But what is meant when it is said that a product alkalizes or acidifies the body, and is this really essential for maintaining health? Let’s try to figure it out.
Basics of acid-base theory
The alkaline diet is based on the principle that all food affects our body’s pH. According to this theory, products are divided into three groups:
- Acidic foods: meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, and alcohol.
- Neutral products: natural fats, starches.
- Alkaline foods: fruits, nuts, legumes and vegetables.
For reference. From a school chemistry course: pH shows the concentration of hydrogen ions (H) in a solution, and its value ranges from 0-14. Any pH value below 7 is considered acidic, any pH value above 7 is considered basic (or alkaline).
Supporters of the acid-base theory believe that eating a lot of acidic foods can cause the body’s pH to become more acidic, and this, in turn, increases the likelihood of health problems from local inflammatory reactions to cancer. For this reason, followers of this diet limit their intake of acidifying foods and increase their intake of alkalizing foods.
But what, in fact, is meant when it is said that the product alkalizes or acidifies the body? What exactly does it sour?
The acid-base classification was introduced over 100 years ago. It is based on the analysis of ash (ash analysis) obtained when the product is burned in the laboratory – which mimics the processes that occur during digestion. According to the results of measuring the pH of the ash, the products are classified as acidic or alkaline.
Now scientists have proven that ash analysis is inaccurate, so they prefer to use the pH of the urine formed after the digestion of a particular product.
Acidic foods contain a lot of protein, phosphorus and sulfur. They increase the amount of acid that the kidneys filter and cause the urine pH to shift to the “acidic” side. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and ultimately reduce the amount of acid that the kidneys filter, so the pH will be more than 7 – more alkaline.
This explains why urine can become more acidic a couple of hours after eating a steak or more alkaline after you eat a vegetable salad.
An interesting consequence of this acid-regulating ability of the kidneys is the “alkaline” pH of seemingly acidic foods like lemon or apple cider vinegar.
From theory to practice
Many alkaline dieters use test strips to test the acidity of their urine. They believe it helps determine how acidic their body is. But, although the acidity of urine excreted from the body may vary depending on the foods consumed, the pH of the blood does not change much.
The reason foods have such a limited effect on blood pH is because the body must maintain a pH between 7,35 and 7,45 for normal cellular processes to function. With various pathologies and metabolic disorders (cancer, trauma, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, etc.), the blood pH value is outside the normal range. The state of even a slight shift in pH is called acidosis or alkalosis, which is extremely dangerous and can even be fatal.
Thus, people with kidney disease who are predisposed to urolithiasis, diabetes mellitus and other metabolic disorders need to be extremely careful and significantly limit the intake of protein foods and other acidic foods in order to reduce the burden on the kidneys and avoid acidosis. Also, an alkaline diet is relevant in cases of risk of kidney stones.
If normally food does not acidify the blood, is it then possible to speak of “acidification of the body”? The issue of acidity can be approached from the other side. Consider the processes occurring in the intestine.
It is known that the human intestine is inhabited by 3-4 kg of microorganisms that synthesize vitamins and protect the body from infections, support the function of the gastrointestinal tract, and contribute to the digestion of food.
A significant part of the processing of carbohydrates occurs in the intestine with the help of microorganisms, the main substrate of which is fiber. As a result of fermentation, glucose obtained from the breakdown of long carbohydrate molecules breaks down into simple molecules with the formation of energy used by the cells of the body for biochemical reactions.
For reference. Glucose is the main source of energy for the vital processes of the body. Under the action of enzymes in the human body, glucose is broken down with the formation of an energy reserve in the form of ATP molecules. These processes are called glycolysis and fermentation. Fermentation occurs without the participation of oxygen and in most cases is carried out by microorganisms.
With an excess of carbohydrates in the diet: refined sugar (sucrose), lactose from dairy products, fructose from fruits, easily digestible starches from flour, cereals and starchy vegetables, leads to the fact that fermentation in the intestine becomes intense and decay products – lactic acid and other acids cause the acidity in the intestinal cavity to increase. Also, most of the decay products cause bubbling, bloating and flatulence.
In addition to the friendly flora, putrefactive bacteria, pathogenic microorganisms, fungi, and protozoa can also live in the intestines. Thus, the balance of two processes is constantly maintained in the intestine: putrefaction and fermentation.
As you know, heavy protein foods are digested with great difficulty, and this takes a long time. Once in the intestines, undigested food, such as meat, becomes a feast for putrefactive flora. This leads to decay processes, as a result of which many decay products are released: “cadaveric poisons”, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, acetic acid, etc., while the internal environment of the intestine becomes acidic, causing the death of its own “friendly” flora.
At the level of the body, “souring” manifests itself as a digestive failure, dysbacteriosis, weakness, decreased immunity and skin rashes. At the psychological level, apathy, laziness, dullness of consciousness, bad mood, gloomy thoughts can indicate the presence of souring processes in the intestines – in a word, everything that is called “sour” in slang.
- normally, the food we eat does not affect the pH of the blood, respectively, does not acidify or alkalize the blood. However, in the case of pathologies, metabolic disorders and if a strict diet is not observed, there may be a shift in the pH of the blood in one direction and the other, which is dangerous for health and life.
- The food we eat affects the pH of our urine. Which may already be a signal for people with impaired kidney function, prone to the formation of stones.
- heavy protein food and overconsumption of simple sugars can lead to acidification of the internal environment of the intestine, poisoning with toxic waste products of putrefactive flora and dysbacteriosis, which causes not only a malfunction of the intestine itself and poisoning of surrounding tissues, but is also a threat to the health of the body, both physically and on a mental level.
Taking into account all these facts, we can summarize: an alkaline diet, that is, eating alkaline foods (vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, etc.) and reducing the consumption of acidic foods (meat, eggs, dairy products, sweets, starchy foods) can be considered as one of the fundamental principles of a healthy diet (detox diet). An alkaline diet can be recommended to maintain, restore health and improve quality of life.