Did you know that no matter what you do, your body continually strives for optimal health? It’s true. Your body is on a non-stop mission to remain in balance and maintain a stable internal environment to keep you running smoothly. One of the most important ways your body does this is by maintaining an optimal blood pH. You’ve probably heard this term before but you may not have made the connection as to what it does in your body. Well, today is your lucky day because I am about to give you the scoop!
Potential hydrogen, also known as pH, is the measure of acidity and alkalinity. It runs on a scale from 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very alkaline). The optimal pH in the human body is 7.4. I like to call this the “goldilocks” number. Not too high and not too low….it’s just right! When our pH is above or below our goldilocks position, we may experience symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, body aches and poor digestion. On the other hand, if we are able to maintain an optimal pH, then we can keep our bones and muscles strong, reduce pain and inflammation, improve our heart and brain function, and lower our risk for cancer and type 2 diabetes.
But how does the body maintain an optimal pH? Well, it starts with what we are feeding ourselves. The food we put in our bodies has a profound effect on our pH level. But it’s not just about the food. We must also take into consideration how hard the body has to work in response to what we consume. For example, if you are eating mostly alkaline foods, your body has a pretty easy time maintaining a normal pH. However, if you have a diet high in processed foods and highly acidic foods, your body has to work extra hard to maintain a balanced pH. This can exhaust your reserves and over time can lead to disease.
An alkaline diet consists of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, gluten free grains and plant based protein. Not only are these foods good for you but they are naturally low in calories (except maybe the nuts :). Foods that are highly acidic include dairy, meat, grains, eggs, sugar, coffee, alcohol and processed foods.
Deciding which foods are alkaline and which ones are acidic should be pretty easy, right? Overall I would say yes, but there are a few that may trick you. For example, lemons. You may be thinking they are more acidic because they are tart and sour. Even though they have an acidic taste, they have an alkalizing effect on the body once they are digested. In order to avoid confusion, you may want to check out a chart which lists foods as either alkaline or acidic. I like this one. This website also has downloadable charts that you can keep in your kitchen!
Now I know that not everyone is a vegetarian or vegan. And just because foods are acidic does not mean you can never eat them again. That being said, in my opinion there are a few non-negotiables such as gluten, dairy, sugar and also processed foods. If you are going to eat highly acidic foods such as meat or grains, you may want to double up on the veggies in order to balance out the acidity. Drinking warm water with lemon first thing in the morning is another great way to become more alkaline.
Maintaining a healthy pH is simply about balance. As long as you are taking in lots of whole foods, you are probably doing a pretty good job at maintaining a healthy pH level and maintaining your bodies overall health. If you really want to know for sure, pick up some pH strips (also called litmus paper) at the drugstore and test the pH of your urine. This will tell you instantly if you are alkaline or acidic. Keep in mind that stress as well as some medications can make you more acidic. Guess that means we better triple our veggie intake….just saying 😉
Now that we know which foods to eat, what if we were to take this a step further and apply this concept to other areas of our life like our emotions? One could certainly argue that anger, jealousy, resentment and rage would be considered acidic in nature. If we replace these emotions with love, peace, joy and happiness, we could tip the scale towards a more alkaline environment in the body.
So with that thought in mind, as we strive for the optimal pH, let’s consider not only the food we eat, but also our thoughts, words and actions. Throughout your day, stop and ask yourself “is this acidic or is this alkaline?” If it is bordering on acidic, what can you do to bring yourself back into the goldilocks position? After all, it’s really all about balance.