Photo: Erik Aeder

Photo: Erik Aeder

Your Body on Acid: The Impact of pH Imbalance and How to Fix It

Ever had that sensation when you feel like you just ate a few Duracell batteries and they just exploded in your stomach, causing a volcano of battery acid to erupt all the way up to your throat? That's a daily reality for people suffering from Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is just one of the symptoms that indicates that your diet is too acidic, your body isn't processing acid properly, or both. So how does it get to this point, and without resigning yourself to a life of daily Prilosec, what can you do about it?

The Impact of Acidity

The most common acid-related health problem is GERD, for which heartburn and acid reflux are the main symptoms. This backwash of stomach acid can cause inflammation, sores, bleeding, or breathing difficulties if left untreated, and can even increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

Excess acid can also cause problems in the liver and kidneys. In addition, the body may begin to remove calcium from bones to try and alkalize itself and get closer to neutral pH (7.4). This can increase the risk of osteoporosis and other bone disorders.

Photo: Harry Wiewel

Photo: Harry Wiewel

The High Acidity Trigger Foods

Before we start in on common triggers for an acid attack, let's be clear that, fried food and soda aside, none of these foods are 'bad' for you, and in fact, quite the opposite when it comes to nutritional merit. It's just that you need to consume them in moderation and balance out their acidity with some alkalinity from foods on the other end of the pH scale. It's also worth noting that expert nutritionists argue over the acid vs. alkali nature of some foods and drinks. Anyway, here are foods that may contribute to an acid attack:

• Coffee
• Chocolate
• Fried food
• Oranges
• Tomatoes
• Alcohol
• Fatty meats
• White bread/bagels
• Soda

The Alkaline Foods

Now that we've covered some foods and beverages that can push your acidity levels through the roof, let's explore the opposite end of the pH spectrum. Note that the acidity level of the food when outside the body in no way impacts its pH when in the body—you'd think lemons would make your acidity level skyrocket, when in fact they become alkaline when digested.

The following foods can help your body restore pH balance, and, if you're going to be consuming something (or several things) on the acid all-stars list above, it's a good idea to also take in something on this list, too:

• Almonds
• Bananas
• Leafy green vegetables
• Garlic
• Avocadoes
• Cabbage
• Lemons
• Potatoes (not when fried!)
• Mushrooms

Photo: Gorge-US Photography

Photo: Gorge-US Photography

Other Tips for Restoring pH Balance

Simply eating a balanced diet may not be enough to address some people's acidity issues. As an added line of defense, you can drink 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda in a few ounces of water if you feel the acid rising up into your chest. Some experts also swear by doing the same with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. It's a more legitimate solution than the pre-mixed drinks that claim to balance pH but, for the most part, don't do anything.

You can also take a probiotic supplement to help aid efficient digestion. And, while some people claim that dairy foods are acidic, the prebiotics and probiotics found in Greek yoghurts and aged hard cheeses (think Parmesan and cheddar) can also promote better digestion.
Phil White

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