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Feeling fatigued, foggy and fat? You may be on an acid trip—a condition in which the body’s pH is chronically imbalanced. Over time, an acid condition can lead to chronic fatigue, foggy thinking, weight gain, and digestive disturbances, says Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAC, CNC, author of The Ultimate pH Solution. A number of studies also suggest that acid imbalances in the body can lead to more serious illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, kidney disease, joint inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Specifically, an acid condition, or acid imbalance, means the blood and cellular fluids in the body have an acidic pH (the relative proportion of acid to alkaline) and not enough alkaline compounds to balance them. The body’s pH is measured on a scale of 1 (highly acid) to 14 (highly alkaline), with 7 being neutral, explains Christopher Vasey, ND, author of The Acid Alkaline Diet. The blood’s optimal pH level is slightly alkaline, from 7.2 to 7.4. If that narrow range drops by even .2, the body tries to neutralize the excess acid, buffering it with alkaline minerals. These alkaline minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium, are extracted from the foods we eat and carried in the blood. But if the blood contains insufficient acid-buffering minerals, the body will draw on reserves from the bones or other body tissue, including the liver and the heart.
Acid foods aren’t necessarily bad; we need both acid and alkaline for the body to stay in balance, says Cook. The problem is, the typical American diet is rich in acid-forming foods like animal products, sugar, coffee, processed foods, and fast foods, which upset the body’s pH balance. A food is considered alkaline if it contains a high quantity of alkaline-forming minerals, like calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and potassium, relative to acid-forming minerals, like phosphorous, copper, and sulphur, says Vasey. Dark leafy greens, for example, are high in calcium and magnesium, so they’re considered alkaline; sodas and meat and dairy products are high in phosphorus, so they’re considered acidic foods.
You can easily test your body’s balance with pH test strips. Ideally, you’ll average about 7, the optimal pH of urine, but a slightly more acid measure—between 6.5 and 7—is normal. If your urine’s pH is lower than 6, it’s time to kick acid. Start with these simple steps:
- Breathe Deeply. In the body, oxygen is alkalizing, and carbon dioxide is acidic. Deep breathing is key for reducing stress and increasing oxygen to the cells. And exercise, especially outdoors, will oxygenate the blood and make the body more alkaline.
- Drive Past the Drive-Through. Most fast foods are made up of extremely acidic foods—meat, saturated fat, white flour, sugar, corn, potatoes, dairy, and sodas.
- Go Light on the Sweet Stuff. Even natural sweeteners like honey are high in acid, as are most fruits.
- Veg Out. In general, vegetables are more alkaline than animal products. Green foods, especially kale, collards and spinach, are very alkalizing.
- Practice Good, Clean Living. Pharmaceutical and recreational drugs are highly acid forming; so are tobacco and alcohol.
- Strive for Balance. Beans, nuts, and whole grains are in the acid category, but that doesn’t mean you should cut them out of your diet—just that you should balance them out with alkaline foods. In general, a 70-to-30 ratio of alkaline-to-acid foods is best.
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