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What is an alkaline diet, does it improve health ?

What is an alkaline diet, does it improve health ?

An alkaline diet is often banded around by all the latest food gurus but what is it and does it really have any health benefits, or is it just hype?

The body is a highly sophisticated and finely tuned organism, carrying out billions of chemical reactions a second. The kidneys, for example, constants regulate your electrolytes ( Magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium), the liver will have cleansed your blood in the time it has taken you to read this. As you can see, the organs work in synergy with one another, so keeping your body in good shape is vitally important to health.

So what is alkaline ?
For the body to work efficiently, it likes to work at an optimum PH level of between 7.3 and 7.4. This is a very narrow parameter and the body will try to maintain it as best it can. However, we impact that every day with the foods we eat and the lifestyle we live. When certain foods are broken down in the body, they create an acidic environment. This acidity causes inflammation in the body, which can lead to bone loss, muscle wastage, organ disfunction, as the body uses up valuable minerals to drive the inflammatory processes. Most health professionals agree that inflammation is the route cause of all disease and accelerates ageing. So it makes sense that if we can give the body the right nutrients we can have a positive effect on our health.
Should all the body be alkaline?
That said, not all of the body should be alkaline. The stomach is a case in point. The gastric acid in the stomach is a much lower PH of 1 or 2. This is very acidic, however, it needs to be to breakdown proteins into their amino acids. Without an acidic stomach, this process is slowed and then doesn’t stimulate the gallbladder to release bile salts into the small intestine. Often acid reflux is actually a lack of stomach acid, not excess but that’s another blog post all together.
What are the best foods to alkalise our body?
Often the best foods are those closest to nature. It’s not rocket science that we need more vegetables and fruit in our diets.
  • Number one would be greens. Spinach, kale, broccoli, green beans, cabbage, barley grass, wheatgrass. They contain good levels of minerals, particularly magnesium and potassium. They have chlorophyll molecule at their centre and are structurally similar to our blood. If you can’t eat them, then juice them, or make them into smoothies. Green drinks are really alkaline and healing for the body.
  • Try to get raw foods into your diet every day, such as salads and fresh fruit. They are said to be to be “biogenic or life-giving.” They also provide valuable fibre to help detox and cleanse the colon.
  • Good fruits would be berries, figs, bananas, apples, citrus fruit, some dried fruit but not in excess.
  • Nuts such as almonds are high in Magnesium, though most nuts contain enzyme inhibitors on their outer shells, this can be negated by soaking for a few hours in water before consumption. Otherwise, if you are not drinking enough water, you are giving the body extra work.
  • Spices & herbs are excellent. Garlic, ginger, turmeric, oregano, thyme, basil all have health benefits. Turmeric contains Curcumin which is the anti inflammatory component. There are hundreds of studies on PubMed about it.
  • Good quality water is really important . Tap water in certain areas can contain a lot of chlorine and the white limescale left in the kettle so use filtered water where possible. There are a lot of options here but chose the method that suits you and your pocket! Adding pH drops or lemon or lime, to your water can also boosts its alkalinity.
Foods to avoid
  • Highly processed junk foods contain a lot of sodium chloride( table salt).This causes blood vessels to constrict and cause acidity.
  • Processed meats, as the nitrites that preserve them are carcinogenic according to the World Health Organisation.
  • Processed breakfast cereals contain too much sugar and salt and lack fibre.
  • Eggs in excess can cause acidity.
  • Caffeinated drinks. They need dehydrate you.
  • Wheat products. Wheat is in everything now from sauces to pasta. Too much even wholewheat, creates acidity.
  • Milk is high in calcium in relation to magnesium and is not in the best form for humans. It was designed by nature to grow a calf ! Too much calcium in this form causes acidity in the cells. The body will then rob the bones of calcium to keep enough in the blood for correct blood pressure, heart function etc. Hence you get osteoporosis. To get good bio available calcium in the right form, eat lots of green leafy vegetables.
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Artificial sweeteners. They cause you to eat more as they trick the body’s taste mechanism.
  • Chronic stress depletes the body of vital vitamins & minerals
  • Excess Antibiotics use. These last four on the list, all disrupt your gut bacteria. We are learning more and more about the microbiome, which is made up of the different gut bacteria that live within us. They live in synergy with us, helping to make short chain fatty acids, B vitamins. When the gut is happy, we are happy.

If you can only do one thing, then add more fruit and vegetables, in particular green vegetables. You will be giving your body a plethora of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants and you will feel the benefits!!!!

It can all seem overwhelming and trying to change everything overnight is impractical. If you need some structure & advice, I offer 1-2-1 coaching advice, contact me at mail@paulafenegan.co.uk


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