The road to good health and well-being is paved with wise decisions, and some of those involve the foods we eat. One trend that is currently getting a lot of press is the notion that we can enhance health by balancing the amounts of acid and alkaline in the daily diet.
It has been proposed that the American diet is out of balance, containing too many foods that are highly acidic and not enough that are highly alkaline. While experts don’t always agree, some research suggests possible health benefits to a low acid diet. One study published in The Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology has found that limiting dietary acid can ease coughing and hoarseness in reflux patients who are resistant to drug treatment.
The study examined 20 individuals with reflux symptoms who were not experiencing improvement with medication. The subjects were put on a low acid diet for a period of two weeks in which all foods and beverages with a pH lower than five were eliminated. After the two week period, 19 of 20 subjects showed improvement, and three subjects were totally without symptoms.
A few experts have suggested that a diet low in acid-producing proteins and high in alkaline fruits and vegetables could lead to stronger bones than the typical American diet which is often high in meats and dairy products.
This much-debated theory was first fully proposed by two American doctors in 1968 in the medical journal, The Lancet. It suggests that calcium compounds which normalize the acid-base balance in the bloodstream are stored in the bones. When the blood becomes too acidic, these compounds are leached from bones in order to lower acidity levels.
A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism looked at 171 healthy men and women who were 50 years of age and older. The subjects were either given daily bicarbonate in an amount equal to nine servings of fruits and vegetables or no bicarbonate. Those who received bicarbonate had a much lower loss of calcium through the urine and a lower loss of N-telopeptide than those who did not receive bicarbonate. N-telopeptide is a biological marker of bone deterioration.
The research concluded that increasing alkaline in the diet through consumption of fruits and vegetables should be considered a safe and inexpensive way to possibly improve bone health and prevent osteoporosis in aging Americans.
A low acid diet typically contains certain fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables, root vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Meats, dairy products and grains (especially white grains) are limited, and sugar, alcohol and caffeine are not recommended. Experts also caution consumption of frozen, canned, processed and bottled foods which are highly acidic due to federal rules requiring acids for preservation. Sadly, an increase in consumption of these foods parallels a massive rise in rates of esophageal cancer due to prolonged acid reflux.
Three easy ways in which Americans can bring a healthier acid/alkaline balance to the diet are:
- Lower the amounts and serving sizes of acidic foods in the diet
- Increase the amount of leafy greens consumed (especially collard or mustard greens, Swiss chard, endive and kale) and fresh fruits like figs, apples, grapes and bananas
- Eat organic foods including meats – this lowers the number of toxins consumed, increasing both nutrients and alkaline balance
Are you eating a highly acidic diet? What changes can you make to get a more alkaline balance?