By: Clifford Sonnie, M.D., M.P.H.
Does this sound familiar? “I’ve been trying to eat right and get more exercise. I do feel better and have lost some weight but I’d like to have more energy and lose even more.” Well, I think we’ve learned that the answer isn’t all that simple. There is a digestive system that needs to be looked at. Hormones too have to be considered as well as making sure the thyroid and adrenal glands are working well. On top of all this, toxins can be an issue. Today however I’d like to not look at an organ system itself. I’d like to look at the whole body and consider its acid base balance.
We all learned about acid and bases in high school. Remember how in order to get a neutral or balanced solution you have to add the right amount of base to an acid or vise versa. The body is no different. It’s on the news and advertized everywhere where an overly acidic body is not good. Well they are right and folks we are definitely way too acidic. You see, our bodies need both acid and base (better known today as acid and alkaline) to operate properly and it is that ratio that is all important. Too much acid for too long will cause weight gain, foggy thinking, fatigue, heart burn and has even been linked in recent studies to Alzheimer’s disease. There is also growing evidence that an acidic body, over time, can cause cancer and bone loss. Well what about too much alkaline? Yes this can happen and is seen in several metabolic genetic disorders as well as other conditions. It has been linked to possible immune issues but its numbers are no where close to those folks who are too acidic. But the point is that the body needs them both and in the proper ratio. So I’ll keep today’s article on acid.
First, you guessed it, wait for it… some SCIENCE. The body’s acid/base level is measured on a scale called pH. It ranges from 1 (most acid) to 14 (most alkaline). The body operates in a range of 7.4 plus or minus 0.05. Also a change of .1 means a change of 10 times the acid. So a person with a pH of 7.3 has 10 times the amount of acid as a person whose pH is 7.4.
Ok, how do we measure how acidic we are? There are pH strips available on the market that you can follow your saliva and/or urine. There are several methods to use and to explain them would take too much room. Stop by and we’ll explain them or the method may be included with the strips. Blood tests can also reflect an overly acid or alkaline state. You need someone trained (an MD or DO) to properly read these blood tests. It’s not just as simple as spitting on a piece of paper and seeing what color it turns although that is indeed part of it.
Ok, we measure the body’s pH and after a couple different measurements and maneuvers using the pH paper we find we are too acidic. So, if we are too acidic how does the body buffer or balance it? First we use our lungs. Simply put, carbon dioxide is acidic and oxygen is alkaline. Therefore we start to breathe faster to blow off the carbon dioxide. The problem is that this is a very, very short term answer. It can’t fix the chronic acidic state that we can find ourselves in. So what happens? The body uses minerals. Acid buffering minerals include calcium, magnesium (my favorite), manganese and many others. Beginning to see a pattern? If the body does not have enough circulating minerals to counteract the acid, the body has to get them from where these minerals are stored. Remember above all else the body wants to keep the body’s pH at 7.4. Magnesium is found inside cells and without magnesium cells can’t operate. Inactivate enough cells and the organ begins to shut down. Likewise calcium is found in great concentrations in bone. Take out enough calcium for long enough and “bingo”, osteoporosis.
“Ok doc, I know what acid is and how to follow it but where do we get it and exactly how do we fix it?” Where it comes from is easy. First and foremost is our diet. Just like there are alkaline minerals, likewise there are acidic mineral. For example phosphorous, found in ALL soft drinks, is highly acidic and is an excellent “leach” for calcium. Likewise the environment exposes us to all kinds of toxins which, you guessed it, are acidic. Stress is a huge cause of an overly acidic body and if anyone has the cure for stress in today’s society, I’m listening. I personally use deep breathing exercises (I mentioned some in a prior article) along with exercising or just mobilizing and just taking time for you.
Fixing it is almost as easy. Since the main correction of acid is through the proper minerals, diet is the answer. Oh great! Now I have to eat cardboard for the rest of my life. No way. Below is a list of acidic and alkaline foods. Remember, everything is in balance. We need both acid and alkaline to operate normally (some more normal than others).
Alkaline foods: almonds, olive oil, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, potatoes and literally ALL vegetables.
Moderately acidic foods: beans, sunflower seed, walnuts, most all fruits, animal meat.
Very acidic foods: alcohol, chocolate, coffee, all processed foods, sugar, soy, all refined foods, the rest of the fruits.
The best way I think to look at this is to use a 4:1 ratio. Four parts alkaline to 1 part acidic. So you see, you don’t have to eat cardboard. Google up extensive lists of alkaline and acidic foods as well. There are also charts out there that assign acid and alkaline values to each food. This is for the engineers and accountants in the audience. Come on, that’s funny! Anyway, don’t change everything at once. This is a new way of eating so work into it. Just as you didn’t become acidic overnight, it is going to take a while (months) to start to see significant change.
As always, check with your family MD or DO or stop in and see us and we can talk about your acid. That doesn’t sound weird, does it? As always the smart health care consumer is informed and aware.
Clifford Sonnie, M.D. is the Medical Director at the Balance of Life Clinic.