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The Whole Balance Thing



by Susan Fekety, RN, MSN, CNM



The recent Spring Equinox inspired me to reflect on the human body's astounding capacity for re-balancing after a challenge. Take a moment to appreciate this everyday miracle – homeostasis is regularly restored without you downloading anything or issuing instructions.

Balance, sameness, and consistency could, particularly to a young adventurer-type like yourself, appear to be the genesis of things like beige household interiors and going on vacation to the same place every fricking year. It motivates ME, however, to consider food plans which assert that if you eat wrong you'll screw up your body's pH balance (its acid-base balance), make yourself over-acidified, and get sick. (The most compelling title in this genre is, I believe, "Alkalize or Die.")

The term "pH" indicates acidity (lower pH) or alkalinity (higher pH), and affects more than shampoo, skincare, or bags of stuff you spread on your garden. Everything in nature prefers a certain range because that's where essential chemical reactions happen most efficiently. Absorbing nutrients, eliminating wastes, and sending signals from cell to cell are all pH-dependent. Your body regulates its pH very carefully at a slightly alkaline spot, and getting way out of whack will land you in the hospital.

Turns out diet has a subtle but very real effect on this mechanism. Digesting and assimilating various foods does indeed temporarily raise or lower your blood pH – in fact, there is a whole reference index of the acid-alkaline effects of the things we eat – who knew? Americans tend to eat a lot of acid-producing foods: meat, refined grains, sugar, dairy foods, carbonated drinks, coffee and alcohol. (pH impact has nothing to do with how a food tastes.) Fruits and vegetables tend to raise your pH back up; plant foods are LOADED with natural alkalizers, or pH buffers. (What a system, Mother Nature's plan.) After a balanced meal, it's easy to restore pH. Some acid, some alkaline, you are pH-perfect.

Without enough alkalizing foods in your diet, though, your body will break down bone and muscle to liberate calcium, magnesium, and glutamine – molecules that form your "buffer storage cabinet." This is bad. You do not want to eat up bones and muscles. Getting osteoporosis may reflect a diet pattern that chronically overdrew the buffer bank account -- not a milk-mustache deficiency (indeed, au contraire!) And loss of muscle mass, a major problem of aging, may not be solely the result of slothfulness. This is big. And there may be more to it.

Dedicated pH-balancers drink pureed wheatgrass, and test their urine or saliva with litmus paper to make sure their pH is in the right range. I mean, go ahead and do a personal experiment with this: the paper is available at most health food stores and is pretty cheap. And if wheatgrass is an attractive way to get green foods into your daily life I say go for it. Everything helps!

Alternatively, you could just implement the principles and skip the testing. Can you become aware of the acid-forming foods you eat? Can you bring in more vegetables and fruits – you're looking for 9 half-cup servings a day. (Yes, I am serious.) Many folks only get one or two vegetables on a regular basis – and that's counting white potatoes (as in French fries), one of the few acidifying veggies, and iceberg lettuce (which is really mostly water so don't bother.) Try taking an appealing apple to work, one that looks yummy to you, and eat it before it goes wrinkly – maybe instead of those chips from the machine in the basement. Try some vegetable juice, or a big dark-leafy salad with some protein on it for lunch instead of leftover pasta or a sandwich. Put salsa and onions on everything. Your pH will thank you, and so will your muscles and bones!




Article © Copyright 2008 by Susan Fekety. All rights reserved worldwide. Duplication or reprints only with express permission of the author or, for a nonprofit purpose, without consent so long as the author's name and contact information are included as follows: "Reproduced with permission from Susan Fekety," These articles are provided for informational purposes only. Their content is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own health care professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem promptly contact your health care provider.




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