Photography by: Brian Leatart
"What a person eats can have a huge impact on pH," says Lark. Limit your intake of animal products, refined flours, and sugars, and put more alkaline vegetables on the menu. (See the "pH Power Foods Guide" below.)
Conversely, if you are overly alkaline, focus on acidic foods. To stay your healthiest, choose whole foods in this group, rather than nutrient-poor white flour and sugar. You can fine-tune your grocery list further by knowing which items within each food category are relatively more acidic or alkaline.
As macrobiotic instructor and chef Cynthia Briscoe advises, "The acid-forming foods are not just refined carbohydrates like white flour and sugar, but dishes that give you concentrated amounts of protein and fat." She suggests reducing animal protein and increasing vegetable content by changing the format of a given meal. For example, instead of a grilled steak for dinner, prepare a salad topped with a few slices of the meat. (See "10 Ways to Alkalize" below for more ideas.)
You'll know when your natural balance has been restored because you'll start feeling better. Briscoe recalls a student who after three days of classes and eating balanced meals, told her, "I woke up today with a happy little feeling in the middle of my stomach that I hadn't felt for years!" Start thinking in terms of the acid-alkaline balance at mealtime, and see if that happy feeling is yours as well.
Are You Unbalanced?
To find out whether your system is generally alkaline or overly acid, you can have some fun running informal tests at home. One option is to use pHydrion litmus paper (available at healthtreasures.com), which turns color when it comes in contact with saliva. For greatest accuracy, take the test immediately upon awakening. Tear off an inch of the paper and place it on your tongue for about 10 seconds, then check the results against the enclosed color chart. According to nutritionist Nancy Appleton, Ph.D., a reading between 6.6 and 7. indicates acid-alkaline balance while a reading below 6.6 indicates over-acidity and a need to eat more alkalizing foods. (Appleton offers her own testing kit at nancyappleton.com.) Another option is plastic pH strips, which can be easier to read because the chemical reagent is affixed to the strips and tends not to bleed; find them at ph-ion.com.
When testing pH, keep in mind that readings can be affected by factors such as stress or any foods or liquids you've consumed. To offset these influences, test yourself several times over a week or two.
Because there are so many variables, Susan Lark, M.D., prefers to rely on personal health histories to identify over-acidity. The following yes/no questionnaire is condensed from Lark's book, The Chemistry of Success.
- After consuming fried foods, red meat, fast food, colas, or desserts, I don't feel my best.
- I eat refined foods like white flour and sugar regularly.
- I regularly take aspirin, antibiotics, or unbuffered vitamin C.
- Vigorous exercise often leaves me feeling exhausted.
- After an hour of work at my desk, I'm mentally and physically tired.
- My muscles often feel stiff and sore.
- I have a history of osteoporosis, arthritis, or gout.
- I've already had my 50th birthday.
- I frequently catch a cold or the flu.
- I am especially susceptible to sore throats, canker sores, or food allergies.