from The Seasonal Detox Diet, ©1998, 2002, by
Carrie L'Esperance. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Healing Arts
Press, a division of Inner Traditions International. http://www.innertraditions.com
About the Author
L'ESPERANCE, a certified iridologist and former gourmet food professional, has
spent more than twenty-five years studying the healing systems of the world's
cultures. She now specializes in helping clients discover the individual
nutritional requirements that will allow them to feel and function at their
best. She lives in San Francisco.
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