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Acid or Alkaline? PH and Health
Written By : Mark Rosenberg, MD 
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When a patient came to me recently with chronic fatigue, frequent colds and headaches, I gave him a complete physical exam to rule out several possible illnesses. Then, to his surprise, I placed a strip of litmus paper under his tongue. According to the test, his body was quite acidic, with a pH reading of 5.1. Like most people, this patient was totally unaware that the pH of his body might be affecting his health.

Think back-way back-to high school chemistry class. Do you remember something called the pH scale? The pH, or potential of hydrogen, scale measures the acidity or the alkalinity of a substance. On the scale, anything measuring from 1 up to 7 is an acid and anything measuring above 7 up to 14 is alkaline. A measurement of 7 means the substance is neutral, neither acid nor alkaline.

What in the World Does This Scale Have to Do With Your Health?

It could have everything to do with it. You see, all the functions of your body depend on a very fine balance of chemicals. When chemical changes disturb the balance, an excess of either acid or alkaline is created in the body's fluids, and it cannot perform at its best. Although experts tend to disagree slightly on the ideal level for your body's pH, most seem to consider a reading between 6.8 and 7.4 as normal.

Most imbalances are due to an excess of acid. If your body harbors an acidic environment, you may suffer from a wide variety of symptoms from constipation, fatigue and insomnia to water retention, arthritis and migraine headaches. Even low blood pressure, difficulty swallowing, a burning sensation in the mouth or bumps on the tongue can signal a low or acidic, pH. An acidic environment can also lead to more serious diseases such as cancer or heart disease. Medical evidence also shows that an alkaline diet helps prevent osteoporosis, kidney stones and the wasting of muscle tissue that often occurs with aging.

What Causes Such an Imbalance?

Several conditions might lead to an imbalance, such as diabetes mellitus or kidney failure. But most of the time an acidic environment in the body is caused by the foods and drinks you consume. A few foods are neutral and will not affect your pH, but most foods, after digestion, will contribute either to an acid or an alkaline environment. (It has nothing to do with how acidic the food or drink seems while you are consuming it.)

Good News: You Can Correct Any pH Imbalance Through Your Diet

First, find out your body's pH with a simple test. You can have your doctor perform the test, or you can do it yourself at home by using litmus paper. Briefly touch the tip of the paper into a drop of urine or saliva. The red paper will turn blue in the presence of alkaline, and the blue paper will turn red in the presence of acid. Perform the test either before eating or one hour after eating. You'll want to confirm the results with your doctor and consult with him or her before proceeding.

If your body is acidic, you need to add more alkaline foods and decrease your intake of acidic foods, until your pH returns to normal. To maintain the ideal pH level, you should eat about 80% alkaline-forming foods and 20% acid-forming on a daily basis.

Use the chart below to plan your meals according to your pH needs.

Acid-Forming Foods

  • Alcohol
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Buckwheat
  • Catsup
  • Chickpeas
  • Cocoa
  • Coffee
  • Cornstarch
  • Cranberries
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Flour, flour-based products
  • Legumes
  • Lentils
  • Meat
  • Milk
  • Mustard
  • Noodles
  • Oatmeal
  • Olives
  • Organ meats
  • Pasta
  • Pepper
  • Plums
  • Poultry
  • Prunes
  • Sauerkraut
  • Shellfish
  • Soft drinks
  • Sugar, all foods with sugar added
  • Tea
  • Vinegar
  • Aspirin, tobacco, and most drugs are also acid-forming

Low-Level Acid-Forming Foods
[almost neutral]

  • Butter
  • Canned or glazed fruit
  • Cheeses
  • Dried coconut
  • Dried or sulfured fruit (most)
  • Grains (most)
  • Ice cream
  • Ice milk
  • Lamb's quarters
  • Nuts and seeds (most)
  • Parsley

Alkaline-Forming Foods

  • Avocados
  • Corn
  • Dates
  • Fresh coconut
  • Fresh fruits (most)
  • Fresh vegetables (most)
  • Honey
  • Horseradish
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Raisins
  • Soy products
  • Sprouts
  • Umeboshi plums
  • Watercress

Low-Level Alkaline-Forming Foods
[almost neutral]

  • Almonds
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brazil nuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Lima beans
  • Millet
  • Soured dairy products

From Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by Phyllis A. Balch

Remember that all fresh fruits and vegetables, especially raw, help balance your pH levels. Cooked vegetables tend to create acid, as do processed foods. It's wise to check your pH on a regular basis, so you can begin to make adjustments as soon as possible. If you've got symptoms now that you can't figure out, consider your pH levels. Take the simple test, check with your doctor and eat accordingly. You may be surprised at the results.

Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Institute For Healthy Aging

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