Acid or Alkaline

Simon G Brown has studied macrobiotics since 1980 and authored many books, including Modern Day Macrobiotics.

This article is based on the book Macrobiotics For Life by Simon Brown and published by North Atlantic.

An overly acid condition is associated with headaches, arthritis, indigestion and even an increased risk of cancer. There is much speculation that our immune system is less effective when we our too acidic. As stress and over acidity tend to go together an acidic condition can be associated with any stress related illness. If you feel unwell and you are also acidic the obvious remedy is make yourself more alkaline.

Our body fluids can change in terms of whether they are acidic or alkaline. This is known as our pH balance. Our pH balance can change according to the foods we eat and our emotions. We can find out what our pH balance generally is by using our saliva and urine as a guide. You can measure your saliva and urine by using pH sticks or strips. You can purchase these specifically for measuring saliva and urine.

Ideally, the strips or sticks would have a range that includes readings between 5.5 and 8.0. In the pH scale, 7 is neutral. Values above 7 are alkaline, and below, acidic.
When we take a reading we measure our body’s biological state. Taking a pH reading is easily done by using a pH stick to take a reading from the saliva on our tongue. Once our saliva contacts the strip it will react with the coating and change color. You can either place the strip on your tongue or spit a little saliva onto a spoon and mix the strip with the saliva. After a few seconds we can read the test strip. Taking a reading is most commonly done by comparing the color of the strip with a chart provided with the strips.

A reading of 7 will be neutral. A lower reading such as 6 will be acidic whilst a higher reading such as 7.5 alkaline. It is best to take your reading first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything (accept water) and before you clean your teeth.
Try taking a reading every morning for a week so you can see the overall state of your saliva. If your readings are below 7 you are currently acidic and can try taking action to bring your saliva to a more alkaline state. If your readings are between 7 and 7.5 you are what is considered healthily alkaline. It is highly unlikely that readings will exceed 8 but if so this would be too alkaline.

Most people tend to be too acidic and the challenge is to help ourselves become more alkaline. This can be done through diet and emotional well-being.
When eating more alkaline-forming foods, the body stores minerals; when your body is too acidic, these minerals are used up as your body tries to maintain an optimum pH balance in the blood. This is thought to aggravate arthritic conditions and could lead to a weakening of the bones as phosphorus is taken from them. A generally acidic condition is also thought to increase the risk of cancer and headaches, and to reduce our resistance to infectious illnesses.

So far it’s not known how much the pH of our intercellular fluid changes in response to outside influences. We know our saliva and urine change their pH in response to outside influences, but the rest is speculation. From my own experience, maintaining a condition where my saliva is consistently alkaline has helped me feel healthier in terms of my energy, immune system, and joints.
When we feel stressed we tend to secrete more acid into our digestive system with the result that our saliva, urine, and, possibly, other body fluids become more acidic. This may be one reason why humans become more prone to illness when suffering from long term stress. There are many claims that illnesses like cancer, psoriasis, shingles, headaches, indigestion, ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease are more likely to occur during times of prolonged stress. It is also thought that we are more susceptible to infectious illness whilst feeling stressed.

In my own work many clients connect the start of an illness with a period of great stress. So we might hypothesize that stress contributes to more acidic condition and that over acidity can result in poor health in some people. In addition to stress, certain foods can lead to us becoming more acidic. These are known as acid-forming foods. Interestingly, some foods that are themselves acidic, such as lemons, actually result in a more alkaline condition in our saliva and urine.
There are different ways of measuring foods in terms of their pH. Some tables are based on burning foods and analyzing their ashes, others measure a person’s urine or saliva at the peak of the wave of change the foods bring about.

The pH value derived from burning food tells us more about the possible effect of the food in our digestive systems, and the test that measures the foods effect on our saliva and urine provides more clues as to the effect it may have on some of our other bodily fluids. For example, drinking lemon juice will feel acidic in our mouths and stomachs, and often make an overly acidic condition such as an ulcer worse, whereas it could be helpful for a headache caused by overacidity.
In addition, the health of your digestive system can have an influence on whether foods become acid- or alkaline-forming. For example, tomatoes are considered slightly alkaline-forming but they become acid-forming when stomach acid is low or thyroid activity is subnormal. In addition, the more mature and ripe the tomato, the more alkaline-forming it becomes. It is therefore difficult to produce a reliable table. I use a broad spectrum of tables based on foods’ possible influence on the body as a rough guide to acid- and alkaline forming foods, and then use pH sticks to measure my own saliva.

As possible causes of acidity include stress, fear, anxiety, nervousness, anger and worry the opposite helps us become more alkaline. So try building in regular meditation, laughter, living in the moment, creative projects, getting out into nature, stretching and exercise into your typical day.

The easiest way to reduce stress is to live through our senses and just experience our world without thinking about it or endlessly analyzing. So to simple feel, hear, smell, taste and see can keep us away from potentially stressful thoughts.
In what is often thought of as a typical healthy natural diet based on whole, living foods, most grains and beans will be acid-forming, while vegetables and many fruits are alkaline-forming. This is why it is important to generally have as much vegetables as you have grains in a typical day. If you add in fish, salty dairy foods, and meat, your diet becomes more acid-forming, increasing the need for vegetables and fruits.

Cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol make your diet even more acid-forming. A typical junk food diet is highly acid-forming. The starting point to creating a balanced diet in terms of acid and alkaline is to have roughly equal amounts of grains and vegetables, and then try to match additional acid-forming foods with an increase in alkaline-forming foods. For example if you eat more fish, reduce your intake of grains slightly and increase your intake of vegetables or fruits. Try having alkaline-forming lemon or chopped almonds with your fish.
If you enjoy alcohol sometimes, try to also eat more alkaline-forming foods. Have an alkaline-forming fresh vegetable juice with the occasional coffee. To increase the alkaline-forming foods within your diet, try a miso soup with a variety of vegetables and wakame, dulse, or nori daily. Adding celery, watercress, and parsley to your soup will make it much more alkalizing. Use a little more millet and reduce other grains, make a drink by squeezing lemon into a glass and poring hot water over it, have fresh melon for desert, cook parsley as a vegetable dish, try tofu instead of beans more often, drink kukicha or herbal teas, and have freshly squeezed vegetable or fruit juices.

The following is a list of what are generally considered to be acid- and alkaline-forming foods. I would highly recommend testing your own saliva regularly to get your own experience of what it takes to keep yourself in a more alkaline condition. Remember to combine this with adequate relaxation, meditation, and laughter. In the end, it’s how you feel that matters, and the ultimate test will be to listen to your body and see for yourself if you can sense any difference when according to your saliva test you are in a more alkaline state.
Most Alkaline-Forming
Agar, cayenne, celery, dates (dried), figs (dried), herb teas (most types), kudzu root, lemons, limes, mango, melons, papaya, parsley, all seaweeds, grapes, watercress.

Moderately Alkaline-Forming
Alfalfa sprouts, almonds, apple cider vinegar, apples, apricots, asparagus, avocados, bananas (ripe), bancha/kukicha tea, beans (fresh, green), beets, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carob, cauliflower, chard, currants, daikon, dates (fresh), figs (fresh), fruit juices (with pulp and without sugar), garlic, ginger (fresh), grapefruit, green tea, herbs, kale, kiwis, lettuce, nectarines, passion fruit, peaches, pears, peas (fresh), pickled vegetables (homemade/natural), pineapple, potatoes (with skins), pumpkin, radishes, raisins, raspberries, shiitake mushrooms, spring greens, strawberries, squash, sweet corn (fresh), sweet potatoes, turnips, umeboshi, vegetable juices.

Slightly Alkaline-Forming
Almonds, brown rice syrup, brown rice vinegar, brussels sprouts, buckwheat, cherries, chestnuts (dry, roasted), coconut (fresh), cucumbers, eggplant, Essene bread, goat’s milk (unhomogenized), honey (raw), Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, miso, mushrooms, okra, olives, olive oil, onions, oranges, sea salt, sesame seeds (whole), shoyu, soybeans (dry), soy cheese, soy milk, spices, sprouted grains (most types), tamari, tangerines, tempeh, tofu, tomatoes, wild rice.

Close to Neutral
Butter (unsalted), cream (fresh, raw), cow’s milk (unhomogenized), millet, oils (except olive), yogurt (plain), whey (raw).

Slightly Acid-Forming
Barley, barley malt, butter (salted), eggs, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, spelt, spinach, sprouted wheat breads.

Moderately Acid-Forming
Beans (dried; except soybeans), blueberries, bran, bread (made from sprouted organic wheat), cheese, coconut (dried), cow’s milk (homogenized), eggs (hardcooked), fish, fructose, goat’s milk (homogenized), grains (unrefined), honey (pasteurized), ketchup, maple syrup (unprocessed), molasses (unsulphured and organic), mustard, nuts (most, except almonds), oats, pasta (whole grain), pastry (made with whole grains and honey), plums, popcorn (with salt and/or butter), potatoes (peeled), prunes, rice (basmati and brown), rice milk, rye, seeds, tea, venison.

Most Acid-Forming
Alcohol (most forms), artificial sweeteners, beef, beer, bread (made from whole or refined wheat), carbonated soft drinks, cereals (refined), chocolate, cigarettes and other tobacco products, coffee, cranberries, cream of wheat (unrefined), custard (made with white sugar), drugs, fish, flour (refined wheat), fruit juices with sugar, ice cream, jams, jellies, lamb, maple syrup (processed), molasses (sulphured), pasta (white), pastries (made with white flour and/or sugar), peanuts, pickles (commercial), pork, poultry, rice (white), salt (refined and iodized), seafood, sugar, walnuts, white vinegar (processed), wine, yogurt (sweetened).

Article by Simon Brown

Simon G. Brown

Simon G. Brown

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