Everywhere you look online, health “gurus” are warning us about the acid/alkaline balance — telling us to eat more fruits and vegetables to remain “alkaline”. They say that living in an “acidic” condition makes us prone to diseases and by alkalizing your body, you can prevent or reverse disease.
Some experts even go so far as to tell people to avoid all foods that contribute to acidity, such as animal products, and instead encourage a vegan diet, juicing, or fruitarian diet (where all you eat is fruit). It’s important to get to the bottom of this idea so that you can integrate elements that are helpful and not stress over those that are simply not true — and certainly not limit your diet unnecessarily.
Myth versus fact
The truth is that the acid/alkaline balance in the body is a real phenomenon. Yes, it is possible to become too acidic. In the medical community this is called Metabolic Acidosis and can occur when your body:
Makes too much acid (due to stress or a poor cortisol response, over-exercise, poor diet, dehydration and mineral loss, ketone build-up, genetic problems)
Can’t effectively remove enough acid (due to methylation problems, kidney problems, lack of bicarbonate, etc)
In reality, anyone who is suffering from a chronic health condition is going to veer in and out of states of being too acidic. So while you may not have a life-threatening acidic condition, you should still think about ways to become more alkaline. However, instead of suggesting clients eliminate complete food groups, I prefer to make some very strategic dietary and lifestyle changes to restore the acid/alkaline balance more gently.
8 ways to restore the acid/alkaline balance:
Juicing. You need minerals to restore you to a more alkaline state. Making fresh-pressed juices daily is the quickest way to do this. Celery and cucumber juices are especially alkalizing, but I also like to suggest carrot, romaine, jicama, beet, fennel, pear and apple. Really, the sky is the limit but be sure to avoid goitrogenic (thyroid-suppressing) greens such as kale if you have a thyroid condition. If you don’t like the taste of fresh juice, use it as a base in a fruit smoothie to mask the flavor.
Reduce your protein intake. You don’t need to completely eliminate meat, eggs, or dairy unless you are in a terribly acidic state based on labs. Begin to eat large portions of raw vegetables daily and instead have smaller portions of dairy, eggs, or meats.
Limit grains. Grains are also acidifying and if you are in a very acidic state, even healthy gluten-free grains can make it worse. Relying mostly on fruits and vegetables to make up the bulk of your diet is best, then add in some healthy beans, legumes, grains, and animal products as needed to meet your daily calorie needs.
Use supplements to alkalize.
Mineral complex. This should include magnesium and potassium, in addition to other minerals. I find the citrate or bicarbonate forms of minerals works best.
Chlorophyll. An alfalfa-based supplement or parsley works well. I prefer these to other “greens” supplements because they are not goitrogens (thyroid-suppressing foods).
Yucca shigidera. This helps mitigate the toxic byproduct that is produced upon eating animal products. You can take this with each meal that contains protein.
Reduce your salt intake. While I consider unrefined mineral salt to be an essential part of a healthy diet, while you are acidic, anything that dehydrates you will make the problem worse. So limit your salt intake — even the good kind of salt.
Completely avoid refined sugar and alcohol. Both are extremely acidifying.
Avoid stressful thoughts. Stressful thoughts begin a cascade of unhealthy responses in the body, which depletes you of minerals and creates acidosis. You have been programmed from childhood to respond to stress in a very specific way. Deconstruct your stress responses — what triggers you? When you are triggered, where do you hold tension in your body? How can you release it? You are likely triggered by much smaller circumstances that you realize and since these happen on a daily basis, you keep repeating the acid cycle each day.
Avoid intense exercise. While you are too acidic, anything that dehydrates you will contribute to the problem. Choose gentle forms of exercise and exercise indoors during the heat of summer.
Tests to ask for
If you are curious if you are too acidic, you can get testing through your doctor to determine this.
Anion gap test. This tests for metabolic acidosis and will tell you if you are in fact too acidic.
Electrolyte or mineral panel: magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium. Ask for an Intracellular test because blood tests are notoriously incorrect. Minerals help alkalize the body so if you are low in these, it indicates a greater need for dietary minerals or supplements to restore the balance.
Stimulants. I’m not talking about hard drugs here, just those “innocuous”, legal, everyday substances people are self-admittedly addicted to: coffee, tea, energy drinks, artificial sweeteners, sugar, MSG or other flavor enhancers, chocolate, diet pills, and more.
Could you be addicted to stimulants?
Do you feel you can’t start your day with caffeine?
Do you make plans to find and consume the above products before you start your day, at the expense of anything and everyone else?
Do you commonly reach for these items in the afternoon as well?
Do you feel jittery or irritable yet crave the boost from these products?
Do you get noticeable “crashes” after consuming these products?
Are you especially tired in the late afternoon?
Do you have a hard time falling asleep at night?
Do you have racing thoughts during the day?
Do you use stimulants to initiate bowel movements?
If you answered yes to any of these, you may need some help replacing stimulants with substances and nutrients that energize you more gradually or make up for deficiencies that are causing you to crave these things in the first place.
12 ways to overcome stimulant addiction:
Vitamin B12. First, get your level tested. If you are in fact deficient or on the low-end of the scale, you can add in an “active” form of B12 called Methyl, Adenosyl or Hydroxy B12. Avoid synthetic B12 which can actually block the absorption of the nutrient. B12 is best taken in the morning and early afternoon.
DLPA. This is a natural stimulant that raises catecholamine levels (catecholamines help us feel energized). However, it is very different from caffeine — DLPA is subtle and should not cause jitteriness.
Adrenal glandulars. This applies to people whose lab work shows they have low cortisol levels. Low cortisol/adrenal gland function is a major cause of fatigue and therefore, the desire to use stimulants. By boosting cortisol levels, you can eliminate the need fr artificial energy from stimulants.
SAM-e. People who have been dependent upon stimulants for many years are often actually low in SAM-e, which causes the cravings. Supplementation with SAM-e may be very helpful. It is also a natural anti-depressant — win/win.
Determine if you have irregular blood sugar or insulin. This is an all too common cause of stimulant use — your blood sugar drops, or you have problems with insulin resistance, which makes you tired before or after meals. So you instinctively reach for a stimulant to give you an energy boost. Low carbohydrate, high fat, moderate protein diets work very well to eliminate low energy caused by food intake.
Determine what your unique food sensitivities are. If you feel cranky, sleepy, achy, disoriented, or brain fogged after every meal, you must determine which foods you are in fact intolerant of. Common food intolerances include: gluten, dairy, soy, corn, grains, nuts and seeds, salicylates, oxalates, histamine, sulfur, gluatamate, and others. Remember that food sensitivities are not always immune-mediated and therefore difficult to prove via testing. You must work with a practitioner and do an elimination diet to figure out which foods you are reacting to.
Determine if you have underlying mood problems. Low mood can cause us to reach for uppers because they temporarily make us feel on top of the world. We can feel powerful, fun, invincible, and ready to take on the world. Caffeine perpetuates a vicious cycle of ups and downs. Address the cause of your low mood and why you instinctively are self-medicating to boost your mood with caffeine. 5-HTP, and GABA can be very helpful to boost a naturally low mood. Essential fatty acid deficiency, food allergies, and other nutrient deficiencies are a known cause of mood disorders too.
Determine if you have low iron. This is a simple blood test you can order from your doctor and if it is low, it is a common cause of fatigue. Address the low iron by supplementing with a whole-foods iron supplement, or by eating foods rich in iron.
Determine if you have low thyroid function. If your doctor has never performed a “full thyroid panel” lab test on you either for your diagnosed thyroid disease or because of your symptoms of fatigue, demand one. Then ask your doctor to treat your thyroid disease according to which values you were low (or high) in.
Get your electrolytes tested. Low potassium is a common cause of fatigue and in fact it is difficult to get enough daily. Do you ever have twitching muscles or muscle cramps, frequent urination or frequent thirst? Those are easy-to-spot low potassium symptom. You can find magnesium/potassium blend powders or drops to put in your water to make-up for any deficit.
Eat B-vitamin and mineral-rich foods. If you can tolerate yeast, nutritional yeast is full of potassium and B vitamins which will keep you naturally energized. Choose one that is not synthetically fortified, like Foods Alive brand. Sprinkle on cooked vegetables, sweet potatoes and white potatoes, gluten-free pasta, mix into sauces and use as a cheese replacement (it has a cheddar cheese flavor).
Determine if you have underlying digestive issues. Sometimes if a person is chronically constipated, they reach for caffeine subconsciously to stimulate a bowel movement. If you are chronically constipated, there are underlying gut issues that need to be addressed: food allergies, gut infections (yeast, bacteria, parasites), lack of healthy gut flora (the good bacteria), lack of digestive enzymes (you can supplement these with each meal), lack of bile production (you can use ox bile and salt your food liberally to taste, or drink lemon water before meals to stimulate bile), and more.
Who should eat low-carb? I never ever recommend the same diet to every client I work with. We are all way too genetically and “environmentally” different. That is, no two people have the same nutritionally-significant gene mutations and no two … Continue reading →