For decades natural health practitioners have recommended a diet that ‘alkalises’ the blood stream. Basically the premise is that many diseases including cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and others are influenced by dietary acid-alkaline balance. For example, in osteoporosis may be the result of a chronic intake of acid-forming foods consistently outweighing the intake of alkaline foods leading to the bone being constantly forced to give up their alkaline minerals (calcium and magnesium) in order to buffer the excess acid.
Our body likes to be in a state of steady balance also known as homoeostasis. Preferring blood pressure to be within a certain safe range, same goes for blood sugar levels, hormone levels, temperature and pH levels. pH is a measure of acid/base (alkali). Different parts of the body, need to have differing pH, for instance blood needs to hover around a pH of 7.4 (slightly alkaline) whereas stomach acid should be a corrosive 2-3, in order to kill bacteria.
Establishing pH balance
In regards to proper pH balance, the dietary goal is quite simple – make sure that you have a higher intake of alkaline producing foods than acid producing foods. Basically, an alkaline diet is one rich in vegetables and fruit while avoiding over consumption of processed sugar, grains, meat and dairy. A source of confusion is that there is a difference between between acidic foods and acid-forming foods. For example, while foods like lemons and citrus fruits may TASTE acidic they actually have an alkalizing effect on the body. What determines the pH nature of the food in the body is the metabolic end products when it is digested, and the minerals absorbed into the bloodstream. For example, the citric acid in citrus fruit is metabolized in the body to its alkaline form (citrate) and may even be converted to bicarbonate – also alkaline. It’s important to remember that like everything in life … it’s about balance. We need to eat some acid forming foods too.
The PRAL (Potential Renal Acid Load) scale calculates how acid or alkaline a food is. The lower the number, the more alkaline, the higher the number, the more acidic.
Foods that are alkaline forming include: all vegetables especially spinach, all herbs especially parsley and basil, all fruit especially dried fruit such as figs, raisins, soy beans and tofu
Foods that are acid forming include: All grains (wheat, rice, oats), cheese (parmesan and cheddar more acid forming than cottage and ricotta), peanuts, prawns, meat, chicken,