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Is Your Diet Acidic or Basic?

The American diet is usually an acidic one. This comes from eating a predominence of protein sources (even the lean ones), dairy products (especially cheeses), and grains (even the unprocessed ones). These acid producing foods overwhelm the basic foods we take in and create some serious health problems.

When foods enter our body they are presented to the kidneys as either an acid or a base compound. A food's acid or base status outside the body is not necessarily the same as inside. For example, an orange which is acidic on the outside is actually basic inside the body. This is true of most fruits and vegetables.

When you eat a meal, the sum total of all acidic and basic compounds gets combined into what is called an acid/base load. If a particular days diet provided more acid containing foods it would carry an acid load. if your diet provided more basic compounds it would carry a much healthier base load.

Carrying a net acid load does not provide a healthy physical environment. The average American diet produces a state of low grade chronic acidosis which can cause the following health problems:

* Negative nitrogen balance (high amount of nitrogen in the urine). Muscle is actually broken down, lost, and amino acids are excreted in the urine.

* Hypercalciuria (high calcium concentration in the urine). Calcium is excreted from bone, bone is lost, and calcium is excreted in the urine.

* Mild hypothyroidism. This may result in a slowing of your metabolic rate as well as other negative effects on your overall physical functioning.

*Growth hormone resistance. Growth hormone has several positive functions including increasing fat loss, lean muscle mass and metabolic rate. It helps keeps the body in a more youthful state. Metabolic acidosis can slow the rate of growth hormone secretion.

*Hypercortisolemia. Cortisone is a hormone that controls the secretion of many other hormones. Increasing cortisone levels results in increased stress levels, weight gain and abnormal hormone profiles.

How did our modern society get so off track? When you compare our diets with our ancesters it's clear they ate a diet rich in basic foodstuffs. They ate more fresh fruits and vegetables (which are basic) and less grain and protein sources.

Here are some ways to make your diet less acidic:

* Add more fruits and vegetables

* If you know you are going to eat a big acid producing meal and don't want to add more basic foods, add a small amount of glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid which can neutralize acid.

* Instead of glutamine you could add some sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). If you can't take the taste, Alka Seltzer is the same thing.

* Adding sodium (salt) to foods can increase the base potential and reduce acidity. This would not be recommended if you have high blood pressure.

The American diet is an unhealthy acidic one. The best way to neutralize the acid is to reduce the amount of grains, high protein sources and dairy products. Then add some fresh fruits and vegetables. Employing these simple strategies may help you avoid chronic low grade acidosis and the associated muscle wasting, altered hormonal profiles and bone loss that go with it.

About the Author: Dr. Lanny Schaffer is an Exercise Physiologist and the President of The International Fitness Academy.For more nutrition and fitness ideas go to

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