We all know that a balanced lifestyle is essential for optimal health, weight management, longevity, and disease prevention. But, what does “balanced” mean? Well, that’s not a simple question, and doesn’t have a simple answer. However, one element of lifestyle balance can be found in the body’s acid/alkaline balance. In today’s fast-paced, high-energy, over-packaged world this balance can be a challenge to maintain. However, by understanding and implementing some of the strategies of this newly popular system in your diet (and other lifestyle behaviours) you can improve your health and restore your balance and create a foundation for lifelong health and vitality. To begin, what does it mean to your body to be excessively acidic. How does this condition present itself?

Symptoms of excess acidity include

Low energy, chronic fatigue
Excess mucous production
Nasal congestion, sinusitis
Frequent colds, flus, and infections
Persistent feelings of nervousness, stress, irritability, anxiety
Weak nails
Dry hair and skin
Formation of cysts
Hypersensitivities, allergies
Joint and muscle pain, inflammation or arthritis
Hives and skin conditions
Leg cramps, restlessness and spasms
Gastritis, acid indigestion

If many of these symptoms are present in your system today, you may need to restore your acid/alkaline balance. Having your acidity tested by a professional (naturopathic doctor or nutritionist) is a great step towards understanding this system.

The basic theory of the many acid/alkaline diet systems available now lies in premise the because the body’s natural pH level is slightly alkaline, (with a normal range just above 7) it is essential to try to maintain that balance through alkaline producing foods and behaviours.

With a slightly alkaline balance, our organs, digestion, immune system, bone density, and many other body systems function better, heal better, and resist disease better. Now, before jumping to conclusion and eliminating all acidic or acid-forming foods from your diet, it is also important to know that acids don’t just come from food. Acidity can arise from the following natural body systems, and behaviours:

Many body systems are naturally acid causing, including:

Immune functions like allergic reactions
High-intensity short-duration sports like squash and hockey

Some lifestyle choices and factors are also acid causing:

Inadequate Sleep
Chronic Stress (ie: rushing, hectic schedules, lifestyle changes)
Chronic Emotional Upset (worry, concern, anxiety, irritability)
Imbalanced meals (high animal protein, sugar, caffeine, processed foods with little alkalinising vegetables)
Not chewing properly

So now we have a general idea of what causes excessive acidity in the system, now, how do we re-establish a balance?

Most acid/alkaline diet systems recommend comprising 75-80% of your daily diet with foods that are alkaline or alkaline forming, and allowing just 20-25% of your diet to be made up of acid-forming foods. The following charts will help you determine which foods are which:

Acid Forming Foods

Generally speaking foods that are high in animal fats, highly refined foods, sugar, soft drinks, white flour, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners are the most acid-causing. Some examples include: Canola Oil, Lard, Safflower Oil, Wheat, Corn, Cheese, Milk, Butter, Peanuts, Cashews, Beef, Oysters, Lobster, White Pasta, Vinegar, Potatoes, Legumes, Soda, Table Salt, Coffee, Liquor, Beer, Wine, Tobacco.

Alkaline Foods

Most vegetables and fruits, water, soy products, olive oil, whole unrefined grains, white meat (chicken, fish), Beets, Broccoli, Cucumber, Garlic, Kale, Lettuce, Peppers, Sprouts, Apple, Avocado, Banana, Melons, Oranges, Lemons, Pineapple, Tomato, Eggs, Yogurt, Almonds, Tofu, Most Seeds, Herbal Tea, Stevia, Cayenne, Cinnamon.

Acid Buffering Substances & Lifestyle Changes:

Oxygen – practicing yogic breathing
Water – staying well hydrated
Meditation and stress reduction techniques
Moderating stress levels
Regular sleep
Eat lots of vegetables and fruit
Squeeze lemon or lime into water
Eat 1-2 servings of greens daily (broccoli, kale, spinach)

So, there you are…perfect balance, health, weight loss, and longevity in just a few easy steps. I know. It’s just not that easy. But, you will note that the suggestions here are the same tips that you’ve been hearing for years. This diet system mirrors elements of the Yogic diet, the Blood Type diet, The Yin/Yang diet, and Ayurvedic diets. So all I suggest is that you read and implement these strategies as you feel ready, taking on board what feels right for your body, your schedule, and your needs today.

For more information, see a professional – naturopath, homeopath, nutritionist or lifestyle coach. They can help you look at the big picture and customize a lifestyle system for your goals, needs, and timetable.

First Published in the Mind Body Messenger 2005

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