Alkalizing diets have been all the rage recently. The popular adoption of plant-based diets has great leverage in their high levels of alkaline foods. Though our body’s pH balance is crucial to staying optimally healthy, eating alkaline foods is not the cure-all for regulating blood pH. While sparing you the scientific confusion, I will explain the alkaline/acid balance in the simplest means possible.
First and foremost, there is a difference in urine pH and blood pH. The pH of our blood is what we want to have balance in, striving for a pH of 7.4, which the body will do naturally when free of pathological conditions. Most experiments and studies use urine based test strips to determine the pH. However, much more extensive tests have to be done in order to determine your actual blood’s pH. Eating an alkaline meal such as a salad or green smoothie will increase the alkalinity in your urine; however, urine pH is not an affective marker of your overall blood pH.
What Affects Blood pH?
The kidneys are what determine the pH of our blood. Keeping our kidneys healthy involves numerous factors aside from what we eat. You may have heard somewhere that animal foods, which leave an acidic residue in the body, are damaging to the kidneys and therefore must affect the pH of the blood. I want to clear a bit of confusion here before moving on.
If the kidneys are what governs our blood’s pH, are acidic foods harder on the kidneys and therefore should be removed for optimal function?
The kidneys are well-equipped to digest “acid residues” from acidic foods. Whether these foods are from alkaline proteins such as hemp, broccoli, and quinoa or acidic proteins like meat, eggs, or even buckwheat, the kidneys will process them the same. Therefore, it is not about removing acidic proteins, which can have numerous benefits, from the diet. For example, though acidic in nature, eggs are one of the most reliable sources of fat soluble vitamins A, E, and D. Removing something from the diet simply because they are acidic in nature would be silly and in the long-run potentially cause other health related issues. In the five steps below, I will include a proper dietary approach to maintaining optimal pH as well as four other surprising methods to keeping a healthful and properly alkaline body.
3 Techniques for Alkalizing the Body
1. Optimize Digestion Though the selection of our foods is important, what is even more important is how digesting those foods affects our body’s pH. Overeating alkaline food can overburden the kidneys and just as easily, if not more affectively, create an acidic condition in your body. As you learned previously here, it is not your goal to eat alkaline to become alkaline. The key is digestion. You need proteins, and whether you choose an alkaline or acid based protein, your goal is to digest that protein, not just stuff it into your mouth!
Undigested food of any pH will cause an acidic condition in your body because your kidneys will have to work over-time in filtering the undigested waste. Undigested food can also lead to pathogenic and bacterial overgrowths that are essentially what lead to acidic conditions.
To optimize your digestion, try consuming fermented foods like raw sauerkraut with your meals, especially protein meals. Taking herbal digestive bitters or a shot of ginger juice after a meal can help to stimulate stomach acid, improving optimal protein digestion. Eating only when you have truly worked up an appetite, eating smaller portions of proteins with a larger serving of vegetables, or taking supplemental HCL (stomach acid) can all help maintain ideal kidney health and therefore ideal blood pH.
2. Breathe Deeply The means to perfect health are nearly unlimited and yet one of the most simplest means to maintain perfect health is absolutely free! When you breathe deeply you not only work to alkalize your body directly by increasing oxygen intake, relieving stress, and cleansing your body of toxins, you also work indirectly to alkalize your body by improving digestion!
Breathing deeply is one of the most effective ways to alkalize your body. Breathing too rapidly can cause an imbalanced pH condition by stimulating the nervous system to release too many stress hormones, causing an overactive stress response. On the other hand, shallow breaths can also cause an imbalance by leaving the body oxygen deprived and leaving excessive amounts of carbon dioxide in the blood, leading to an overly acidic state.
Therefore, deep diaphragmatic breathing is the medicine to a healthy pH balance. Taking full breaths that fill the belly have been shown to increase oxygen intake which cleanses the body on a cellular level, improving digestion by lowering stress hormones. Simply practice deep, full breathes that fill the lower part of your lungs (this will feel and look like your belly filling up with air). Count to four slowly as you inhale, pause for four, and exhale for a count of four. Just a few minutes of this each morning, night, during a workout, or anywhere you can remember will work to keep the body in its slightly alkaline state!
3. Get your Beauty Sleep Getting enough rest does magic for your health. The list of benefits range from improved skin, better digestion, mental clarity, a balanced hormonal system, and of course to a more alkaline body. Lacking quality sleep can lead to blood sugar imbalances which can contribute to mental and hormonal imbalances that lead to cravings for overly acidic foods such as refined sugar and carbohydrates.
Getting quality sleep will keep you from destructive habits that usually lead to overly acidic conditions. Indeed, sleeping according to circadian rhythm will promote natural cleansing of acidic waste accumulated from stress, diet, and environment. Additionally, high quality sleep will promote a healthy pH by improving your stress response.
Your adrenals and thyroid play a major role in how your body responds to stress. When you skimp on sleep you overwork these glands and make it more difficult for the body to remain calm. Excessive secretion of stress hormones by the adrenals and thyroid will create an acidic condition in the body and counter-productively weaken your digestive system.
As you can see, sleep is the corner stone to holding together the key components to maintain a healthy and slightly alkaline body. The best way to promote healthful sleep is to sleep according to a circadian rhythm. That means sleeping before 10:30 pm (or when the sun is completely set) and rising when feeling fully rested (typically after 8.5 hours). The important factor is that you not force yourself out of bed before it’s been fully rested.
Additionally, not eating or working out too close to bed time will provide your body with the energy it needs to sleep soundly. That’s right, you actually need energy to have a good night’s sleep, so staying stress-free as possible with breathing exercises throughout the day is important to a sound sleep. Also, try “blacking out” your room by making it dark as possible. This will promote melatonin production.
The take home message here is that food is not the most effective way to alkalize the body and that there are simple and free ways to keep the body alkaline and healthy. By implementing these three simply strategies into your lifestyle you will reap even more benefits of your healthy diet!Breathe Photo Credit: Mae Chevrette via Compfight cc
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