The body’s pH balance is determined by the levels of acids and bases in the blood.
Our bodies should be able to maintain their levels of acidity and alkalinity naturally by way of the function of the lungs and kidneys. A normal blood pH should be at around 7.4 on a scale of 1 to 14. 0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline.
Malfunctions in the lungs or kidneys can influence this balance and could result in medical conditions such as acidosis or alkalosis should the imbalance be severe. In such cases, dietary adjustments will not be effective, medical treatment is vital.
The lungs control the pH levels by releasing carbon dioxide, which is slightly acidic, into the bloodstream. Our cells also release carbon dioxide as they use up oxygen. When we exhale, we expel the carbon dioxide, thereby regulating the pH balance and reducing acidity. The quality and depth of our breathing plays an important role here.
The kidneys assist in the maintenance of the body’s pH by excreting the acids and bases into the bloodstream.
In nutrition, acidic foods are those that have an acidic effect on the body.
Foods either leave what’s referred to as an acidic or alkaline ash. Ash is the term used to describe the non-combustible elements left over when our body burns up the food we eat. It is important to have a good balance between acidic and alkaline foods to maintain healthy pH levels.
Too much acidity in the body can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, drowsiness, confusion, headaches and shortness of breath, whereas alkalosis can cause nausea, numbness, hand tremors, muscle twitching and spasms.
An Acidic state leads to inflammation in the body.
While inflammation is a natural protection response, it’s not ideal to live in a continually inflamed state as this leads to chronic disease.
Ideally, we should aim to have an 80/20 balance in our diet with 80% of our foods being alkaline and 20% of our foods being acidic.
These foods are highly acidic and can result in inflammation:
- Coffee, tea and hot chocolate
- Wheat and grains
- Beef, pork and chicken
The following foods are considered alkaline and can reduce inflammation:
- Fruits: Apricots, apples, bananas and avocados
- Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli and carrots
- Gluten free grains: Brown rice and quinoa
- Leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach and kale
Food combinations are important. Ideally the ratio should be 4:1. So that equals 4 portions of alkaline foods to every 1 portion of acidic food.
The average person consumes a much higher ratio of acidic foods than they do alkaline foods, with many people consuming 20 to 30 times more acidic foods than alkaline foods! A more alkaline diet improves inflammation, keeps your blood sugar levels more balanced and is likely to help you maintain your optimal body weight.
When combining foods, the following are better options to maintain a good acid alkaline balance:
- Combine acidic fruits with sub acidic fruits eg. Oranges with apples as opposed to oranges with bananas. (a traditional fruit salad isn’t the best when considering food combo’s)
- Combine proteins with veggies, rather than with carbs or fats
Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 3 December to learn more.
Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am