Many naturopathic doctors advocate diet and lifestyle habits which promote an alkaline body. There is much confusion about what an alkaline body is and how it can be achieved.
It is important to understand that an alkaline body does not mean the blood is more alkaline than normal. The pH of blood is tightly regulated and does not vary except under extreme, and often life-threatening, conditions. Rather, an alkaline body refers to a body that requires little neutralization of acid to maintain blood at a constant pH. Urine is one of the ways the body rids itself of excess acid. For this reason naturopathic doctors often measure the pH of an individual’s urine to estimate how acid or alkaline their body is.
Since the early 1900’s, it has been known that dietary factors significantly affect the pH of urine. Over the years science has evolved, and it is now possible to determine the effect a food will have on urine pH – often referred to as acidic load. The acidic load of a food or meal can be estimated with a simple formula. This formula can be used, with surprising accuracy, to predict urinary pH due to dietary factors. Generally speaking, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes help make urine more alkaline, whereas meats, cheeses, and grains may make urine more acidic. Other factors, such as exercise, have also been shown to reduce the acidity of urine, suggesting that other healthy lifestyle factors may also contribute to promote a more alkaline body.
There are divergent views on the health benefits of an alkaline body. Some scientists and practitioners feel that acidity is directly linked to poor health. They theorize that a diet and lifestyle with a high acidic load may create an acidic ash or a chronic low – grade metabolic condition that is too small to detect, but still contributes to how a person feels. Other professionals simply feel that an acidic diet contains components that may be harmful to health like excessive saturated fats and is deficient in beneficial nutrients like the alkalinizing minerals magnesium and potassium. They speculate that it is the harmful components and nutrient deficiencies of acidic diets that are the concern, not the acidity itself. While the direct role of acid in the body is somewhat controversial, what is clear is that an alkaline diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, as well as adequate physical activity is important in maintaining overall health and well-being.
A list of foods and their acid load are provided below. Keep in mind that alkalinity isn’t the only measure of the healthfulness of a food. Many foods categorized as acidic, like nuts, whole grains, and lean protein sources, should be part of a healthy diet. Some acidic foods may actually be a healthier choice than other more alkaline options. For example, whole wheat flour is listed as highly acidic while refined flour is listed as mildly acidic. Whole wheat flour, however, is a healthier choice despite the higher acidity because it is richer in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Likewise, just because milk is classified as neutral (neither acidic nor alkaline forming), does not mean it is appropriate for everyone.5 Use your best judgment as you create a diet that balance healthy acidic foods with healthy basic foods to promote an alkaline body.