A friend of mine has recently educated me on the importance of drinking alkaline water. While this was something I had never considered, naturally we would assume that drinking acidic water cannot be good. Normal water of course has a pH of 7, as per definition it is neutral. However the water found in our taps has a range between 6 and 8.5. Of course you can do a litmus test at your home to find the pH of your water, but some people prefer to opt for bottled water.
Now bottled water is definitely not my favourite solution to any problem, as it causes a demand for single use plastics which are drowning our oceans.Read more about that here. BUT why is alkaline water now a thing? Is it another scam? Another fad presented for consumers to shell out dollars? Or is there merit behind drinking alkaline water. I wanted to have a closer look.
The first thing that came to mind was acid rain. Acid rain has been a topic of conversation since I was in school in year three, up until last year where I was teaching year tens Chemistry. It becomes one of the fundamental examples of reactions between acid substances (the polluted rain) and alkaline substances (lime stone). What happens when the two come into contact, is of course, the lime stone dissolves. Without doing any research, I started to see that if our bodies are indeed alkaline, consuming large amounts of acid could not have a positive outcome.
Recent research has pointed towards that our current diet has strayed away from the naturally alkaline diet of pre-agricultural societies. The human diet has been continually evolving and has experienced a drastic change in the past 150 years. A switch to more meat, more processed food which all have high acidity levels.
Our Bodies and pH
When we are born, we are born Alkaline. A throwback to high school chemistry reminds us of the pH scale from 1-14. 7 being neutral (water) with higher numbers substances becoming more alkaline and lower numbers more acidic.
Everything in our world has a pH level, including our bodies which are influenced by the food we eat. Our body is designed to maintain a healthy pHof 7.4 in the blood. The human body needs to maintain its own pH to ensure systems function properly. This includes keeping rogue cells from becoming metastatic disease, potential cancerous tumours in multiple organs.
Optimum pH level for body tissues is around 7.2pH. Higher acid levels in tissues have been connected to causing bacteria, yeast, fungus, sparking degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cancer and chronic fatigue. Essentially, increasing acid levels in the body opens up a pathway to a myriad illnesses. So how does our body become acidic?
How does the food effect pH in our bodies?
While certain foods we consume make us feel immediately, other foods have a much slower and longer term effects on our bodies. As kids we learn not to stuff ourselves with candy or binge on cake. When we travel we learn that eating in different countries where unfamiliar bacteria reside can make us feel ill. So when are we meant to learn which of the foods we consume are good or bad for our health long term? What many people do not realise, is that many of the foods consumed on a daily basis are having profoundly negative effects on their body. One day at a time. Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, milk and eggs are all a much slower poison. Now, before I get judged as being biased : Poison in this case referring to a substance that causes injury, illness by chemical means.
Considering meat, dairy and seafood has long been propagated as healthy with valuable protein, calcium and vitamins how can I say it is a poison? Unfortunately the propaganda in modern media and education (which has excluded the fact that these foods have an overabundance of protein, fat, cholesterol) has also failed to mention the amounts of dietary acids found in these foods. It is already known and published by reputable sources that red meats are carcinogens. By the time people become ill with heart disease, cancer, inflamed joints they can be repeat offenders of these foods for many years, with doctors unwilling or unknowing to make connections. There is a whole different argument to why many medical professionals refuse to address the source of the issue (the food) and rather have their customers.. I mean patients, continue buying expensive medications. But that is for another day. (although if you are interested, have a look at why Dc John Mcdougall was kicked out of an Obesity conference here) . I will also not go into further detail about the other toxins found in animal products, as this article focuses on how upsetting the pH balance in our bodies endangers our health.
I do not want to invoke an image that every mouthful of meat is burning up your insides with intense acid, but in the long run it might as well be. Human bodies are only capable of handling a certain amount of sulfur-containing amino acids and dietary acids (both found in animal products). When we take in more than our bodies can use, metabolize, neutralize and eliminate these excesses act as the poison.
Methionine (Type of Acid found in Animal Products)
Sulfur containing amino acids, often noticeable by the sulfur stink associated with rotten eggs, cause everything from bad breath, body odour to much more serious side effects. We metabolize some of these acids into other amino acids named homo-cysteine, which is a known risk factor for heart attack, stroke, arterial diseases, blood clots, dementia and depression. Further metabolization turns the acids into sulfuric acid (which anyone whos taken high school chemistry can remember as one of the most potent acids our teachers would allow us to use) which dissolves bones and causes kidneys to produce calcium-based stones.
Dietary acids, also found in extremely high quantities in animal foods, require our bones to release alkaline materials to neutralize these acids. Materials such as carbonate, citrate and sodium overtime weaken the bones leading to osteoporosis. These scientific terms do seem a little bit confusing, but essentially retaining the healthy pH level causes us to pee materials from our bones into the toilet. (this vivid imagery is courtesy of Dc John Mcgdougall). I repeat, eating large volumes of Acidic Foods causes you to flush the calcium from your bones down the toilet. Does that not seem the exact contrary of what the dairy industry has always taught us? That milk makes our bones stronger? Not that it increases chances of hip fractures (one of the main indicators of osteoporosis) as it weakens the bones. Makes you wonder twice about those Got Milk? campaigns? If Milk was indeed so good for us, why would they have to keep reminding us to buy it?
Other Acid Foods
It is not only these two natural acids found in animal products, there are many more products people consume daily with high acid levels. Including :
- Processed foods
- Carbonated Water
- Artificial Sweeteners
The modern, westernised diet pumps our body with damaging acids every day.
Fruits and vegetables however, are the only foods which have the opposite effect on our body. You might think that citrus fruit, known for its sour taste, would be a source of acidifying our body. While the lemons pH outside of the body is below 7 (acidic) once inside the body and fully metabolised it has an alkalising effect.
Research has shown that acidic body environments also encourages the feeding of fungus, mold, bacteria and viruses.
How Can We Tell If Our Body is Too Acidic?
So What happens if our body is too acidic. Is that something we will experience straight away? Some of the common side effects of a high acid diet, and therefore an acidic body are the following.
- Excess Weight
- Weak Bones (leading to osteoporosis)
- Dental Problems
- Skin Problems
- Muscle Pain
These symptoms are quite broad, but are some of the indicators of a high acid level in the body. Just imagine what extra work the human body has to do to fight the potent acids. No wonder that people feel sluggish in the morning. The accumulation of toxin and acids creates inflammation in joints, and causes the body to have to fight this. These symptoms can always progress to more extreme cases of acidosis which lead to chronic acidosis and eventually forms of disease such as cancer.
What Can We Do To Fix it?
Recommendations by promoters of the alkaline diet to ensure the human body remains an alkaline environment is to eat 80% alkaline foods, and 20% acidic foods. From all the reading I have done, there are no other recommendations on exactly how much acid a person can healthily consume. I think staying away from the products that we already know are bad for us in other regards : foods high in fat, refined sugar and oils. Is a good place to start.
Fortunately, just like many other diet related illnesses (who are we kidding, everything is related to diet. We are what we eat after all) there is an easy fix.
- Drink a lot of water. I would say the recommended 8 glasses a day, but who am I kidding, I do not think I have actually ever managed that much. If you are worried about the acidity of your tap water (because you are not drinking from bottles, right?) just add some lemon into your water. Thats right : Alkalise your water with lemon!
- Eat primarily alkaline foods : most vegetables, fruits, soybeans, tofu, legumes and some nuts and seeds. All those delicious foods that you can eat as much as you want, guilt free.
- Avoid coffee, processed foods, alcohol.
- Avoid Animal Foods.
- Exercise daily helps sweating out toxins, and raises your mood! Have a look at the 5-10 minute exercises I do a day, because I am a lazy human being.
If you did want to find more information about how alkalinity effects lifestyles : there is a myriad of websites dedicated to the Alkaline Diet.
I’m finding it fascinating how there are so many different approaches to diet and lifestyle, how every doctor, dietician has some new miracle solution. We are lucky that in this day and age we have access to the internet and countless information sources. I am loving learning about all the different approaches. This has again opened my eyes to things such as ‘acid reflux’ and how complex our dietary requirements really may be. The more you know, the better you can be informed.