pH Balance and Your Health (Part 3)

Over the last two months, we've discussed the relationship between acid-alkaline (pH) balance and your health and examined how and why unhealthy pH levels in your body can cause disease. Now let's look at how you can monitor your body's pH levels and learn how simple changes to your diet can help to create a healthy acid-alkaline balance.

Monitoring Your Body's pH Level

While there are a number of tests available for measuring pH levels in the body, let's focus on two testing procedures. The first is the venous plasma pH test, which can provide you with an accurate reading of your blood's pH level. The second is a self-test that can be easily done at home. It involves the use of pH strips. Although it does not provide specific pH measurements, it offers a strong indication of your acidic-alkaline balance.

Venous Plasma pH Test

The venous plasma pH test accurately measures the pH of your blood. It requires that you see a physician. The Health Expert withdraws a vial of bottle from the vein in your arm, and then sends the blood to a licensed laboratory for testing. Should you decide to have this test performed, be sure that you request that the measurement be made to the nearest one-hundredth of a percentage point, for example, 7.36 or 7.25, not 7.3 or 7.2. This will provide a more precise reading of your blood pH than if the measurement is only to a tenth of a percentage point.

Because of how important blood pH levels are to your overall health, you should consider making the venous plasma pH test part of your annual physical check-up. Since it is not commonly administered as part of such check-ups, be sure to ask your physician for it when you schedule your appointment. The additional cost is nominal (less than $100 depending on the lab your physician uses), and the information the test provides can literally be life-saving.

The pH Strip

You can also perform a simple home pH test using pH strips, which are usually available at your local drugstore. Some health food stores may also carry them. pH strips are made of litmus paper, which changes color when it comes in contact with alkaline and acidic substances. Included with your purchase will be a color chart that will help you to gauge your pH.

The strip will turn one of three shades of color when you perform the test: yellow, which indicates over-acidity, blue (or red, depending on the manufacturer of the strips), which indicates over-alkalinity, and green, which indicates a neutral or balanced pH reading. The color shading is important. The deeper, or more intense, the shading is, the more extreme is your pH reading. For example, a light yellow shade is an indication of less serious over-acidity, whereas a deep shade of yellow indicates a more serious problem. In actuality, both shadings indicate that the pH is out of balance and overly acidic, but the brighter shade of yellow is a sign of a more serious imbalance.

You can use pH strips to test the pH levels of both your urine and salvia. However, since the pH of saliva can have a wide variance, it is recommended that you test your urine instead. As mentioned above, your kidneys are one of the organs used by the body to eliminate acids. When your body is in or near a state of acid-alkaline balance, urine pH will normally be 7.0 to 7.5 (pH strips do not measure pH values as closely as a blood pH test does). This indicates that your kidneys are excreting normal levels of acids. But when higher than normal amounts of acids are being eliminated, it means that your body is overly acidic. This will be reflected in the measurement shown on the pH strip. Similarly, if less than normal levels of acids are being excreted, the pH reading will indicate over-alkalinity.

Since urine pH values can change during the day in reaction to the foods you eat, the best time to measure urine pH is in the morning soon after you've awakened, and before your have your morning meal. It is easy to perform the test. Simply take a pH strip and moisten it with your urine as you urinate. A quick dip into your urine stream is all that is necessary. As the acid content of your urine reacts with the pH strip, it will change color according to how acidic or alkaline your urine pH is.

Remember, a urine pH test does not provide as accurate an indication of your body's internal acid-alkaline balance, but it can help you get a better sense of how acidic or alkaline your body is. To get a better idea of the state of your body's pH, it is recommended that you perform this test for five mornings in a row. If your reading is consistently within the range of 7.0-7.5, your body is in a fairly healthy state of acid-alkaline balance. Consistent readings below 7.0 are a good indication that your body is overly acidic.

Using Diet to Create Acid-Alkaline Balance

If you suffer from chronic acidosis, more than likely your diet is too high in acid-forming foods. To bring your body's pH to a healthier level (slightly alkaline), you need to ensure that the majority of the food you eat at each meal are alkalizing. Alkalizing foods are rich in alkaline minerals and contain little to no acidic substances. In addition, these foods produce no acidic ash when they are digested and metabolized, regardless of how much of them are consumed at any meal. Foods in this category include all green vegetables, most colored vegetables, cold-pressed oils, sprouts, certain fruits and nuts, herbs and spices, and alkaline mineral water. Everyone suffering from chronic acidosis needs to include these foods at every meal, in much greater proportions (as high as 80%) than acidifying foods eaten at the same time.

Green and Colored Vegetables
The foundation of every alkalizing meal is plenty of vegetables, which should always be included as part of your lunch and dinner. Raw vegetables such as celery also make an ideal snack food during the day. Servings of green vegetables throughout the day are particularly potent aids in restoring acid-alkaline balance. All vegetables are rich in vitamins, alkalizing minerals and salts, enzymes, phytonutrients (nutrients derived from plant foods), and fiber. But green vegetables are also rich in chlorophyll, which is what gives them their green color. Chlorophyll contains many of the same chemical components as hemoglobin. Leafy green vegetables are particularly rich sources of chlorophyll.

Don't neglect other colored vegetables, though. While not as rich in chlorophyll, they too are excellent sources of essential nutrients. Vegetables in this category that you can eat freely include beets, yellow cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, onions, potatoes, radishes, red and yellow peppers, scallions, turnips, and yellow squash.

Ideally, you should eat a certain amount of raw vegetables every day, while lightly steaming or sautéing the rest. This will ensure that the rich supply of enzymes vegetables contain are not destroyed by overcooking. Enzymes are contained in all fresh fruits and vegetables and play an essential role in healthy digestion. When enzymes are deficient in your diet, your body is unable to properly digest and assimilate the foods you eat, setting the stage for further health problems. Enzymes are inactivated and destroyed when vegetables are cooked in temperatures over 118 degrees.

Whenever possible, it is also a good idea to select organically grown vegetables, which contain more abundant amounts of essential nutrients than do commercially grown produce, and are also free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Organic vegetables are now readily available in health food stores and commercial chain grocery food stores. You can also find them at your local farm stands and farmers' markets. Whether you use organic or non-organic produce, always be sure to wash them thoroughly.

And if you suffer from sugar sensitivities and/or are hyper- or hypoglycemic, initially you may want to avoid or minimize eating vegetables that have a naturally high sugar content, such as beets, carrots, and squash. Over time, however, as your health improves and your sugar problems stabilize, these vegetables can be added back to your diet and eaten in moderation.

Cold-pressed Oils
Cold-pressed oils are oils that are prepared without using heat or chemicals when they are extracted from their food sources (borage, flax seed, grape seed, hemp seed, etc.) Commercial methods of oils extraction not only destroy at least part of the oils' nutrient supply, they also cause the oils to breakdown during processing, making them harder for your body is digest and metabolize. Cold-pressed oils are an important source of essential fatty acids (EFAs).

EFAs are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats that are converted by the body into hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins, which regulate the body's inflammatory response, and nourish body fats used to strengthen cell walls and provide cell.ular energy. EFAs also play an important role in strengthening the immune system. The EFAs contained in cold-pressed oils also help to bind and eliminate acids in the body. Good sources of cold-pressed oils include borage, canola, evening primrose, flax, grape seed, and olive oil. Of these, only canola and olive oil should be used for cooking. The other oils can be added to foods after they have been prepared.

Sprouts
Sprouts are a special class of food produced from the germination of beans, grains and seeds. The germination process requires no soil, only water and cool room temperatures. In the sprouting process, even foods that in their normal state are acidifying, such as beans and grains, become alkalizing due to what happens to them as they are sprouted. For example, proteins, fats, and starches are transformed into more easily digestible and assimilated amino acids, fatty acids, and vegetable sugars. In addition, sprouting also increases the amounts of certain nutrients sprouted foods contain, especially the B vitamins, which can increase from 50 to over 1,000% after beans, grains, and seeds are sprouted. Sprouts are also energy-rich foods that are high in enzymes, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients.

Though sprouts are widely available in most health food stores and supermarkets across the country, it is recommended that you learn how to make your own sprouted foods. It is easy to learn how to do so. By growing your own sprouted foods, you can be assured of their freshness, and have a constant supply of nutrient rich, highly alkalizing foods ready available to you in your own kitchen.

Fruits
Though fruits are rich in essential nutrients, enzymes, and fiber, they are also abundant in natural sugars. This makes most fruits slightly acidifying when they are eaten. Most people should eat fruits sparingly.

The exceptions to this rule are bananas, grapefruit, lemons, limes, avocados, and tomatoes. (Though avocados and tomatoes are often considered to be vegetables, in actuality they are fruits. They are most alkalizing when eaten raw.) Bananas are naturally alkaline, whereas grapefruit, lemons and limes are acidic in nature. However, during the digestive process, as grapefruit, lemons, and limes are metabolized, they produce a highly alkalizing effect. All three of these fruits are also naturally rich in oxygen, further aiding their alkalizing abilities. As an easy and effective aid in helping your body maintain proper acid-alkaline balance, begin each day with a glass of purified water combined with the fresh squeezed lemon juice. Or, if you prefer, you can substitute lime. (Make sure you use organic fruits whenever possible.) This serves as an excellent tonic to get your morning started, and is highly alkalizing. Wait 20 to 30 minutes before you eat anything, to gain the full benefits.

Dried fruits, including dates, also produce an alkalizing effect in the body. This occurs because their acid content is oxidized during the drying process. To get the most benefits from eating dried fruit, be sure to select are free of sulfur, which is often used as a preservative in commercial brands. Since dried fruits also have a high natural sugar content, they should be eaten sparingly.

Nuts
The only alkalizing nuts are almonds and Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts are also a rich source of the trace mineral selenium, which is often lacking in the standard American diet, and which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Almond milk, made by combining purified water with almond paste, is an excellent alternative to dairy and soymilk because of its alkalizing effects.

Herbs, Spices and Salts
Herbs and spices have been used for centuries for their health-promoting properties. Most herbs and spices have an alkalizing effect on the body, as well. This includes herbal teas. Certain herbs, such as cayenne pepper, cinnamon, garlic, oregano, and sage, also function as spices that can add flavor to your meals. Unlike processed table salt, which should be avoided due to its acidifying effects, unprocessed sea salt and Celtic salt can also be used to spice up your meals. Both forms of these salts are alkalizing and are also rich in iodine, which is essential for healthy thyroid function.

By creating meals in which 60 to 80 percent of their portions are comprised of the foods from the above food groups, you will soon start to observe that your pH levels are shifting towards a more alkaline state, and over time you should also begin to notice positive changes in your overall health.

Read more feature articles...

All material © 2010 WellnessWatchersMD. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of WellnessWatchersMD's terms of use and privacy policy. The information provided in this Web site is intended for your general knowledge only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Please see your personal physician immediately if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness regimen.