The issue of alkaline vs acidic diets has become a hot topic of conversation, especially when it comes to cancer prevention. According to German physiologist Dr. Otto Heinrich Warburg (who has been awarded the Nobel Prize for his breakthrough research concerning the investigation of tumor metabolism and cancer cell respiration), cancer cells and other diseases are incapable of existing in an alkaline environment. What does it take to have a healthier and more alkaline-based diet? Let's begin by discussing the difference between alkaline vs acidic in terms of the body's chemistry.
Alkaline VS Acidic: What Is The Difference?
What Is pH?
It is a means to measure a liquid's acidity or basicity based on a neutral pH of 7.0 (the pH of water). Any pH reading below 7.0 is considered acidic, with 1.0 being the highest acidity level. Conversely, any pH reading above 7.0 is considered basic or alkaline, with 14.0 as the highest level of alkalinity or basicity.
The pH balances of all our bodily fluids (especially blood) are all measurable. Organs, cells, and bodily fluids require a specific pH in order to function properly and optimally. Our blood is especially sensitive as any variation in its pH can affect the ability of hemoglobin to bind with oxygen.
The optimal pH for blood ranges from 7.3 to 7.35, saliva requires a range from 6.5 and 7.5, gastric juice content has to have a pH range of 1.5 to 3.5, small intestines need a pH range of 7.0 to 8.5, urine needs a pH range between 6.5 and 7.0, and the colon requires a pH range from 4.5 to 5.0.
Factors such as dietary imbalance, intestinal pH imbalance, stress (which elevates acidic toxin production), inadequate oxygenation, and a deficient elimination of toxins by vital organs (such as the kidneys, colon, liver, lungs, and skin) can radically change pH.
Effects Of Alkaline VS Acidic pH To The Body
So what is our body's reaction to a high level of acidity? The accumulation of acid causes our body to neutralize it through the use of buffer systems. However, when our systems get overloaded with acid, our body resorts to borrowing alkaline materials from our bones and vital organs in order to dissolve and eliminate acidic compounds.
This compensation weakens organs and bones and may lead to osteoporosis over time. Other effects of high acidity include fatigue, poor digestion, muscle and joint pain, eczema, psoriasis, bad breath, excessive perspiration, fungal infections, migraine, cramps, and dark and odorous urine.
When it comes to matters concerning cancer, Dr. Warburg discovered that cancer cells are anaerobic — this means they thrive in an environment without oxygen. When the body is in an acidic state, there is less oxygen to be had, while in an alkaline state, oxygen levels are relatively high.
This means that a high level of acidity makes the body more prone to cancer cell growth. According to Dr. Warburg, depriving a cell of 35 percent of oxygen for 48 hours can cause it to become cancerous.
Conversely (and although uncommon), high alkalinity in bodily fluids can result in metabolic alkalosis which can cause nausea, vomiting, twitching of the muscles, hand tremors, and confusion. In the scheme of things, alkaline vs acidic needs to strike a balance — the ideal ratio of alkaline vs acidic in the body should be 80/20 (with alkaline at 80 percent and acidic at 20 percent).
What Foods Are Alkaline?
When it comes to food, in order to maintain a good balance between alkaline vs acidic, your diet needs to consist of 75 percent alkaline foods and 25 percent acidic foods. Foods that are alkalizing include:
Bread, Cereals, And Desserts
Legumes, Seeds, And Nuts
What Foods Are Acidic?
Because our bodily fluids are more prone to having high acidity levels, acidic foods should be consumed in moderation. To give you a better idea of which foods are acidic, we've broken them down into food groups just like we did with our list of alkalizing food. Foods that are acidic include:
Bread, Cereals, And Desserts
Noodles And Pasta
Legumes, Seeds, And Nuts
Meat, Poultry, And Fish
Eggs And Milk Products
What Are The Symptoms Of An Alkaline Imbalance?
As we've previously discussed, there is an ideal ratio between acidity and alkalinity when it comes to our bodily fluids. 80 percent should be alkaline and 20 percent should be acidic. This acid-base balance is maintained by your kidneys and lungs and is important in keeping your blood functioning properly.
When this balance is disrupted, there are two things that can happen. Acidosis can occur when your blood has a high level of acidity. On the other hand, alkalosis can occur when there's too much alkaline in the blood. Severe cases of alkalosis may lead to heart arrhythmia, even a coma.
When acidosis or alkalosis happens, it means that there is an imbalance in your blood's alkalinity (and acidity). Alkaline vs acidic is really not about overcoming one or the other but ensuring that the acid-base balance is maintained and kept stable.
Types Of Alkalosis
1. Respiratory Alkalosis
Respiratory alkalosis occurs when your blood has low levels of carbon dioxide. There are several factors which can cause respiratory alkalosis such as high altitude, lack of oxygen, fever, lung and liver disease, or salicylate poisoning.
2. Compensated Alkalosis
Compensated alkalosis happens when your body releases more bicarbonate through your kidneys in order to normalize your blood pH level.
3. Metabolic Alkalosis
Metabolic alkalosis occurs when there is too much bicarbonate in your blood. This usually happens after prolonged vomiting.
4. Hypochloremic Alkalosis
Hypochloremic alkalosis can also occur after prolonged vomiting because you lose a lot of chlorides.
5. Hypokalemic Alkalosis
Hypokalemic alkalosis happens when you lose too much potassium which can be a side effect of some diuretic medicines.
Diagnosis And Treatment For Alkalosis
Alkalosis is diagnosed by doing a physical exam and diagnostic testing which may include blood gas analysis, urinalysis, urine pH, and a metabolic panel. Chemical losses can be treated by chloride and potassium medications, but your vital signs will need to be closely monitored in order for your physician to come up with the proper treatment to correct your pH imbalance.
Types Of Acidosis
1. Respiratory Acidosis
Respiratory acidosis happens when your lungs are unable to remove excess carbon dioxide from your body, increasing your blood and bodily fluids' level of acidity. Fatigue, shortness of breath, and confusion are some symptoms of respiratory acidosis. There are two types of respiratory acidosis — chronic and acute. Acute respiratory acidosis requires immediate medical attention as it can be life-threatening.
If left untreated, respiratory acidosis may result in respiratory failure, organ failure, and shock. In order to diagnose respiratory acidosis, a complete physical examination and diagnostic testing which may include chest X-ray, pulmonary function test, metabolic panel, and arterial blood gas test may be required.
2. Metabolic Acidosis
Metabolic acidosis can occur in two ways: when your body is producing too much acid or when your kidneys are inadequately removing the acid from your system. Rapid breathing, fatigue, and confusion are symptoms of metabolic acidosis. A severe case of metabolic acidosis can be life threatening and may lead to shock. Metabolic acidosis can be diagnosed through testing serum electrolytes, urine pH, and arterial blood gases.
There are three types of metabolic acidosis:
- Diabetic acidosis (or diabetic ketoacidosis) where there is a buildup of ketone bodies due to type 1 diabetes
- Hyperchloremic acidosis occurs when your body loses a considerable amount of sodium bicarbonate, typically after having severe diarrhea
- Lactic acidosis occurs when there's a considerable build-up of lactic acid which can be brought about by alcohol, lack of oxygen, prolonged exercise, low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia), liver failure, seizures, certain medications (including salicylates), kidney disease, severe dehydration, cancer or poisoning from aspirin, ethylene glycol, and methanol
Why Is It Important To Strike A Balance Between Alkaline VS Acidic?
At this point, you may be asking yourself, why does this whole discussion of alkaline vs acidic food matter so much? Our simplest answer would be for overall good health.
Both alkaline foods and acidic foods should be consumed in a less processed and well-balanced diet. If you're concerned about the acidity level of food, your best bet would be to ensure that the food is fresh and is rich in minerals and water content.
Alkaline minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron, and sodium bicarbonate are needed by the body and can be found in most green vegetables and food with high water content.
For Acid-Base Balance
Consuming fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables help reduce inflammation and maintain the required acid-base balance. On the other hand, acidic foods should be consumed in moderation, especially processed and refined sugar.
Cold cuts, conventional meats, pasta, white bread, and milk should also be consumed in small amounts. You don't have to bother yourself with all the chemistry and analysis involved when it comes to your body pH — that's a physician's job. But what you can do is to become more conscientious of what you eat and ensure that you are nourishing yourself with proper nutrition.
For Bodily Functions And Health Conditions
Having a well-balanced diet does not only concern your body's pH balance. There are other bodily conditions which may be disrupted or exacerbated by eating the wrong food. For example, osteoporosis may be further worsened by an acidic diet because it increases the amount of calcium excreted when urinating by 74 percent.
Calcium does not only come from milk — there are also calcium-rich foods that can help promote better bone health such as kale, broccoli, and spinach.
Another condition which may be exacerbated by consuming acidic foods is acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you have GERD, it's best to steer clear of alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and food that's high in fat.
There are also some acidic foods that are known to cause inflammation and chronic pain. Symptoms of osteoarthritis may be alleviated by resorting to a whole-foods, plant-based diet which is mostly alkalizing.
However, you don't have to rid yourself completely of acidic foods. They still play an important role when it comes to providing vital nutrients to the body. What you need to do is to strike a balance when consuming both alkalizing and acidic food. A good solution is to substitute acidic foods which cause inflammation with those that promote better health.
For example, avoid drinking coffee or soda and opt for alkaline water and smoothies instead. Artificial sweeteners are better off replaced with raw honey and other natural sweeteners. Avoid processed foods as much as possible and consume organic produce as well as grass-fed meat, free-range poultry, and wild-caught seafood instead.
Maintaining good health is not just about food — it also involves having a healthier lifestyle. Daily exercise and a means to relieve yourself of stress are some lifestyle changes you need to make in order to achieve optimum health. Most illnesses and diseases are caused by stress because you're making your body work harder at keeping your pH levels balanced. A sedentary lifestyle, excess hormones and chemicals found in food, and animal fat consumption are all culprits when it comes to having levels of high acidity in your system.