Journey to alkalise
by Rebecca Reider
Any good farmer or gardener will agree that the pH of soil is vital to the health of plants. So we do soil tests; we consider which crops like it alkaline, and which like it acid; we spread lime and other minerals on the earth if needed.
But how many of us are paying attention to the pH of an ecosystem much closer at hand: the pH inside our own bodies?
Many health practitioners now believe that the pH level in our bodies is one of the most fundamental variables influencing our health. The bad news: modern life is, quite literally, an acid trip: diets high in processed foods, popular beverage choices (fizzy drinks, alcohol, coffee) and plain old stress and fear all make us acidic. The good news: there are a variety of ways to alkalise the body, and the positive ripple effects on health from this one change can affect literally every bodily system and every disease process.
A highly simplified science review, and the scary part of the article to motivate you to take action
As the title of one popular book on the subject puts it, Alkalize or Die. The human body is equipped with a finely attuned pH management system. Our blood needs to be slightly alkaline, at pH 7.365 (pH 7 is neutral; anything less than pH 7 is acidic). Our bodies will do anything they can to maintain this desired blood pH level.
The problem is, if we are bombarded with acidifying foods, toxins, and stress, then our body’s own efforts to maintain a steady blood pH can set in motion a cascade of disasters. The body may steal alkalising minerals from other body systems in order to buffer the blood acidity (e.g. leaching calcium out of the bones, causing osteoporosis). Or we stash the acid away in various organs and fatty tissues, contributing to a range of disorders. The acid environment affects our whole inner ecosystem, providing a breeding ground for harmful yeasts (such as Candida), fungi, and bacteria which thrive in such conditions; and these microorganisms produce acidic waste products, exacerbating the problem.
As a result of this chain of events, overacidity has been blamed for a host of health maladies. Prominent American natural health dootors, such as Dr Robert and Shelley Young, authors of The pH Miracle, list over 50 common health problems associated with an acidic body: everything from depression and antisocial behaviour to pain and inflammation, overweight, hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue, and cancer. Different people stash their excess acidity in different body parts, so the results are not the same for everyone; and acidity can build up for quite a while before symptoms surface. However, as the Youngs and other pH-researchers agree: overacidity is “at the root of all sickness and disease.”
Okay, I want to be alkaline! So what do I do about it?
That’s what I wanted to know myself. A few years ago, suffering from a mysterious chronic pain condition, I went to a natural health practitioner who, using kinesiology, told me I was overacid. Urine tests confirmed this. Saliva tests are generally less reliable than a urine test, which you can administer yourself, using inexpensive pH tester strips, or using an electronic pH meter. Ideal urine pH is around 7, though opinions diverge as to the exact number and a host of factors can cause urine pH to vary quite a lot.
My journey with pH
One of the cheapest and simplest ways to alkalise oneself is by drinking a spoonful of baking soda in water a few times a day. I lasted about three days on this method because of the abominable taste.
Diet is one of the most common and complex routes to alkalise the body. Some foods are acid-forming when we eat them; others are alkaline-forming. It’s not as simple as just measuring the pH of a particular food; for example, lemon juice is acidic, but drinking lemon juice will make your body more alkaline. For a list of alkalising and acidifying foods : http://ionza.co.nz/resource-centre/alkaline-foods-drinks-ranke
Most pH experts agree that alkalising foods should constitute at least 80 percent of our diet. The Youngs recommend gradually transitioning to this, then doing a green juice cleanse to get rid of lingering acidity, then sticking with a 100 percent alkaline diet for a few months to complete the cleansing.
Desperate to heal my pain, I jumped headlong into the Youngs’ dietary approach to alkalinity. For ten days I consumed only fresh vegetable juices that I prepared myself, and drinks made from the Youngs’ own somewhat unappetizing green vegetable powder. After this cleanse, I stuck with their recommendations for a strict alkalising diet: a predominance of raw foods; meals where vegetables took up most of the plate; sprouts and soaked nuts; no sugars (not even fruit); no alcohol or other acidifying beverages; only small amounts of grains, sticking to the few grains that are pH-neutral (amaranth, quinoa, spelt) or slightly alkalising (millet and buckwheat). The results: at first, while cleansing and dumping acidity out of my body, I was in more pain than before! A strange victory. But after a while on the alkalising diet, that pain lessened, and I was amazed at my energy levels. I was subsisting largely on vegetables – foods that have little energy content in the way of calories – yet I had more energy than I had felt in months.
I was intrigued and vibrant. However I was also antisocial! A super-strict alkaline diet, while it can feel good, makes it hard to eat anywhere other than one’s own kitchen. So after a few months, I fell off the puritanical alkaline-eater wagon. I do still try to eat alkaline-ishly, and at times when I’ve been in a period of heightened pain, a stricter alkaline diet has helped me move toward more ease.
We are water
My next foray into pH came through the world of technology. The lazy pH adventure, perhaps. I was offered an opportunity to try out a water ionising machine that would make my tap water alkaline. Our bodies are mostly water, after all – so it makes sense that drinking alkaline water would have a drastic effect on our internal pH.
Alkaline water can cause a strong detox reaction in an acidic body, so I gradually ramped up the controls on my kitchen water ioniser until I was drinking pH 10 water every day. When I visited a naturopath who tested my urine, he was perplexed: my urine was at pH 7.4, actually too alkaline – something he had never seen before! The water had been too effective. I stepped back to drinking pH 9.5 water and my urine went back to 7.1, perfectly neutral. Once, when I went on a road trip without the ionised water and let my dietary habits slide toward the acidic foods …. meat, Chinese takeaways, the odd glass of wine, not quite enough sleep, I came home and my urine pH was on its way into the acid zone: down to 6.4 after just a few weeks of “modern living”!
I did notice well into my first year of drinking alkaline water, that I still got into pain but I was able to get out of pain faster than before – sometimes I could recover in hours instead of days. I can’t claim that the ioniser was the sole cause of this, as I engage in many health practices and everything is connected.
The testimonials of some other water ionizer users are more dramatic, though. Brook Weatherwell, one of the directors of Ionza Ltd., who import and sell water ionisers in New Zealand, tells the story of a severe high blood pressure patient who began experiencing relief within weeks of switching to ionised water, and thanks to the water was finally able to achieve normal blood pressure while also reducing his medication levels. Joseph Blessing, Brook’s partner in life and business, had long struggled with hypoglycemia; he was sold on the ioniser himself when the changing chemistry of his body finally freed him from the nagging feeling of always needing to know when he would be able to eat next. The Ionza website prints testimonials from people who have experienced health improvements of all sorts: resolved skin complaints, reduced pain, more energy.
I tend not to believe in panaceas. As Brook herself says, “It’s more than just ‘drink this water and everything’s fixed.’ ” Water can be one component of an alkalising lifestyle that includes diet, rest, moderate exercise, and a peaceful attitude – for it is said that love is one of the greatest alkalisers of all. Brook and Joseph report that many of their clients, like me, did not get concerned about going alkaline until they experienced a health crisis. Still I wonder what would happen to our collective health and disease rates, if everyone else explored alkalising themselves before that crisis happened.
Source: Rebecca Reider and Ionza editing
Rebecca Reider is the author of the award winning book: 'Dreaming the Biosphere' and writer of numerous articles.