A Balancing Act

The Stone Age diet provides a sound model for an alkaline diet, says naturopath Jeremy Hill

The Stone Age diet provides a sound model for an alkaline diet, says naturopath Jeremy Hill

We all strive to achieve balance in our lives, juggling work with play, fresh food with fast food, being social with quiet time, exercising with kicking back, and so on.

Balance is good for us on many levels and this includes our biochemistry, with accumulating evidence suggesting that balancing your body's acidity to alkalinity levels (measured by the logarithmic pH scale) can drastically improve many aspects of your health.

The pH scale ranges from zero to 14, with a slightly alkaline 7.4 (just above neutral seven) being the healthy optimal, while below seven is increasingly acidic.

Anything below 6.5 is considered problematic to health, and easily induced by an eating pattern rich in sugars, grains, dairy and meats. This is why a typical modern Western diet is generally considered acid forming.

Alternatively, numbers above seven are increasingly alkaline and tend to be seen in those who favour more of a pre-agricultural, or Palaeolithic diet with far more emphasis on the alkalising foods such as fruit, vegetables and legumes, which would serve to counteract an acidic load.

Having a predominantly acidic system created in your body when you eat either an excess of acid-forming foods or an inadequate amount of alkaline foods, has been shown to destabilise the bodily chemistry to such an extent that suggested links include a wide array of disorders, including an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, allergies, fatigue, neurological problems, premature ageing and difficulty in losing excessive weight.

An acknowledged consequence of being too acidic is that your bones have a tendency to dissolve minerals such as calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium and the acid-buffering bicarbonate out of their structures in an attempt to address the acidic load in the blood. In the long-term, this can weaken the bones and increases the risk of osteoporosis and arthritic tendencies.

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine back in 1994 showed a significant reduction can be achieved in bone breakdown and an increase in the formation of bone when the excess acid load, or subliminal acidosis, was adjusted through the simple use of the alkalising agent, potassium bicarbonate.

As noted recently in an editorial for the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, foods were much richer in potassium in the Palaeolithic or Stone Age diet than they are today. The Palaeolithic dietary approach is proving popular among many healthy eating aficionados and diet researchers alike. This diet seems to be providing us with a terrific framework for an alkaline diet and a healthy lifestyle to boot.

As well as having a better diet, the estimated daily activity levels of Stone Age people far exceeded our own, burning at least 2 to 6 times more calories a day than that of the average modern movement pattern. They also consumed significantly more fibre and potassium-rich fruits and vegetables and virtually no grains or dairy.

You might be surprised to hear that their diets also tended to be higher in both protein and total caloric load than the current modern diets. The acid-forming nature of meats, cheeses and eggs is certainly not a valid reason to avoid these valuable foods. Instead, the answer lies in increasing the base or alkaline load of your diet, which can easily be achieved by eating more fruits and vegetables. Many people also choose to improve their alkalinity by supplementing with powdered green algae super foods such as spirulina and chlorella.

On the food front, don't be fooled into avoiding acidic foods such as tomatoes, oranges and lemons, for while these foods are acidic by nature, they are not acid forming within the body. Lemon juice is a terrific example. Despite its actual acidity being a fairly low pH of 2.3 (stomach acid is about 1.5), lemon juice is used by some folk as an alkalising agent due to its citric acid content actually having the ability to induce an alkalising effect within the body. Potassium citrate is a supplement which combines the alkalising effect of citric acid and with another strongly alkalising agent, potassium, to create a very effective method for rapidly and positively affecting pH. Adding the conditionally essential amino acid glutamine is also often helpful, particularly when an acidic system is inducing muscle breakdown. Additional glutamine may have a muscle sparing effect, as it is able to be converted into acid-buffering ammonia in the kidneys.

One of the first steps in any course of action is of course to find out if you actually need to do anything at all, and this involves testing and monitoring. By testing the acidity of your first morning urine over a period of weeks through the use of pH strips, you can quickly gain an objective reference as a starting point. You can then monitor how your pH responds as you adjust your health through various dietary, lifestyle and supplemental interventions.

Remember, creating an alkaline diet is not about cutting out all acid-forming foods, but rather merely limiting them and paying more attention to having adequate alkaline foods in your diet. Mum sure knew what she was talking about when she said, "Eat your veggies."

Good Health,

Jeremy Hill

Jeremy Hill (Diploma of Natural Therapy) is a Qualified Naturopath