Sour lunch

Acid foods can wear you out


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Could your insides be slowly corroding, eaten away by the ingestion of too much acidifying grub?

Many alt-health nutritionists believe that even slight leanings in an acid direction can do a lot of damage. Long-term indulgence in a diet and lifestyle that pushes the body toward acidity, they explain, may eventually deplete the organs and bones of minerals and encourage degenerative diseases. They suggest eating alkalizing foods as an antidote.

But before you start despairing that you are about to encounter yet another holistic dietary rule, consider that most of what’s involved in the acid-alkaline discussion comes up under more familiar headings.

You won’t be surprised to learn, for example, that sugars and animal proteins are the most acidic foods you might avoid them for many reasons even if you don’t get the acid thing. Likewise, fruits and veggies are the most alkalizing you’re probably gorging on them anyway because of other health edicts.

But there are some tricky areas in this system: grains, mainstays of holistic eating, are acid-forming when digested, though not nearly as much as meat and dairy products. Grain’s acidifying effects can be lowered by soaking for 36 hours before cooking or by chewing them very well. Exercise causes acid production, as does the digestion of most carbs, proteins and fats.

The body draws on its stores of calcium, magnesium and potassium to neutralize these caustic influences, and alt-health types want you to avoid this mineral drain.

Mainstream medicine is skeptical of some of these arguments — it tends to place importance on these imbalances only if they are acute, believing that healthy bodies have an awesome ability to neutralize acids.

The bottom line? Whether you’re worried about acid or not, it’s in your best interests to pile that plate with the plant kingdom. And do your yoga deep breathing helps the lungs release more carbon dioxide — an acid.

EXPERTS

“I think the link between acid/alkaline balance and bone is not that direct. If you have a high-protein diet or take too much sodium or caffeine you can lose calcium in your urine. But these factors are not very big. I haven’t seen scientific evidence indicating that it’s less stressful on the body if you eat alkalizing foods.”

ANGELA CHEUNG, MD, PhD, director of the osteoporosis program and associate director of the women’s health program at the University Health Network

An acid environment in the body contributes to inflammation. It exacerbates conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Steak, pork and chicken have acidic ash. An acid environment is also associated with kidney stones. (The acid leaches minerals from the bones), then the blood levels of the minerals supersaturate and coalesce in the kidneys.

ARVIN JENAB, naturopath

“If you are eating acid foods, you’re eating mostly meat and potatoes and bread, and you’re leaving out all the healthy things. If you go to the other extreme and just eat fruits and vegetables, that’s too alkaline and equally bad. I think the acid/alkaline thing is a marketing gimmick that encourages people to buy products and get nutrition counselling. Approximately 50 to 60 per cent of your calories should come from carbohydrates, which are acid-forming. But a healthy kidney can handle it. The buffering ability of the body is really amazing.”

MARILYN COWLING, registered dietition, nutritionist

“Most disease occurs in an acid environment. The first thing that happens to people wheeled into an ER is that they’re injected with sodium bicarbonate, an alkalizing substance. You can do it that way in an emergency, or you can prevent a heart attack in the first place. If you give somebody a lot of red meat, grains, alcohol and caffeine (acid-forming foods), I can guarantee you there will be more calcium peed out of the body than if they ate fruit and veggies. Any medical textbook will tell you that. I’ve seen good clinical results from alkalizing diets thousands of times. It’s possible to be too alkaline, but I’ve never seen it. Most people are on the acid side.”

ZOLTAN RONA, MD, MSc

“Long-lived populations from the Hunzas to the Vilcambans eat an alkalizing diet. In contrast, the shortest-lived populations eat an acid-forming diet. There is also a little bit of scientific evidence that confirms the superiority of an alkaline-forming diet. An easy test to do at home is to check the pH of your first morning urine with pH paper. Healthy people have a first-morning urine pH between 6.5 and 7.5.”

Russell Jaffe, Sterling, Virginia, MD, PhD, fellow of the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry

what the experts say

“I think the link between acid/alkaline balance and bone is not that direct. If you have a high-protein diet or take too much sodium or caffeine you can lose calcium in your urine. But these factors are not very big. I haven’t seen scientific evidence indicating that it’s less stressful on the body if you eat alkalizing foods.”

ANGELA CHEUNG, MD, PhD, director of the osteoporosis program and associate director of the women’s health program at the University Health Network

An acid environment in the body contributes to inflammation. It exacerbates conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Steak, pork and chicken have acidic ash. An acid environment is also associated with kidney stones. (The acid leaches minerals from the bones), then the blood levels of the minerals supersaturate and coalesce in the kidneys.

ARVIN JENAB, naturopath

“If you are eating acid foods, you’re eating mostly meat and potatoes and bread, and you’re leaving out all the healthy things. If you go to the other extreme and just eat fruits and vegetables, that’s too alkaline and equally bad. I think the acid/alkaline thing is a marketing gimmick that encourages people to buy products and get nutrition counselling. Approximately 50 to 60 per cent of your calories should come from carbohydrates, which are acid-forming. But a healthy kidney can handle it. The buffering ability of the body is really amazing.”

MARILYN COWLING, registered dietition, nutritionist

“Most disease occurs in an acid environment. The first thing that happens to people wheeled into an ER is that they’re injected with sodium bicarbonate, an alkalizing substance. You can do it that way in an emergency, or you can prevent a heart attack in the first place. If you give somebody a lot of red meat, grains, alcohol and caffeine (acid-forming foods), I can guarantee you there will be more calcium peed out of the body than if they ate fruit and veggies. Any medical textbook will tell you that. I’ve seen good clinical results from alkalizing diets thousands of times. It’s possible to be too alkaline, but I’ve never seen it. Most people are on the acid side.”

ZOLTAN RONA, MD, MSc

“Long-lived populations from the Hunzas to the Vilcambans eat an alkalizing diet. In contrast, the shortest-lived populations eat an acid-forming diet. There is also a little bit of scientific evidence that confirms the superiority of an alkaline-forming diet. An easy test to do at home is to check the pH of your first morning urine with pH paper. Healthy people have a first-morning urine pH between 6.5 and 7.5.”

Russell Jaffe, Sterling, Virginia, MD, PhD, fellow of the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry

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