19 Aug 2022

Healthy Living: Alkalize your diet for bone strength

Healthy Living: Alkalize your diet for bone strength

The idea is not to stop eating everything acidic, but rather to gently bring things back to centre

DID you know how good digestion and the pH levels of our bodies affect bone strength and general health? But what is pH and why is it so important? We measure how acidic or alkaline something is by the amount of hydrogen ions present, and we use the pH scale to describe this.

The lower the number, the more acidic the reading (and the higher the number of hydrogen ions present). The pH level of vinegar is about 2, which means that it is very acidic. Anything with a pH of 7 is neutral, and above that is alkaline.

When it comes to our bodies, we function best when the majority of our cells have a slightly alkaline environment. There are some variations within the body depending on what is most useful for the local function.

The stomach, for example, needs a very strong acidic environment to kill off harmful bacteria, help to break down foods and activate its digestive enzymes.

Mucous membranes, such as the digestive tract, uterus, lungs and sinuses, are usually slightly acidic. But most of the body prefers to be just slightly on the alkaline side of neutral.

Our incredibly clever body has systems in place to continually work towards bringing us back to alkaline again - it will often draw calcium from the bones to make up the deficit. Osteoblasts, the cells that produce bone tissue, function less efficiently, while osteoclasts that break down bone tissue have been shown to release more calcium from the bones in acidic conditions.

A 2001 study compared changes in calcium levels and bone density in a group of people given a high acid diet to a group given a more alkalising diet, and found a definite association. The group following a more acidic diet experienced greater loss of calcium and bone mass.

The key word here again is balance. We need to ensure that we are eating an appropriate balance that gently keeps us where we need to be - usually the 80-20 rule applies here, eating 80% alkalizing and 20% acidifying foods for best results. Generally speaking, animal proteins will be most acidic; grains (such as wheat, oat, rye, rice) will be more on the acidic side, unless sprouted in which case they become more alkalising; and vegetables, especially raw vegetables, and seaweeds are largely alkalising.

Most fruits produce an alkalising ash in our body, but eaten in excess the sugar they contain may produce acidic conditions in the body.

The idea is not to stop eating everything acidic, but rather to gently bring things back to centre by adding in more alkalising foods, and making wiser choices about which acid-forming foods are most useful to us.

What we do not need at all are on the avoid list: most sugars, especially refined sugars and artificial sweeteners will be highly acid forming and unnecessary for our body.

Alcohol and high caffeine intake should also be avoided for best bone and health support.

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