In a world mesmerized by the search for a quick and easy, “magic pill” solution for ill health and disease, we often overlook one of the most fundamental and, quite possibly, easiest ways to ensure health and longevity. If we consume a diet rich in “good” foods and reduce or eliminate “bad” ones (with a little modest exercise sprinkled in between) we can get healthy and eliminate disease. However, big food, the government and popular media have muddied this straightforward philosophy to sway consumers into eating and thinking a certain way. But, underneath all the talk concerning conventional vs. organic, plant-based vs. paleo, raw vs. macrobiotic, lies the fundamental question of what contributes to and what detracts from the optimal biological function of the mind and body.
Although I don’t have any more of a firm answer than those mentioned above, my studies over the past couple of weeks have enlightened me to a largely ignored topic in the optimal diet debate and I would love the opportunity to share what I have found. Bear with me because this is fairly new territory and requires me to work through a few basic ideas in order to fully relate the thought.
That said, lets dust of our 8th grade chem notes and talk acids, bases and pH balance.
First Things First
Electrolytes, when dissolved in water, conduct the electrical currents that ignite the muscular and neurological activity essential for life. If the electrolyte balance in our body is out of whack, impulse transmission and cellular function is stunted and we become increasingly susceptible to ill health and diseases. In order to prevent ill health we must eliminate any imbalance and maintain a lifestyle that promotes a beneficial cellular environment for biological function.
The best way for us to establish this ideal cellular environment is to maintain the appropriate pH balance by eliminating excess acidity and promoting blood alkalinity.
The pH (potential of hydrogen) scale ranges from 0 (highly acidic) to 14 (highly basic) and measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in our system. Hydrogen ions contribute to acidic buildup in the body and as we move closer to 0 on the pH scale, their concentration increases. Conversely, the closer we get to 14 on the pH scale, the lower the concentration of hydrogen ions in our blood and the more basic (alkaline) the environment.
Acids (electrolytes) and acid forming substances contribute hydrogen ions when dissociated in water (the primary component in blood), which increases blood acidity and moves it closer towards 0 on the pH scale.
Bases (also electrolytes) and alkaline forming substances contribute hydroxyl ions when dissociated, which seek out excess hydrogen ions to reduce blood acidity and move us closer to 14 on the pH scale.
Our blood and tissue should maintain a neutral (7 on the pH scale) or slightly alkaline balance to facilitate all the essential biological processes that ensure optimum health. This can be accomplished by increasing alkaline forming foods to help offset some of the acidic demands we place on the body.
Our external environment and the lifestyle we have come to embrace encourage a highly acidic and detrimental pH balance in the body. Everything from stress and pollution to diet and pharmaceuticals contribute to the harm we are inflicting upon our bodies and increasing the acidic load our organs must manage.
If left unattended, the harm of an overly acidic body can manifest in a number of ways including headaches, fatigue, and indigestion, which can eventually lead to chronic conditions like asthma, cancer and arthritis.
This probably comes as no surprise, but dietary modification is the easiest way to reduce the acidic load we place on our bodies and contribute to the ideal electrolyte balance that ensures the physiological wellbeing essential for health. A couple ways to accomplish this include:
- Maintaining a vegetable rich diet (all of which have a pH greater than 7). Preferably raw and organic to provide a rich source of beneficial nutrients, enzymes and loads of fiber.
- Integrating millet and buckwheat into your dietary regimen, as these complex carbohydrates do not contribute to the acidity like rice, oats and other processed grains.
- Enjoying sprouted beans and seeds liberally and sprinkle a handful of presoaked almonds on top for good measure.
- Last, but certainly not least, reducing or completely eliminating processed foods. Especially those that contain preservatives, artificial sweeteners or color enhancers.
Adding just a little more weight to the argument, it has been found that an overly acidic body contributes to the growth of intestinal yeast and fungus, interferes with the proper metabolism of fat and sugar (increased fat storage), and impairs digestive function. I don’t know about y’all, but harboring fungus, fat and feces in my body is not high on my priorities list.
I hope I was able to relate that information well enough and it encourages honest reflection on what each of us can do to provide the best cellular environment for our body.