Is your food making your blood too acidic?

metabolic acidosis While the human body is relatively resilient and able to cope with stressors and imbalances, there comes a point when its survival reserves are exhausted.  In that way, the body is much like the earth.  The earth can handle a lot of destruction and pollution, but at some point it loses its ability to regenerate itself.   For example, the effect of human pollution can be seen in the pH level of the ocean; in the last 100 years it has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 (caused by the increased absorption of CO2).  This slight change can have a drastic effect on marine plant and animal life.

Small changes can have a similar effects in humans.  The body functions optimally with blood at a slightly alkaline pH level of 7.4, which is tightly regulated at a range between 7.35 and 7.45.  When too many acid-producing foods are consumed and not enough alkaline-producing foods, the body has to struggle to stay above 7.35, and a low-grade metabolic acidosis may result.

Acidic or alkaline elements are created when the kidneys process nutrients from food.  When proteins are processed, non-carbonic acids like sulfuric acid are released. Thus, meat, fish, dairy, and grains trigger high amounts of acid release.  When potassium from plants and vegetables is processed, the alkaline molecule, bi-carbonate is formed.  While it isn’t always as simple as meat and dairy causing acidity (for example magnesium and calcium are alkaline) and vegetables and fruits promoting alkalinity, it generally holds true.

So here’s the problem: in the industrialized world, most people’s diets are high in meat, dairy, and grains (wheat, rice, barley) but low in fruits and vegetables.  This type of diet can cause the blood to become more acidic, but, as I mentioned before, the body keeps the blood pH level tightly regulated.   In order to maintain the pH level, guess what it does?  It transfers calcium from the bones (which is alkaline) into the bloodstream, which counteracts the excess acidity resulting from grain and meat consumption.  Over time, this depletion of calcium from the bones may result in decreased bone density, but the jury is still out.

If the body has to constantly compensate for an imbalanced diet, low in potassium from fruits and vegetables, it’s pH level is likely to be less than ideal.  A slightly acidic blood pH level may lead to kidney stones, bone density depletion (though this is an ongoing area of research), and/or an increased susceptibility to disease.

The take away:  Eat a diet rich in potassium.  You don’t need to stop eating meat and dairy from free range animals (these foods are high in magnesium, calcium, essential protein, and other important nutrients) to prevent low-grade acidosis.  Instead, eat fewer grains.  Replace grains with high potassium starches like sweet potatoes, and double up on leafy greens (spinach, chard, beet greens, and kale).

References: “The Alkaline Diet,” “Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate”

Originally posted 2013-05-03 00:08:42.

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