Getting the acidic-alkaline balance right
Excessive intake of acid-forming foods can lead to metabolic acidosis. At its worst, this may lead to a coma.
A balanced body chemistry is of utmost importance when maintaining good health and helping the body fight disease. Our body has a remarkable ability to maintain a steady pH, at a slightly alkaline pH of 7.4, in the blood. It has been suggested that alkaline diets prevent a number of diseases and result in significant health benefits but many of our membranes require an acidic pH to protect us and help in digesting food.
Maintenance of the acid-base homeostasis is a vital function of any living organism. The blood’s acid-base balance is precisely controlled and even a minor deviation from the normal range, can predispose one to disease.
Alkalosis is a condition when acid-base disturbance is caused by an elevation in plasma bicarbonate (HCO3) concentration and the blood pH rises above 7.45 (alkaline). Its symptoms include confusion, hand tremor, light-headedness, muscle twitching, nausea, numbness or tingling in the face or extremities, prolonged muscle spasms (tetany), convulsions and if severe, loss of consciousness and death. Severe alkalosis depresses respiration.
An optimum ratio between acid and alkaline foods in the diet is important. When an ideal ratio is maintained, the body develops strong immunity.
In most disease states, catabolic state or fasting, the patient develops acidosis. Increasing intake of alkaline foods accelerates the healing of disease. The higher the ratio of alkaline elements in the diet, the faster will be the recovery. Alkalis neutralise the acids.
Therefore in the treatment of most diseases it is important that the patient’s diet includes plenty of alkaline-ash foods to offset the effects of acid-forming foods and leave a safe margin of alkalinity.
The greater the quantity of organic and sulfuric acids produced from metabolism of animal foods, and lower the amounts of potassium salts to metabolise to bicarbonate, which come mainly from fruits and vegetables, the greater the production rate of acid.
Metabolic acidosis promotes muscle wasting and the net acid load from diets rich in acid-forming foods may contribute to a reduction in lean tissue mass in older adults. A 2008 study concluded that higher intake of foods rich in potassium, such as fruit and vegetables, may favour the preservation of muscle mass in older men and women.
Aim to achieve at least 5-9 servings ( 1 serving = ½ cup) of fruits and vegetables daily along-with whole-grains, modest intake of low fat dairy, pulses, animal foods and nuts and limit intake of salt, sugar, fat and alcohol.