(The following is an excerpt from Matt’s book 365 Days of Wholeness – Understanding the Conditions Your Body needs to Thrive on a Daily Basis)
Your body did a bloody good job turning you from a microscopic cell into the highly intelligent, amazing person you are! On a daily basis, your cells perform incomprehensibly sophisticated, brilliant, and intricate tasks, and they are the reasons you are breathing and reading this right now. Not only that, but your cells perform those tasks without you consciously thinking about it. How incredible! The alkaline balance is all about respecting what our cells do and giving them as much help as we can.
It is recommended by most holistic doctors and nutritionists that a long-term diet should consist of 70%-80% alkaline-forming foods and 20%-30% acid-forming foods. Don’t be put off by the word diet; that just means the foods we consume every day. The long-term recommended diet means increasing fruits and vegetables in your foods, and eliminating processed foods and junk food. Sound scary? It’s a very simple concept, so why is it so difficult for most people to do? We believe it is because many people don’t really understand the long-term health effects that eating an acid-forming diet can have and don’t fully understand how good they will feel by following an alkaline diet. The fact that soft-drink, processed-food, and junk-food manufacturers are still in business proves that we don’t quite get it.
Alkalising is sort of a buzzword at the moment. The reason we say “sort of” is because it still has plenty of momentum to gain before people are fully aware of its existence. Alkalising is not just a diet fad, or a Lose 6 Kilograms in a Week! program; it is a lifestyle choice that is designed to set up a lifetime of great health.
Nor is alkalising a new concept. The great natural hygienist Herbert M Shelton, ND (1895-1985), advocated the importance of the acid-alkaline balance beginning in the early to mid1900s. Dr Theodore A. Baroody wrote his masterpiece Alkalize or Die: Superior Health Through Proper Alkaline-Acid Balance back in 1991. The University of Natural Health, where we study, offers accredited degrees that focus on the teachings of an alkaline diet and way of living, and its effect on health and exercise performance.
For some reason, despite scientific support, the importance of an alkaline diet and lifestyle has never really taken off, is not respected or talked about by most mainstream dieticians and doctors, and is considered an “alternative” way of thinking. Personally, we believe the world is crying out for an alternative way of thinking. Highly intelligent, inspiring, and passionate doctors and natural physicians have attempted to tell the world about alkalising over the last century through their books and clinics, and only a few have listened.
That seems to be changing.
One reason is because of the amazing health benefits the alkaline lifestyle has to offer!
Another reason is because the celebrities of the world generally set the trends, and you may have already heard Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Wahlberg, Miranda Kerr, Jennifer Aniston, Kelly Slater, and many more recommending that everyone go on an alkaline diet. These celebrities have hired the best people to find them the most accurate and current information on how to look great on the movie and television screens, so it’s no surprise they have come across alkalising. Anthony Robbins is another celebrity who has been raving on about alkalising for years!
If you are one of those people who has heard of it, but hasn’t had the slightest clue what it is all about, or, if this is the first time you are reading about it, then, hopefully, we can clear it up for you.
Even though the alkaline diet is based around chemistry, it is very easy to understand. Basically, the human body is born knowing it is going to have to deal with a certain amount of acids throughout its lifetime and that the acids are unavoidable. The problem is that the body is designed to deal with the level of acids that used to be present in the world. All of a sudden, mainly in the last fifty years, our bodies have been pummelled with a huge load of acids. The Modern Western Diet is a major culprit, as it consists of many highly acidic foods such as meat, dairy, pastas, breads, grains, processed foods, junk food, alcohol, drugs/medication, and soft drinks. Polluted air can cause acids, as can high levels of exercise, stress, and water that have chemicals added to them.
These foods used to make up about 80% of Tegan and Matt’s diet, and it was no wonder our health was declining at a rapid rate. It was the same story for our close friends and family.
THE PH SCALE
Alkalising is based on the chemistry pH scale that ranges from 0-14, with 0 being extreme acid, 7 being neutral, and 14 being extreme alkaline.
We are born with a blood pH of 7.35-7.45, which is slightly alkaline, and the body wants to maintain this balance at all times for optimum health. Other fluids of the body, such as our interstitial fluid, a colourless fluid that bathes every cell, and our spinal fluid, are also slightly alkaline.
A good analogy is to think of your blood like the water in a pool. If you have a pool, then you know that, if the water is acidic, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, will turn green with algae, and is not a safe place to swim. This is because bacteria tend to thrive in acidic environments but struggle when the environment is alkaline. If your pool is too acidic, then you can add chemicals to bring it back to a more balanced alkaline level so it is a safe place to swim in. Human blood is essentially the same, except, instead of chemicals; it is food and lifestyle factors that determine our alkaline balance. Despite a high intake of acid-forming foods, the bloodstream will still maintain its 7.35-7.45 pH balance.
This is where some people get confused. The blood pH does not actually change; however, it is what the body has to do to maintain this balance that can create all of the problems. If there aren’t enough alkaline-forming foods in the diet, then the body will steal from its own reserves of alkaline minerals, such as calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium within the bones and body tissue, to counterbalance this and keep the blood’s pH stable. Why is the stability important? If the blood becomes too acidic, then it will instantly damage many of the major organs it is flowing through, including the brain. Unfortunately, this can leave the tissues, fluid, joints, and bones of the body in acidic conditions, with the result that they become a potential breeding ground for disease, illness, inflammation, and bone, teeth, and muscle decay.
This also affects the body on a cellular level. In the book The Calcium Factor: The Scientific Secret of Health and Youth, pages 66-67, the authors Robert R. Barefoot and Carl M. Reich say that, “At a pH slightly above 7.4 cancer cells become dormant and at pH 8.5 cancer cells will die while healthy cells will live.” Some short-term symptoms of acidosis are tiredness, headaches, weight gain, bad breath, sleep problems, inflammation, sickness, and many more. Does this sound familiar to you? Here are some of the potential long-term symptoms of acidosis:
- Kidney stones
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic fatigue
- Immune deficiency
- Hormonal imbalances
- Premature ageing.
- Obesity: as a defence mechanism, your body may actually create new fat cells to protect you from your overly acidic and toxic self. Those fat cells and cellulite deposits may actually be packing up acids and toxins and trying to keep those a safe distance from your organs.
- Cancer: many have theorised that acidic cells cause cancer.
Unfortunately, millions worldwide suffer these problems on a daily basis, and, as we have written about earlier, they believe that those problems are just normal parts of living. These symptoms are often treated with pharmaceutical drugs, which are also highly acidic, potentially aggravating the problem. Many people believe that a lifetime of acid overload is responsible for the rapid decay of our skeletons as we age, and that if alkaline based diets were consumed, along with exercise, we wouldn’t decay to such a level that is now common in the elderly.
Milk is one drink that is supposed to be great for our bones and supply us with calcium. However, it is suggested that milk is so acidic that it actually leaches calcium from our bones to neutralise its high sulphur content. High dairy intake, among other greatly consumed acidic foods, could be a reason why developed countries such as the US, England, and Sweden have the highest rates of osteoporosis.
Here is an extract taken from John Robbins’ book Diet for a New America22: “I used to believe that bones lost calcium only if there was not enough calcium in our diets. The National Dairy Council is the foremost spokesman for this point of view, and the solution they propose, not all that surprisingly, is for us all to drink more milk and eat more dairy products. In fact, the dairy industry has of late spent a great deal of money promoting this point of view; and it does seem logical. But modern nutritional research clearly indicates a major flaw in this perspective. Osteoporosis is, in fact, a disease caused by a number of things, the most important of which is excess dietary animal protein!”
Here is an extract from an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition about a study done on acid levels in the modern diet: “Western diets are also high in protein, especially animal protein. The international epidemiologic data show an association between protein consumption and osteoporotic fractures… The aciduria caused by such diets promotes urinary calcium loss. There are now considerable data indicating that high intakes of fruit and vegetables protect against fractures… Sebastian et al … reported that potassium supplements alone improve mineral balance, increase bone formation, and might explain the effect of diets high in fruit and vegetables.”
Every cell and enzyme in the body function optimally within a certain pH range, so by maintaining a proper acid/alkaline balance throughout the body, you can allow it work properly on a cellular level. Here are just a few benefits of being alkaline:
- Improved focus and mental clarity
- Improved heart and cardiovascular function
- Strengthened muscle, bones, and joints
- Strengthened immune system (bacteria and disease thrive in an acidic environment)
- Improved digestion
- More balanced moods
- More natural body weight
- Increased energy levels
These sound pretty good, don’t they? Alkalising yourself might be the best thing you have ever done! Once people implement a more alkaline diet and lifestyle, they are always blown away by how much energy they have, how clear their mental faculties become, how easy it is to lose weight, how their cravings disappear, how their skin clears up, how their moods and hormone levels balance out, and how they become more peaceful, in control, and balanced in any situation, no matter how stressful. Basically, they discover how good their bodies are designed to feel!
Acid and Alkaline Forming Foods
What makes a food alkaline or acidic?
The minerals the foods contain determine whether it is alkaline or acidic. Do they contain acid-based or alkaline-based minerals? Acid-based minerals are sulphur, silicon, phosphorus, iodine, copper, chlorine, and bromine. Alkaline-based minerals are calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, nickel, iron, and boron, to name a few.
To keep it really simple, generally speaking, all fruits and vegetables contain highly alkalising minerals. Many people mistake acid/citrus fruits as being acidic to the body. Once digested, however, the minerals these acid fruits contain do not have an acidic effect on the body.
The following chart demonstrates different food groups and where they sit on the pH scale (Note – this chart represents what pH effect these foods have on the body after digestion).
An important thing to realise is that an alkaline diet is not about eliminating all acid-forming foods from your diet. Some acid-forming foods can provide essential nutrients. It is about providing the body with a balance of enough alkaline-forming foods so that its inbuilt detox system works efficiently, does not become overloaded, and keeps you healthy on a cellular level. People might think this sounds easy, but acidic foods can slip into your diet very quickly without your conscious realisation.
Let’s look at the diet of someone with whom we have consulted, which would be considered a healthy diet by most:
MORNING – Eggs on toast or cereal with milk, and coffee
LUNCH – Tuna-salad sandwich or chicken wrap
SNACK – Muesli bar, low-fat muffin, or fruit
DINNER – Pasta with meat sauce and some veggies added, or meat with veggies, or stir-fry
POSSIBLE EXTRAS – Coffee, soft drink, chocolate, biscuits, ice cream, pastries
Many people would think this is a healthy day of eating, as long as they don’t overdo it on the extra sweets and pastries, and many dieticians and nutritionists would recommend a diet plan similar to this. It is low fat, which is great, so it is likely you will stay lean. But this is not what matters overall; what matters is how you feel, and how you are going to look when you are seventy years old. Acid damage is a slow process, and the wear and tear on the bones, skin, muscles, and health may not be seen for many, many years—but one thing is for certain—it will come. Generally, the acid load from food is not learnt about in universities and medical institutions and therefore is not even considered by most dieticians and doctors. The diet above consists of about 80%-90% acid-forming foods, 60%-70% above what is recommended.
So how can we change this diet so that it has 70%-80% alkaline forming foods? It’s not as hard as you might think.
The morning is the most important time to alkalise. Your body has spent all night eliminating toxins and waste and repairing itself. This is one reason why your urine is so dark and acidic in the morning. Your body has likely depleted its alkaline supplies and is in desperate search for replenishment. Instead of eggs on toast, or cereal with milk, which are all highly acid forming, a great way to start off the morning is with a green smoothie, which is extremely alkalising and an easy way to get nutrients into the bloodstream without extra digestive stress.
Our favourite green smoothie recipe is 1-3 bananas, 1-3 dates, water or coconut water to cover the fruits and vegetables, 1 handful of kale and spinach, 1-2 sticks of celery, and ½ to 1 whole cucumber, 1 handful of ice, then blend and enjoy! The amount of fruit used is dependent on your size and activity levels. Or, simply begin your day with a meal of fruit. Or, if you don’t want to ditch your cereal, then use almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
Drinking water with lemon added every morning, before you eat or do anything, is a very good routine to get into. We know that lemon has an alkalising effect because of its high alkaline mineral content and low sugar content, so it’s a refreshing way to wake up!
Have some fruit before lunch and dinner, and make sure your salad/vegetable ratio is 50%-60% higher than your meat/ bread/grain content.
Try to limit or avoid extremely acidic foods such as sweets, alcohol, and soft drinks. To neutralise one glass of cola with a pH of 2.5, you need to drink 32 glasses of alkaline water with a pH of 10! So why put your body through all that?
Many people consume two to three or more soft drinks a day, along with cigarettes, alcohol, and junk food, as if it is no big deal. Maybe they think they are immortal? Or maybe they are looking forward to being fragile and decrepit when they are sixty years old? Instead of soft drinks, just drink some coconut water, or freshly squeezed fruit juice. Instead of strawberry ice cream, have some strawberries! Instead of banana-flavoured milk, blend some bananas with water, and add some dates for extra sweetness. If you’re craving something fatty, then instead of a Big Mac, have some avocado or raw nuts Instead of eating lollies that mimic the flavours of fruits, just eat fruit! Your taste buds will change, and, soon, fruit will be so delicious and sweet, and lollies will seem sickly sweet.
If you are going to cheat and have some junk food, then enjoy the hell out of it—we are all for that! Just know that your body is going to have to work overtime to neutralize the acid of your little treat, so give it some help afterward.
You can test your pH balance with a simple litmus paper test that can be purchased online or at most health stores. All you do is moisten the litmus paper with saliva or urine and then compare the colour with the colour-coded chart that comes with the test. The chart will measure the pH of saliva, urine, sweat, and tears in 5.0 to 8.5 increments. Ideally, the results should measure at least 7.2 or better. The best time to test the urine is in the morning, because the morning urine is an expression of what you ate, what you drank, and how you lived your life during the previous 24 hours. Robert Young, PhD and Shelley Redford Young, authors of The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health, say, “…if you maintain the saliva and the urine pH, ideally at 7.2 or above, you will never get sick. That’s right, you will NEVER get sick! The key is to manage the alkaline design of the body fluids. But most people on the planet have a urine or saliva pH in the six[es] or fives. They don’t manage their pH. People take better care of their aquariums, swimming pools, or spas, than their own internal body fluids.”
Testing your pH regularly will allow you to learn and get a feel for what sort of diet you, as a unique individual, need to consume in order to create an ideal pH range. You will also learn to judge your pH by the colour of your urine and eventually won’t need to test your pH as regularly, or you may not even need to test it at all. Understanding which foods affect your pH the most, and the effects acid-forming foods have on your body from the way you feel to the colour of your urine, will give you the best chance to always be in the alkaline state that your body thrives upon.
When you are one hundred years old and still super fit and going strong, you will look back and be very glad you took care of your body!
Green Warriors Green Smoothie
2-6 ripe bananas
Handful of spinach leaves and Swiss chard, stems trimmed
2 stalks of celery
4-6 dates, pitted
1 to 1.5 litres of chilled water and ice cubes or 100% coconut water
Wash the spinach and Swiss chard. Chop all the ingredients into chunks, and place them in a blender. Always put the bananas and dates at the bottom and the greens toward the top. Add 1 to 1.5 litres of water to the blender, depending on whether you prefer a smooth or thick consistency, and then blend until smooth. Serve and enjoy!
1 Cup of raw almonds, germinated or soaked in water for 8-24 hours
1 Tablespoon raw honey, or 2-3 dates, pitted
4 Cups water
Optional: 1 Teaspoon of alcohol-free vanilla essence or several vanilla bean seeds for extra flavour if desired.
Blend all the ingredients until smooth in a high-power blender. Using a nut milk bag or a pair of tights, pour the mixture into the bag and squeeze out the milk over a large glass bowl to strain the liquid from the pulp. Store the liquid in an airtight glass bottle. It lasts for 3 days in the fridge. Be sure to shake it before using.
Almond milk is a great alternative to regular milk. You can use it as a replacement whenever milk is needed.
Green Goddess Green Juice
1 whole unpeeled cucumber
½ lemon (Leaving the peel on or off is optional. The juice will be more bitter when the peel is left on.)
Handful of spinach leaves
2 whole apples or pears, with the peel and cores intact.
1 stalk of celery
Wash the ingredients and chop them into chunks. Using a juicer, juice all the ingredients. May store in container and chill before drinking. Serve and enjoy!
Banana Blueberry Delight
4-6 ripe bananas, peeled
1 Cup frozen blueberries
4-6 dates, pitted
½ – 1 Cup water
Place the bananas in the blender, add the berries and dates on top, and cover with water. Blend until smooth.
May chill first, if desired. Serve and enjoy!
Tropical Storm Tart
1 young Thai coconut (if you can’t get a Thai coconut, place a can of coconut cream in the fridge until it cools, and you can then easily scoop out the solid part of the cream at the top of the can to use)
1 ripe mango, peeled and seeded
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
Juice from ½ lime
¼ Cup shredded coconut, to sprinkle
1 Cup macadamia nuts
5 organic dates, pitted
1 Tablespoon organic coconut oil
Method: Blend the macadamia nuts, dates, and coconut oil in a food processor until they are a grainy consistency. Press the base mixture into a cheesecake tin and place in the freezer.
Open the young Thai coconut and pour the coconut water into a glass; set aside. Spoon out the coconut and blend in the blender with the mango meat, lime juice, and coconut oil until smooth. Pour the filling into the frozen macadamia nut base and place back into the freezer for 3 hours. Sprinkle the shredded coconut over the top before you serve. Enjoy!
Dietary Addictions: Why eating healthfully is so difficult, by Alan Goldhamer, DC, at http://nutritionstudies.org/dietary-addictions/:
Alkaline-Acid Balance, Dr Theodore A. Baroody, Holographic Health Inc., 1991
The Calcium Factor: The Scientific Secret of Health and Youth, Robert R. Barefoot, Carl M. Reich, MD, Bokar Consultants. 2002
Diet for a New America, John Robbins, HJ Kramer, 2nd ed. 1998
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2001, vol. 74 no. 5 571-573, and
The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health, Shelley Redford Young, Robert O. Young, PhD, Grand Central Life & Style, rev. ed. 2010