By Tony Polito – Boston.com Guest Columnist
The changing of the seasons can be a bit challenging to maintain health, but the reality is that there is never a good time for a cold. With five seasons in New England—the fifth being “flu season”—apples are your best natural defense against almost any cold. We often tend to forget about taking care of ourselves until it’s too late and then BANG! We’re sick. Most people don’t realize that getting a cold or the flu has nothing to do with being exposed to the cold temperatures. Sure, you might be chilly, but that doesn’t make your resistance to viruses crumble and force your pH to drop. This fall season, let’s take a look at the importance of your pH levels as it relates to your health. To make it simple, pH stands for “potential hydrogen.” We need hydrogen to live, but like many things, too much of a good thing can be dangerous.
The typical American enjoys a fast (no fiber) diet and highly unhealthy snacking habits. As a result, most Americans suffer from high acidity diets. So why should you care? All illnesses stem from this state; maintaining a high acidity diet only encourages a number of maladies, illnesses and diseases. This can range anywhere from frequently getting colds and the flu, to heart disease and cancer.
This information in mind, it goes without saying that your pH levels are critically important to your health and the best way to maintain a good pH level is to eat healthy. You’re probably aware that you don’t get sick when you eat fruits and vegetables. Know why? A large portion of these foods are alkalizing, which means they have cancer-fighting antioxidants.
The “good zone”
Your pH level is measured on a scale of 1-14, with lower numbers illustrating the level of acidity (the lower the number the higher the acidity), and higher numbers illustrating the level of alkalinity (the higher the number the higher the alkalinity). We need a balance of both acid and alkalinity since acid helps to digest our foods and we need alkalinity to live.
A good pH balance for humans is somewhere from 6.8 to 7.2. Having a pH of 7 is as perfect as you can get; it is neither acidic nor alkaline. With this balance, you can avoid getting sick because your body can fight and knock out any disease, and your system doesn’t get beat up. In fact, with a balanced pH level, your immune system can rest between the rounds of fighting everyday bacteria, pollutions and other harmful toxins. Having a life absent of illnesses and chronic diseases is a quest most people desire. This quest, however, seems to come with age; I really didn’t care about pH levels in my 20’s but I certainly do in my 40’s. As one ages, one begins to realize that the years are like weeks and days are like hours.
This raises a lot of questions. How can you test your pH level? How often should you test your pH level? Are there any acidic foods I should avoid? Can alkalizing foods keep me from getting sick?
Let’s take this one step at a time. It is possible for you to test your own pH levels from the comfort of your own home (and without the co-pay required by your physician). Using litmus strips, generally available at a local pharmacy, you can easily test your own pH levels by placing a drop of saliva on the colored tip of the strip and waiting just 15 seconds. As your results appear, compare that to the color from the increment range available on the back of the box. The preferred choice are those called pH ion Balance and the cost is just $14.95 for 90 strips. So for roughly $0.17, you can better understand your body.
Some foods are truly better than others when it comes to a balanced pH level, and others can cause a bit of confusion. Lemons and limes and apple cider are some great examples; most people assume these are acidic, but they are in fact alkalizing. A quick reference list of foods that are defined as acidic and alkalizing is available online at http://bit.ly/pMCeJL.
Although our bodies have a “built-in mechanism” to keep us balanced—functions such as respiration, perspiration, urination and mineral depletion—this mechanism is over worked and under paid, just like many of the school teachers in the U.S. As was previously discussed, Americans’ diets are less than ideal, typically composed of 80 percent of acidic-forming foods and only 20 percent of alkalizing-forming foods. This, combined with the stress we face in our daily lives, is toxic. Think about the foods you typically consume on a daily basis. Coffee, meat, ice cream, soda, processed foods, artificial sweeteners… how many of these foods are on your daily menu?
Here is a short list of some alkalizing foods, foods that should have a bigger role in our daily diets:
- snow peas
- wheat grass
- apple cider vinegar
Alkalizing foods are significantly beneficial. In the spirit of the fall season, let’s take a look at nature’s toothbrush: the apple. Believe it or not, apple cider is called the “healing vinegar.” If you know anyone that’s suffering from acid reflux, forward this article to them.
For those who experience heartburn, indigestion or acid reflux, it’s important to understand that acid reflux isn’t a condition, but rather the symptom of a condition. The real problem is that you don’t have a sufficient amount of acid in your system. Combined with the fact that the muscle separating the stomach from the esophagus is weak or compromised, it allows the stomach acid to splash up into the esophagus. To no one’s surprise, overeating is a large contributor to this. When you overeat, acid is forced upward, causing discomfort.
Ironically, most acid reflux medications do not work by reducing excess acid. Instead, these medications reduce all of the acid in your system. As you now know, we need acid to help digest our foods. If you don’t have enough, the symptoms above start to surface as a result.
When acid is removed from the body, it kicks the acid-producing pumps on high to replenish the missing acid. Apple cider does the same thing naturally. Similar to lemons, the body’s metabolic process enables the alkalizing minerals in the cider to override the acid once it’s in the blood stream.
Over all, if you can adjust your diet to include 80 percent of alkalizing-forming foods and 20 percent of acidic-forming foods, you’ll find you have less illness in your life, fewer sick days and, quite honestly, you won’t feel as if an elephant just sat on you. Remember that when you eat healthy, you feel good; when you eat junk and drink junk, you create a “junk yard” within your body.
The moral of the story: start eating healthy now to feel great and be healthy for this holiday season.