Welcome to "The pH Nutrition Guide to Acid / Alkaline Balance" by Jack Challem, the Nutrition Reporter.
In this exclusive report, you'll learn one of the most important health secrets found in nutritional science: the pH secret to good health!
pH, ACIDOSIS AND OSTEOPOROSIS
The strongest evidence in support of maintaining an acid-alkaline balance relates to osteoporosis. "Consider that Americans consume more calcium-rich dairy foods than almost every other nation, and we have one of the highest rates of osteoporosis," says Cordain. "There's a disconnect here. Dairy may be rich in calcium, but most dairy foods also produce an acid yield."
Susan Brown, Ph.D., who heads the nonprofit Osteoporosis Education Project in East Syracuse, N.Y., frames the acid-alkaline issue as one of mineral adequacy and depletion. "It's a little like over-farming and depleting mineral levels in soil," she says. "If we eat foods that create an acidic pH in the body, we will deplete our bones of minerals and our muscles of protein.
Brown described a client named Janet whose doctor diagnosed her at age 52 with osteopenia, a demineralizing of bone that often foreshadows osteoporosis. At 55, Janet began following Brown's recommendations for eating more fruits and vegetables, taking supplements, and exercising. Three years later, Janet was clearly building bone mass in her spine and hip, even while going through menopause.
Meanwhile, Sebastian acknowledges that he may have only scratched the surface when it comes to the health problems related to mild life-long acidosis. He says low-grade acidosis increases insulin resistance, the hallmark of both prediabetes and full-blown type-2 diabetes. It increases the risk of kidney stones and kidney failure. And one study suggests that it might even alter gene activity and raise the risk of breast cancer. He admits that no one yet knows all the consequences of a fundamental shift in the body's acid-alkaline balance, but he suspects it's far reaching.
CAN SUPPLEMENTS HELP?
Millions of women dutifully take calcium supplements to help maintain their bone mass and reduce their chances of developing severe osteoporosis with age. But do supplements have any real benefit in alkalizing the body?
Brown does see a benefit from supplements, but she says it's important to stem calcium and magnesium losses from acid-yielding eating habits. "Acid-alkaline balance is overwhelmingly a food issue," she emphasizes. "Your pH is really a sign of how your body is managing your mineral reserves."
Potassium has turned out to be a crucial mineral for maintaining bone. High-potassium diets -- that is, those rich in fruits and vegetables -- slow bone loss, mainly by promoting alkalinity. So do supplements, such as potassium citrate and bicarbonate. While potassium citrate is commonly sold, the bicarbonate form is available only on prescription. Still, it's hard for supplements to compete with the potassium in foods. A handful of raisins, two dates, or a small banana each provide more than 300 mg of potassium.
If you take supplements, opt for the citrate form, such as calcium citrate and magnesium citrate. (Potassium supplements must by law be under 99 mg because of a risk of arrhythmias at high doses.) Fumarate, aspartate, and succinate forms of minerals also have an alkalizing effect, and all get Brown's blessing. In one study, Sebastian found that potassium citrate supplements protected against calcium losses, even when people ate a high salt diet. Buffered vitamin C, which is ascorbic acid formulated with the carbonate forms of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, might also have a slight alkalizing effect.
Some supplements, such as coral calcium, have been promoted as a way to restore an alkaline pH. But coral calcium is largely calcium carbonate, which is far less expensive as a generic supplement. It's also not as well absorbed as the citrate form.
WHAT SHOULD YOU EAT FOR PROPER pH LEVELS?
Nutritional recommendations are as varied as political and religious beliefs and, sometimes, held to just as stridently. Cordain tries to rise about the controversies by looking to our biological and genetic heritage.
He points out that people, until relatively recently, were hunter-gatherers whose diets consisted of a combination of lean animal foods (including fish) and uncultivated vegetables and fruits. Based on his analyses of the diets of 229 pre-modern cultures, Cordain has calculated that the "average" ancient diet consisted of 55 percent animal foods and 45 percent plant foods. The animal foods included healthy fats as well as protein, and the plant foods consisted of leaves, stalks, fruit, seeds, tubers, and roots. Grains and cow's milk didn't enter the picture until about 7,000 to 10,000 years ago, too short a time for genetic adaptation.
Cordain's recommendations, found in The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Diet for Athletes include too many veggies to be a knockoff of the Atkins' high-protein diet. (Eating very lean meats, he adds, reduces saturated fats amount to only 10 percent of calories.) Nor do you have to be a vegetarian to gain the alkalizing benefits of fruits and vegetables. "It takes about 35 percent of total calories as fruits and veggies to produce a net alkaline load," he explains. "What's so hard about one-third of your plate being veggies?"
Still, if you have visions of veggies coming out of your ears, the answer is really simple. Cordain, Sebastian, and Brown suggest cutting back on breads, pastas, and other grain-based foods, as well as "high-glycemic" foods such as potatoes. They're all nutrient-poor foods, compared with protein and veggies.
"It's all another scientific justification for what your mother always told you," notes Brown. "Eat your fruits and veggies."
HOW TO TEST YOUR OWN pH
You can test your own pH simply and inexpensively. All you need are some pH test strips. Tear off two three-inch strips. As you as you awaken, before you drink or eat anything, put some saliva on the test strip. Compare the color to a pH color chart that comes with the test strips. Next, measure the pH of your second urination of the morning. To do this, urinate on the strip or collect the urine in a plastic or glass (not paper) cup and dip the test strip. Again, compare the color to the pH color chart.
Decker Weiss, N.M.D., of Scottsdale, Arizona, recommends doing the saliva and urine tests for 10 mornings in a row. "Ignore the top three and bottom three tests because they're extremes. Average the remaining four to determine your pH," he says. Weiss aims for a pH of 6.8 to 7 in his heart patients, and 7.2 to 7.4 in his osteoporosis patients. You can retest a few weeks after changing your eating habits.
THE pH of COMMON SUBSTANCES
14.0 Sodium Hydroxide: Alkaline
10.5 Milk of Magnesia
8.3 Baking Soda
7.4 Human Blood
7.0 Pure Water: Neutral
6.6 Milk: Acid
4.0 Wine and Beer
2.0 Lemon Juice
1.0 Battery Acid
0.0 Hydrochloric acid
Very Acid-Yielding Foods
Processed (soft) cheeses
Whole wheat bread
Very Alkaline-Yielding Foods
Note:All fruits and vegetables are alkaline yielding, unless they have been pickled or marinated.
Rylander R, Remer T, Berkemeyer S, et al. Acid-base status affects renal magnesium losses in healthy, elderly persons. Journal of Nutrition, 2006;136:2374-2377.
Frassetto L, Morris RC, SellmeyerDE, et al. Diet, evolution and aging. The pathophysiologic effects of the post-agricultural inversion of the potassium-to-sodium and base-to-chloride ratios in the human diet. European Journal of Nutrition, 2001;40:200-213.
Sebastian A, Frassetto LA, Morris RC. The acid-base effects of the contemporary Western diet: an evolutionary perspective. Eds: Alpern RJ and Heber SC, in The Kidney: Physiology and Pathophysiology, 9th edition. In press.
Menendez JA, Decker JP, Lupu R. In support of fatty acid synthase (FAS) as a metabolic oncogene: extracellular acidosis acts in an epigenetic fashion activating FAS gene expression in cancer cells. Journal of Cell Biochemistry, 2005;94:1-4.
Macdonald HM, New SA, Fraser WD, et al. Low dietary potassium intakes and high dietary estimates of net endogenous acid production are associated with low bone mineral density in premenopausal women and increased markers of bone resorption in post menopausal women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005;81:923-933.
Sebastian A, Harris ST, Ottaway JH, et al. Improved mineral balance and skeletal metabolism in postmenopausal women treated with potassium bicarbonate. New England Journal of Medicine, 1994;330:1776-1781.
SellmeyerDE, Schloetter M, Sebastian A. Potassium citrate prevents increased urine calcium excretion and bone resorption induced by a high sodium chloride diet. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2002;87:2008-2012.
About the author
Jack Challem, known as The Nutrition Reporter(tm), is a personal nutrition coach based in Tucson, Arizona.
Jack is one of America's most trusted nutrition and health writers, and has written about research on nutrition, vitamins, minerals, and herbs for more than 30 years. He is the author of The Food-Mood Solution:
The Nutrition and Lifestyle Plan to Feel Good Again (Wiley, 2007), Feed Your Genes Right (Wiley, 2005), The Inflammation Syndrome (Wiley, 2003) and the lead author of the best-selling Syndrome X: The Complete Nutritional Program to Prevent and Reverse Insulin Resistance (Wiley, 2000).
His next book, Stop Prediabetes Now, will be published in the fall of 2007. He writes The Nutrition Reporter(tm) newsletter and contributes regularly to many magazines, including Alternative Medicine, Better Nutrition, Body & Soul, Experience Life, and Let's Live. Jack's scientific articles have appeared in Free Radical Biology & Medicine, Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Medical Hypotheses, and other journals. In addition, he is a columnist for Alternative & Complementary Therapies. Jack is a frequent speaker at nutritional medicine conferences and to consumer health groups. Email him via www.foodmoodsolution.com
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