The body functions optimally when it is in equilibrium. Cells operate best when they are within a specific pH range (this pH range varies depending on the cell type). The pH (potential of hydrogen) of the body is a measure of its acid:alkaline ratio also referred to as its acid:base ratio, which is measured on a scale of 0-14:
- Less Than 7 = Acidic
- 7 = Neutral
- Greater Than 7 = Alkaline
Overall, the body functions best in a slightly alkaline state with a pH of 7.36 to 7.44. When the body becomes too acidic it is no longer in a state of balance and normal body functions are compromised. The problem is the majority of foods that compromise people's diets are acidic!
For example, chicken and oatmeal, two common "fitness foods", are acidic. When the body becomes too acidic due to dietary influences it is called metabolic acidosis.
Consequences Of Metabolic Acidosis
In order to stabilize an acidic pH level the body must neutralize the excess dietary acid load. The two main ways the body does this is by taking calcium (and other minerals) from bones and glutamine from skeletal muscle. Both of these corrective mechanisms have negative consequences for the body.
Hypercalciuria is high urine calcium levels. Bone contains the body's greatest calcium stores. Calcium is a strong base able to neutralize acids. During metabolic acidosis calcium is released from bone in an attempt to neutralize the excess acids and stabilize the body's pH level. The calcium and acids are then excreted in the urine. This calcium loss from bone leads to weak, brittle bones.
Muscle Protein Loss ///
Skeletal muscle contains the body's greatest glutamine stores. Glutamine binds to hydrogen ions (H+) to create ammonium, which is excreted from the body. In the face of metabolic acidosis and elevated H+ levels, breakdown of skeletal muscle and glutamine release is increased and can lead to muscle protein loss.
Hormone Secretion Disruption ///
During metabolic acidosis normal hormone secretion is disrupted. Changes in hormone secretion include increased cortisol secretion, decreased thyroid production, and growth hormone resistance, all of which will have negative effects on your body composition.
Long-Term Health Implications ///
The above consequences of metabolic acidosis can lead to long-term diseases, such as:
- Decreased nutrient absorption
- Kidney damage
- Cardiovascular damage
- Chronic fatigue
It should be clear that one would benefit in decreasing the acidity of their diet. This can be done by changing the foods you eat or by adding other foods to your diet.
Ways To Decrease The Acidity Of A Meal
Green Vegetables & Fresh Fruits: Vegetables and fruits are great natural sources of minerals, awesome low glycemic/high fiber carbohydrates, and are very alkaline. Sadly most people's diets are severly lacking in green vegetables and fresh fruits.
Good Fats: Good fats like those found in avocados and almonds are alkaline and will decrease the acid load of a meal.
Supplemental Glutamine: Glutamine supplementation has been shown to neutralize acids. Interestingly, during metabolic acidosis intestinal glutamine uptake is increased, which shows the body is trying to increase its glutamine content in order to correct its acid imbalance.
Mineral Supplements: Calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium are taken from bones and organs to neutralize acids. The addition of a dietary mineral supplement will assist in sparing bone and organ mineral depletion.
Salt (Sodium): Simply adding salt to a meal with decrease the acidity of that meal due to sodium's acid buffering effect.
Add Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) To Your Workout Shake: Sodium bicarbonate is a great buffering agent and may also increase athletic performance.
By decreasing the acidity of your diet you will decrease your chances of developing certain diseases and improve your overall health. If you are serious about your health I recommend taking the necessary steps do decrease the acid load of your diet.