Defeating Acid: The Key To Vibrant Health
In her book The Ultimate pH Solution, Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook presents a comprehensive view of how our modern lifestyle has led to a collective state of debilitating acidity. She spares us the biochemist jargon and explains what acidity is and its role in our health, or lack thereof; how acidic blood and tissues are the precursors to nearly every ailment known to humanity. For example, research shows that cancer cells cannot survive in an alkaline environment, but can thrive in an acidic one. This has become more prevalent over the last century. With the passage of time comes progress and innovation on many fronts: technology connects us from all corners of the world and miracles of modern science help us live longer. But with progress has come the industrialization and “denaturing” of our sustenance and environment, in stark contrast to the society of our ancestors when disease, and acidity, was less common.
So what is it about our modern diet and lifestyle that causes this internal crisis? It begins with the mainstays of our western diet: excess sugar, meat, and dairy, genetic manipulation of our food, and the additives and chemicals often found in it. Acidity is also caused by the things that are less obvious and we may not suspect, but harm us equally as much: environmental and emotional toxins, lack of exercise, stress and unhappiness with our lives.
I got started on this whole thing after talking to a friend, who just got back from an indulgent Sonoma wine country getaway with her man. One solid week of good wine, fattening foods, and a departure from exercise had her feeling not so sassy. Fed up with her usual approach to fix the damage, extremes and deprivation that would only make her moody and miserable, she did her research and came across this concept. She gave it a try. And began swearing up and down it got her back on track.
With how I was feeling, I was sure I was experiencing some level of toxicity. I was tired, achy, foggy, and grouchy. Yes, I do have health issues going on, but there has to be more to it. I couldn’t stand myself anymore and couldn’t imagine how my family felt being around me. Time to get a handle on it. Granted, there are lots of things in my environment, like stress and chemicals, I am sure don’t help. But it made perfect sense that I take careful look at what I put into my body. For three days I would try.
In my quest, this is what I learned: pH stands for “potential for hydrogen” and is a measure of acidity or alkalinity on a scale of 0 to 14. Zero is extremely acidic, while 14 is extremely alkaline. In the middle is 7, pH neutral, which translates to a perfect balance between acid and alkaline. Our blood and tissues must lean slightly alkaline for optimum health, with blood specifically maintaining a level of 7.365. To do this our bodies rely on alkaline stores in our bones, if our diet and behaviors are not alkaline friendly. Research shows this constant fight against acidity can lead to all kinds of scary health problems: cancer, diabetes, allergies, and chronic pain conditions.
I already had a leg up in this experiment. Right out of the gate I was doing a few things right. First, I don’t drink alcohol. It has nothing to do with pregnancy, religion, or dependency. My separate health concerns preclude me from drinking and I have never liked it anyway. Second, aside from an occasional piece of organic poultry or wild fish, I am not much of a meat eater. But virtues aside, I am no angel. I drink way too much coffee. Don’t get me started on sugar. I am addicted. And my lack of self control doesn’t stop there. When food opportunities arise, I jump in with gusto. I think life is too short to pass up crusty bread slathered in butter. I have never met a decadent dessert or chocolate anything I didn’t like. And let’s not forget all things fried (and fattening). No frills shrimp cocktail? Not for this gal. I will take the crab cakes and fried calamari, thank you very much.
In other words, I love love love to eat. When I am sad, I eat. When I am nervous or depressed, I eat. When I am happy, I eat even more. The thought of being so strict with myself, even for only three days, made me nuts. Not knowing much about it, I had a feeling this pH friendly regimen was going to leave me hungry and miserable. I predicted utter failure within the first hours of Day One, and burying my face in a bag of something crunchy, greasy, and oh so good.
Now, before my fellow foodies think I’m crazy, there is light in this darkness. I found out that nuts, beans, brown rice, wild caught ocean fish, vegetables and avocados are on the good list. Some of my favorite things that keep me nice and full, and I love salads. But wait, sugar is BAD. Especially the kind that’s in candy and desserts. Only. Three. Days.
I was surprised to learn in the book that most fruits are not alkaline, but are wise acid choices. They bring vitamins and minerals to the table. I think we all know the refined sugars in my favorite candies and desserts do not. Fruit for dessert? I am depressed. Whole grains run acidic, but are sound nutritional choices overall, so if I want a veggie sandwich or toast or pasta it won’t be the end of the world. I am now less depressed. But still depressed.
No coffee. I didn’t know how I would survive. I am all about my ritual: my piping hot beverage in the morning and again in the afternoon. Then I found out tea isn’t good, except for peppermint tea. It has an alkalizing effect. Good news, I like peppermint tea. And all of my drinking water is filtered. More good news. An important step on my way to alkaline righteousness. Citrus may seem acidic to us, but has an alkalizing effect on our bodies once digested. Squeezing lemon and lime juice into filtered water is a really easy way to be more alkaline. Before I sometimes had lemons and limes on hand, now I squeeze a wedge into my water glass every chance I get.
Meat may be easy for me to pass up, but I can’t say the same when it comes to dairy. Cheese is my downfall. I love it. The good news? Soy cheese and goat cheese are good alternatives. Not my first choices in the cheese department, but it is nice to know I can satisfy the fix and still stay on track. I am not much of a dairy milk person, but soymilk, almond milk, and goat’s milk are better alternatives if I feel the need.
I went into my pantry the morning of Day One, and stared longingly at the 5 pound bucket of licorice and a box of brownie mix on the shelf. I said farewell to these friends, telling them I would miss them.
Over three days I managed without coffee, substituting peppermint tea. I wish I could say it was the same, but it’s not. Coffee is a habit I won’t give up. I will try to cut back in my quest for health, but I am not confident in any measure of success. For snacks I relied on raw almonds, sunflower seeds, almond butter and celery, hummus with carrots or gluten free crackers, edamame, and all kinds of fruit, but namely cherries, because they are highly alkaline. I am not much of a breakfast person, so at the most I would juice kale, beets, apples, spinach, celery, cucumbers and carrots in the morning. For lunch I enjoyed a giant green salad each day with every vegetable imaginable, and would include beans and avocado so I wouldn’t feel hungry. For dinner it was wild salmon or organic chicken breast, with brown rice, red quinoa or sweet potatoes, with broccoli, peas or green beans on the side. All the while I was sure to drink my filtered water with lemon or lime, and for something different I drank low sodium V8. And, I am proud to say, I did not cave and devour the candy in the house, or blow through a pan of brownies. In the end I can say the coffee and sweets thing was the hardest, and I knew that going in. The foods the plan prescribes are foods I gravitate towards anyway. During this regimen I made a point to lightly exercise (walking) and stretch each day. I used my dry brush to help move my lymph before each shower and set aside ten minutes each evening for deep breathing and reflection. I also enjoyed one long Epsom salt and baking soda bath on day #2. All of these practices reduce stress, supporting alkalinity.
With this “project” I became more and more curious about my progress. Sure I felt better, but where was I exactly? There is an interesting and affordable way to monitor it. You can test your urine and saliva with pH test strips. In a weird way this is actually fun. Phinex pH test strips are available for purchase online at Amazon.com ($12.95 for two 80 strip packs), and the packaging includes a cool pH scale for reference. Simply hold a test strip in your urine stream, shake off the excess, and wait fifteen seconds before comparing your results to the scale. Or hold some of your saliva in a spoon, saturate the test strip and test (placing the test strip directly inside your mouth is not recommended). Keep in mind that saliva is ideally tested first thing in the morning, before there is opportunity to eat or drink; test your urine during your first bathroom visit of the day, immediately after rising. Dr. Schoffro Cook informs us that saliva ideally tests between 7.0 and 7.4, with urine testing at 6.8.
So how do I feel after this three day experiment? I feel less stagnant, less crazy, sharper, and lighter. I don’t know about any weight loss. I have a scale but I don’t use it. I really don’t care. I care about how I feel, not numbers on a scale that would only make me nuts. While I know I won’t keep this up 100% of the time, I will try to be acid wise as much as I can. I will give more thought to what I am doing, when before it wasn’t on my radar at all. When a vacation comes up or I have a date with my husband, I will enjoy myself. As long as I am good 80% of the time (well, okay 70% . . . 65%?) and I keep up my exercise and stress management and all that other good stuff, I won’t worry about it too much. We have to enjoy life, right?
The testimonials are out there. People who have committed to this have really turned their lives around. They say they have relieved allergies and all kind of ailments. They lose weight with less effort, and have eased chronic pain. It makes sense. The principles and advice: the diet, dry brushing, exercise, stress reduction, all of it has been around for centuries and practiced by civilizations the world over. All in the name of better health.
Most of life’s quality is determined by our ability to achieve balance, namely balance between responsiblity and what fulfills us. We want a balance between time at work and time with family, or balance between responsibilities and time for fun. As it turns out the same is true with balancing our internal chemistry. Who knew?
My conclusion? When it comes to doing right by our bodies and minds and making the right decisions, opportunity abounds. We won’t be perfect all the time. But being pH mindful is realistic and manageable. Overall, Dr. Schoffro Cook’s book is an ideal read for anyone who strives to educate themselves on another effective way to be healthy. After consulting your health care professional, give it a try.
Dr. Schoffro Cook’s website: www.drmichellecook.com