Acid-alkaline balance

Acid-alkaline balance – in a nutshell

  • The idea is to optimize your digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste excretion.
  • Your blood has a pH of 7.35 – 7.45, always  slightly alkaline, which is tightly controlled by your autonomic nervous system (without your consciousness), like your breathing and heartbeat.
  • Certain foods can make the blood slightly more alkaline, while other foods can make the blood slightly more acidic.
  • Alkaline-forming foods include most fruits, even citrus fruits, most vegetables, certain nuts, and most herbs and spices, dependong on their mineral content.
  • Acid-forming foods include sugar, starch, cereals, most beans and legumes, eggs, fish, meat, and some nuts, depending on their absence of minerals and also on the presence of nitrogen (protein).
  • Depending on the condition of the individual, optimal digestion requires eating more alkaline-forming than acid-forming foods, varying from sixty to ninety percent alkaline-forming and ten to forty percent acid-forming.
  • Opinions differ on whether some specific foods are alkaline- or acid-forming, but the outline is clear and has been demonstrated.
  • Results can be expected in one to three weeks, if you apply this method strictly.
  • References are Drs. Stefan Domenig MD, Eva Kraske MD, Susan Richards MD, and Christopher Vasey ND, among others.

Acid-alkaline balance – briefly

This idea refers to the books and methods of Dr. Stephen Domenig MD, “The Alkaline Cure“, and Dr. Eva-Maria Kraske MD, “The Acid-Alkaline Balance“. Dr. Kraske’s book is available in German, French, and Spanish, but not in English. An acid-alkaline balance is not a new idea, although the connection to food is controversial. Dr. William Howard Hay also wrote about an acid-alkaline balance in his book, “A New Health Era“, published in 1935. If you are looking for fast practical advice only, read this section only. If you are looking for an explanation and the scientific details, read the rest of this article. These doctors write that:

  • Some foods are acid-forming in the body, reducing the pH of the blood, tissues, and organs very slightly, depending mostly on the protein, phosphorous, chloride, or refined sugar content of the food.
  • Some foods are alkaline-forming, increasing the pH of the blood, tissues, and organs very slightly, depending mostly on the mineral content of the food, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium.
  • Healthy digestion depends on eating sixty to ninety percent alkaline-forming foods and ten to forty percent acid-forming foods, measured by portions, depending on the specific person, their health and goals, and biochemical individuality. Dr. Domenig recommends a mix of two to one (2:1) of alkaline-forming foods to acid-forming foods. Again, the optimal proportion is variable and individual.

lemon and limes - cut and uncutIt is not always intuitive which foods are acid-forming and which are alkaline-forming. For example, lemons have a sour, acidic taste, but due to their alkaline mineral content they are alkaline-forming after they pass through your stomach. Most starch, even so-called “slow carbohydrate”, such as wheat bread, pasta, and rice is similar to refined sugar, causing a slight acidification of the blood and body. Meat, fish, and eggs all form acids. Most fruits and vegetables are alkaline-forming.

 

fresh broccoli in a bowl

The goal is to make your belly happy, which naturally results in a healthy weight and longevity. What is optimal digestion? It begins with an absence of constipation, bloating, diarrhea, stomach pains, and excess gas. It continues with absorption of the nutrients, the minerals and vitamins into your blood, tissues, and bones. Naturally, good digestion ends with healthy excretion, a healthy weight, and healthy ageing.

 

Table – acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods

The following table lists the most common acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods:

Acid-forming Alkaline-forming
eggs, fish, turkey, beef, liver, lamb, chicken  vegetables, especially broccoli, spinach, kale, parsley, red beets, carrots, garlic, ginger, onion, sweet potato, coriander, endive, celery, cucumber, cabbage, sweet pepper (paprika), sprouts, avocado, asparagus, seaweed, algae
walnuts, pecans, most oils, nuts, and seeds (except almonds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and some pumpkin seeds) most but not all fruits, especially lemons, other citrus (except orange), pomegranate, coconut, rhubarb, tomato
wheat, including “whole wheat”, bread, pasta, oats, other grains and cereals, except brown rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, amaranth (alkaline or less acidic) almonds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, some pumpkin seeds, olive oil, and flaxseed oil
most beans, except adzuki beans cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon, dandelion, ginger, clove
apple cider vinegar (acetic acid), coffee, black tea, alcohol, cocoa, chocolate, honey, pickles, ketchup, fried foods, mountain salt most herbs and spices, green tea, bee pollen
refined sugar, even brown sugar adzuki beans, tofu (fermented food), umeboshi plums
dairy, milk, cheese, yogurt (cow’s dairy) -> lactic acid blackstrap molasses, sea salt, mountain salt
food additives (preservatives, colorings, artificial flavoring, emulsifiers, others) apple cider vinegar (fermented food)
pharmaceuticals (antibiotics, psychotropics, antihistamines, …) oxygen

Foods that are in boldface in the above table are staples of what I eat for my health. On account of biochemical individuality, they may not work for you.

Note that different authors reach different conclusions about whether a specific food is alkaline-or acid-forming. This can be confusing, but they agree on the concept. Perhaps one specific batch of the same food can be alkaline-forming, depending on its mineral or vitamin content, while another batch of the same food can be acid-forming, depending on how it was grown, the pH of the soil, and so on. I do not know how to resolve these contradictions, but again, they agree on the outline in the preceding table.

You could try it for a week, if you eat at least two or three alkaline-forming portions, such as fruits or vegetables, at every meal with at most one acid-forming food, such as starch or protein. You could then observe your own digestion and then see how you feel. You have nothing to lose. It can even be cheap, if you plan your meals, shop around, and cook for yourself.

For example, it is possible to start each meal with a green smoothie, hot soup, or lemon water. According to food combining, you then wait ten to fifteen minutes. Then eat steamed vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, carrots, or your favorite raw vegetable. Lastly, eat eggs, fish, meat, possibly sauteed with onions and mushrooms. This sequence (liquid, vegetables, then eggs, fish or meat) is according to food combining. The idea of an acid-alkaline balance does not contradict food combining. Dr. Hay wrote about both. 

Hay suggested buying good-quality animal foods, such as grass-fed, pasture-raised chicken and eggs. If possible, it is better to exclude meat from confined animal farming operations. Try to know your suppliers, particularly local suppliers.

If you are vegan, then you might first take a green smoothie; hot soup, or lemon water. Then eat the vegetables. Only at the end of your meal do you eat your tofu, lentils, beans, brown rice, or healthy grains. If you enjoy nuts, then eat a few at the very end of the meal. Again, it can even be cheap, if you plan your meals, shop around, and cook for yourself.

Why does this work?

omeletDr. Domenig writes, “Too much acidity makes us age quicker. Worse, excess acidity creates an environment in the body where allergies and diseases can flourish.” A proper acid-alkaline balance can increase your “base metabolic rate”, which is the production of energy (adenosine triphosphate) at rest. This can give you a sense of more energy or at least less fatigue.

The calorie theory of weight gain and loss is a myth. Metabolism is the total of all processes and functions of the body to keep itself healthy and in balance. This includes digesting food, absorbing nutrients, repairing and renewing tissues and cells, producing hormones, and excreting waste. A renegade pharmacist further explains why this method works here.

What is acidity? What is “pH”?

Acidity and alkalinity are measured by pH. “pH” is an acronym for “potential hydrogen” (H+). pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale is from zero (most acidic) to fourteen (most alkaline). Seven is neutral. Your stomach has a pH of nine-tenths to five (very acidic). Your urine is usually slightly acidic and reflects the acidity or alkalinity of your body. To observe this method work for you, buy pH test strips at your local pharmacy and measure the pH of your urine in the morning.

By definition, the more acid a solution (a liquid, such as blood or urine), the greater the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+). The more alkaline a solution, the greater the concentration of hydroxyl ions (OH). In other words, the more alkaline a solution, the more oxygen it has. Your stomach, your urine, and your skin are acidic, but the rest of your body is slightly alkaline.

Some acid is necessary to absorb minerals and vitamins into your blood. An acid-alkaline balance is desirable, but the optimal balance depends on the person and also on their condition, according to biochemical individuality. Some acid in the stomach is also necessary to break down protein, to activate the pepsin enzyme, to tickle the pancreas to secrete other digestive enzymes, and to control possible pathogens.

Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, points out that lowering uric acid can maintain health. Uric acid come from purines, which are a result of breaking down protein, such as meat and fish, and also from metabolizing alcohol and fructose, particularly high fructose corn syrup found in many processed foods.

 

Regulating your pH autonomically

Your blood has a pH that varies between seven and thirty-five one-hundredths (slightly alkaline) and seven and forty-five one-hundredths. Without your consciousness, your nervous system tightly regulates your blood pH in this range. You do this mostly through your urine and your breath. This is why you breathe heavily after exercise. The carbon dioxide that you exhale is acidic.

The idea is that you can also gradually buffer your blood pH through your bones. If your blood tends to be slightly acidic over time, then you transfer alkaline-forming minerals from your bones to increase the pH of your blood and tissues. If your blood tends to be more alkaline over time, you deposit minerals in the blood into your tissues and then into your bones.

 

A truly “balanced diet”

Again, what you eat or do not eat can affect your urine pH.  This may also slightly affect your blood pH. Specific foods can be acid-forming or alkaline-forming after digestion, independently of their taste. Again, lemons have a sour, acidic taste, but are alkaline-forming after digestion. You can measure this effect on your urine, using pH test strips that you can find at your local pharmacy or online.

Try it for a week, and see how you feel. You have nothing to lose. It can even be cheap, if you plan your meals, shop around, and cook for yourself.

To reach your optimal acid-alkaline balance:

  • Eat mostly alkaline-forming foods – sixty to ninety percent, such as two to four portions per meal,
  • Eat some acid-forming foods – ten to forty percent, such as one portion per meal,
  • Keep proper food combining in mind. Possibly cut sugar, dairy, and wheat.

According to Dr. Susan Richards MD, author of “Acid Alkaline Balance: The Missing Link to Health“, the elements that form acidic residue in the body are chlorine, phosphorous, sulfur, and iodine. The minerals that leave alkaline residues, similar to the ash of burned wood, are potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium.

Since health depends on a balance, it is desirable to include some acid-forming foods in healthy eating habits, such as small portions of salt, walnuts, eggs, turkey, beef, or chocolate. Most but not all nuts, grains, beans, and legumes are acid-forming.

Refined salt is made of sodium and chlorine. It tends to be acid-forming. Sea salt and mountain salt have other minerals, such as iodine, selenium, and trace minerals, which can make them either acid- or alkaline-forming on balance. Fibrous vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and pseudo-grains, such as buckwheat, oats, millet, and quinoa contain phosphorous, which is acid-forming, but other minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium, can make these foods alkaline-forming on balance.

Similarly, onions and garlic contain sulfur, an acid-forming element, but other minerals can make these foods alkaline-forming on balance. Sardines, kelp, and small fish from the sea contain iodine. See the above table for details.

Though rarely recognized, it is possible that you lack enough stomach acid for healthy digestion, particularly digestion of meat. Dr. David Jockers DC describes 10 ways to improve stomach acid levels.

CriticsSciientific discussion

Skeptics and critics of the concept of the acid-alkaline balance point out that you have no direct, conscious control of your blood pH. It is controlled by your autonomic (parasympathetic) nervous system without your consciousness.

Only your liver, kidneys, and lungs regulate your blood pH, without your thinking about it, at least according to this point of view. To offset acidity and restore a pH balance, your kidney actively and passively pulls bicarbonate from your gastro-intestinal tract. If there is little bicarbonate to pull, then is it possible that this can cause an imbalance? Your lungs exhale carbon dioxide, which is acidic.

What is the cause of too much acidity in the blood? Why not modify eating habits first? What if your liver, kidneys, or lungs are weak, damaged, depleted, or insufficient? Is there a possible long-term buffering – via the minerals in your tissues and bones?

None of the critics appear to have read these books nor tried this method for themselves. Some of the critics misinterpret the idea of an acid-alkaline balance, claiming incorrectly what is to be included and what is to be excluded. This does not prevent you from reading what the critics write and then thinking for yourself. First think. Then talk. Then act. Try it for a week, at all meals, and see how you feel. If you eat a lot of snacks between meals, then eat mostly alkaline-forming snacks, such as fruits or vegetables and then almonds or pumpkin seeds.

In this thirty-nine-minute, subtitled video, Barbara O’Neill clearly describes the acid-alkaline balance. Other references are Dr. Russell Jaffe, Dr. Elson Haas, Dr. Otto Warburg, and others.

On the other hand, Chris Kresser, an avid promoter of supplements, represents the skeptics of the idea of the acid-alkaline balance intelligently. Knowing oneself and listening to one’s own body is the way to look for the truth about the acid-alkaline balance.

Acid-alkaline balance – an art and not a precise science

Many books have been written about an acid-alkaline balance. Different authors interpret this idea differently. Some of them contradict each other about whether a specific food is acid-forming or alkaline-forming. This can be confusing, but they agree on the guidelines and on a desirable balance.

For optimal digestion and health, it is desirable to eat mostly alkaline-forming foods. What foods are alkaline-forming? In general, most vegetables and fruits and some nuts (almonds) are alkaline-forming for everybody. What foods are acid-forming? In general, coffee, sugar, starch, processed foods, wheat, pasteurized cow’s dairy, eggs, fish, meat, and most nuts are acid-forming for everybody.

Because of biochemical individuality and the diversity of other specific foods, it is possible that some foods may be acid-forming for some people but alkaline-forming for other people. Why? It may be for reasons that nobody understands, possibly because of the mineral content and the specific batch of that specific food and the specific person. Listen to your body. Try it for a week, eating according to your acid-alkaline balance, with two or more alkaline-forming foods at each meal followed by at most one acid-forming food, such as protein or starch. Eat as much as you want. Listen to your body, and see how you feel.

For me, the references are Dr. Domenig, Dr. Kraske, Dr. Richards and this list of acid- and alkaline-forming foods. Dr. Kraske points out that this idea is not new. She refers to Dr. Franz Xaver Mayr in 1900, the nutritional researcher Ragnar Berg, and Dr. Maxmillian Bircher-Brenner. All of them were active in the beginning of the twentieth century. Naturally, each of them had their own ideas and recipes, but they all promoted the idea of the acid-alkaline balance. 

The idea of the acid-alkaline balance transcends the idea “to eat more fruits and vegetables”. The type of soil the fruits and vegetables were grown in determines the mineral content. The roots, stalks, and leaves pull the minerals from the soil. The beauty of the idea of the acid-alkaline balance is that it also transcends the vegan-carnivore controversy. Note that there are no clinical studies to confirm the acid-alkaline balance, but there are also no clinical studies to prove that water is a cure for dehydration nor that prunes have a laxative effect.

Related to the acid-alkaline balance is the idea that the body is electric. pH means voltage in liquids, according to Dr. Jerry Tennant MD. The optimal alkalinity of blood, 7.35 – 7.45, is equivalent to a certain number of millivolts. Dr. Tennant healed himself of chronic illness, using energy medicine and addressing the related root causes to prompt his body to produce more new cells. He claims that chronic illness results from low energy and that regeneration of new cells requires a certain level of millivolts. An opthamologist, he claims that he used this technique to heal people of macular degeneration. He describes his ideas and experience in this interview with Dr. Mercola.

References

*** Domenig MD, Dr. Stefan, “The Alkaline Cure“, Modern Books, Elwin Street Ltd., 2014
*** Kraske  MD, Dr. Eva Maria, “Säure-Basen-Balance“, Graefe und Unzer Verlag, 2013 (German)
Kraske MD, Dr. Eva Maria, “Equilibrio acido-base“, Hispano Europea, 2009 (Spanish)
Kraske MD, Dr. Eva Maria, “L’équilibre acido-basique“, 2013 (French)
Richards MD, Dr. Susan, “Acid Alkaline Balance: The Missing Link to Health“, self-published, 2015
Vasey ND, Christopher, “The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health“, Healing Arts Press, 2006, translated
*** Bieler MD, Dr. Henry, “Food Is Your Best Medicine“, Ballantine Books, 1987
*** Jubb, Annie and David, “Secrets of an Alkaline Body“, North Atlantic Books, 2004
Grosgogeat, Dr. Hervé, “La Méthode Acide-Base“, Odile Jacob, 2007 (in French)
Brown PhD, Susan, “The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide“, Square One, 2013, 1:02 video, transcript
Hay MD, Dr. William Howard, “A New Health Era“, Hay System, 1933, read online
Young PhD, Dr. Robert, “The pH Miracle“, Grand Central, 2005, youtube, videos, blog, answers critics, chart, on theory
Young PhD, Dr. Robert, “The solidification of metabolic and dietary acids that lead to gout, arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, hypertension, stroke, heart attack and cancer“, article
Young PhD, Dr. Robert, “Diet-Induced Acidosis and Cancer“, article with references
Young PhD, Dr. Robert, “Does the Stomach or Intestines Digest Food?“, article
Challem, Jack, “The pH Nutrition Guide to Acid / Alkaline Balance“, NewsTarget, 2017
Baroody ND, Dr. Theodore, “Alkalize or Die“, Eclectic, 2008, excerpt, review
Gioffre DC, Dr. Daryl, “Get Off Your Acid“, Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2018
Flavin MD, Dr. Dana, “Cancer Alkalizing Foods“, essay and list
Haig MD, Dr. Alexander, “Health through diet : a practical guide to the uric-acid-free diet“, Methuen, 1913

Scialla JJ, Anderson CAM, Dietary Acid Load: A Novel Nutritional Target in Chronic Kidney Disease? Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2013;20(2):141-149. doi:10.1053/j.ackd.2012.11.001

Kraut JA, Madias NE,  Consequences and therapy of the metabolic acidosis of chronic kidney disease. Pediatr Nephrol. 2011;26(1):19-28. doi:10.1007/s00467-010-1564-4

*** Schwalfenberg GK, “The alkaline diet: is there evidence that an alkaline pH diet benefits health?“, J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:727630, PMID: 22013455

The Relationship Between Body pH and Disease“, healthwyze.org
Definitive Explanation To Acid And Alkaline Forming Foods“, TheAlkalineDiet.org
Acid-Alkaline Balance Demystified“, TheRenegadePharmacist.com
25 Acidic Foods to Avoid and Healthier Alternatives“, DrAxe.com
Alkaline Diet: The Key to Longevity and Fighting Chronic Disease?“, Jillian Levy, CHHC, DrAxe.com
Why An Alkaline Approach Can Successfully Treat Cancer“, Nancy Elizabeth Shaw, 8 August 2013

Huberman, Andrew, “The Science of Vision, Eye Health & Seeing Better“, 1:50 video
Perlmutter MD, Dr. David, “Drop Acid: An Interview with Dr. David Perlmutter“, Dr. William Davis MD, :28
Hyman MD, Dr. Mark, “The Untold Story Of Uric Acid and Chronic Disease“, 1:04 video
Perlmutter MD, Dr. David, “Uric Acid:  Cause of Weight Gain, Diabetes, Heart Disease & Dementia“, 1:19 video

15 Surprising Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits, Amy Myers, article
Sircus MD, Dr. Marc, “CO2 and Bicarbonates“, article
Are Beets Acidic or Alkaline?“, TheHealthyApron, Zagreb, article
Acid-forming & alkaline-forming foods“, The Edgar Cayce Health Database

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