The Why & How to Alkalize Your Body

by Alena
Jul 3, 2016
Top view of celery and small bottle of celery juice on a light wooden surface

It’s not a secret that different types of food are better or worse for our bodies. But how can we draw the line between burgers and salad? Where do the healthy foods begin and what makes them so different?

One factor to determine the healthfulness of a food is by looking at it from an alkaline or acidic point of view. But what does this actually mean and how can you alkalize your body?

What Is PH Balance?

When looking at our bodies, there are many factors that make cells and tissues work properly, such as hydration, temperature, availability of nutrients, and pH. The pH stands for “potential of hydrogen” and is a measurement of hydrogen ions in a particular solution – the more ions, the more acidic the solution, and vice versa.

But why is this so important? Our bodies are designed to operate within a very narrow pH range, which is around 7.365, which is slightly alkaline. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of higher than 7 is alkalizing, a pH less than 7 is acidic, and a pH of 7 is considered neutral.

chart from one to fourteen in different colors showing the alkalinity or acidity

Our blood is the most important, and therefore most protected, pH measurement. Even a minor fluctuation in our blood’s pH creates distress signals. The blood pH basically never shifts very much – a pH level of 6 would already mean we’re in a coma.

So in order for blood to effectively act as a medium of oxygen and other vital nutrients, the pH needs to be close to this specific range. This slightly alkaline balance is maintained and ensured by the work of our kidneys. They filter out any excessive acids in our system and excrete them in the urine. Our bodies contain alkaline reserves and will fight to re-balance any deviations of fluctuating levels.

When we eat too many acid-forming foods, the kidneys can’t always keep up with the acid waste and they start accumulating it in our tissues.

Studies have shown that if this acidic overload happens over a longer period of time, it can lead to various health conditions, including kidney stones, muscle degradation, reduced bone density, and even arthritis, diabetes, and cancer. All of these can be traced back in some way to an acidic inner terrain.

Alkaline vs. Acidic

A 2014 study, published in the European journal Diabetologia, involved tracking more than 66,000 women over the course of 14 years. Compared to women who ate an alkaline diet, participants who consumed high-acid diets showed a significant increase in developing type 2 diabetes over the course of the study, according to the results. An acid-forming diet with low vegetable intake is also linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

This is very damaging and impairs the body’s ability to repair or detoxify and will cause a person to be more susceptible to disease and illness. The most common signs of acidosis are:

  • Fatigue or chronic fatigue
  • Feeling tired, low energy
  • Brittle nails and hair
  • Low bone density, osteoporosis
  • Heavy breathing
  • Gaining weight or being underweight
  • Digestive issues
  • Arthritis, diabetes
  • Headaches, acne
  • Bad immune system
  • Infections, allergies, candida
  • Heart problems, cancer

It is a lot of hard work for the body to detoxify and neutralize acids before they act as poisons in and around the cells, ultimately changing their whole environment. Actually, most people in the US and Europe, where diseases like those mentioned above have become an epidemic, are too acidic.

But it’s not just the food we eat that can cause an acidic environment. Our body creates acid by using muscles, breathing, and digesting certain foods. Other factors can be stress, toxins, a polluted environment, tobacco, lack of sleep, or medications.

If you want to know whether you’re more on the alkaline or acidic side, you can easily test that at home. Simply get some test stripes at your health food store or online which you can use for either your saliva or urine to show you the results.

Literally billions of cells in your tissues rely on an alkaline environment to function properly, prevent cellular damage and fend off pathogenic microbes. So what happens when you eat an alkaline diet?

Woman sitting cross-legged and holding vegan buddha bowl with greens, chickpeas and other vegetables

Benefits of an Alkaline Diet

  • Deeper more restful sleep
  • Reduction of candida overgrowth
  • Increased mental acuity or alertness
  • Enhanced memory and cognition
  • Easier weight loss
  • Increased energy
  • Better bone health
  • Reduced muscle wasting
  • Proper cell functioning
  • Healthy tissues
  • Mitigation of chronic diseases
  • Improved cardiovascular health

It seems like following the guidelines of eating alkaline is just another way of finding out that whole plant-based foods are most beneficial to us. Not only are they not harmful to us, their high mineral and vitamin content also has a hugely positive effect on our whole body, such as healing and preventing disease. But let’s first take a look at alkaline foods.

What Are Alkaline Foods?

To explain the most common misconception: the acid/alkaline load of a given food refers not to the pH of the food prior to consumption, but to the acid/alkaline result after you digest it. Our kidneys have to neutralize the acid that’s produced in the process of digestion.

This is sometimes referred to as “potential renal acid load” or PRAL (It measures how much acid your kidneys need to process after a food has been eaten.) This means we can give foods a certain PRAL score in order to determine how alkaline or acidic forming they are.

It’s been shown that when you eat foods with a high PRAL, the pH of your urine and saliva often become lower or more acidic. Whereas foods with a low PRAL raise your urine and saliva pH, making it more alkaline. Though this isn’t a perfect measurement, it can give a useful general guideline as to how a food is affecting your body.

Whether a food is alkalizing or acidifying is based on the amount of acid waste that is produced when it is digested.

Our body is affected by these waste chemicals, not the actual acidity of a food. Though we do have our own system to maintain alkalinity, we do need to support it in order to work properly and stay healthy.

Most individuals in the Western world do not eat diets that are alkalizing, instead they eat deadly diets high in animal products, refined foods, and processed foods. Diets containing these foods can produce about 100mEq of acid per day – this amount of acid is nearly twice than what the body can handle.

Without alkalizing, the body needs to take vital minerals in order to neutralize the acid. One of the biggest differences you can recognize is when you move around or work out a lot, your recovery time will be much shorter due to a more alkaline environment in your body.

Though there is still no clear scientific consensus, we could find an overall tendency of​ plant-based foods being more or even highly alkalizing, while meat and dairy as well as processed foods are a lot more acidic.

Different small bowls on a black table filled with ingredients for the zoodles with black bean meatballs recipe: zucchini, carrots, flaxseeds, mushrooms, oats and herbs

How to Alkalize Your Body

This doesn’t mean that all we should eat are alkalizing foods. It’s very commonly advised to opt for a balance of 80% alkaline-forming food and 20% acidic-forming food. You can take a look below and choose from the lists – just remember to keep acid-forming foods to a minimum.

Alkalizing Foods

  • All Vegetables, especially when Green and Raw
  • All Fruits like Melon, Apple, Berries, Grapes, Lemon. Some are slightly acidic, like Blueberries, Cranberries, and Plums.
  • Leafy Greens like Spinach or Lettuce, Cruciferous Vegetables like Broccoli, Kale
  • Pumpkin, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Beets
  • Mushrooms, Sprouts, Legumes
  • Nuts & Seeds like Coconut, Almonds, Chia, Sesame
  • Onions, Garlic, Leek and Herbs/Spices like Parsley, Ginger
  • Wheat and Barley Grass, Algae like Spirulina and Chlorella
  • Grains like Amaranth, Millet & Quinoa
  • Fresh Beans, Green Peas, Lima Beans, Soy Products

Acidic Foods

  • Meat, fish, shellfish
  • Milk, eggs, butter, cheese
  • Coffee, soda, alcohol
  • Processed and refined food
  • Sugar, artificial sweeteners, refined grains
  • Tobacco, preservatives
  • MSG, canned food

You might notice that our grocery stores and restaurants are made up almost exclusively of acid-forming foods. They are highly palatable and have addictive properties, which makes it easy to overeat on them. We usually grow up getting accustomed to meals like hot dogs and ice cream, therefore overloading our bodies with disease-causing ingredients.

For a thorough list on how alkaline or acid-forming certain foods are, check out our infographic below this post.

How to Start Eating Alkaline Today

In order to make this approach to eating a balanced diet more actionable and easier for you, we’ve come up with some general guidelines that are helpful if you want to eat a more alkaline diet.

1. Drink a lot of water to flush your system and support natural detoxification. Extra points if you add lemon to it – remember that acid tasting food doesn’t automatically mean it’s also acid-forming! After waking up, drink a huge glass of water. For more alkaline effects, add some apple cider vinegar to it.

2. Combine alkaline foods in a meal with foods that are acidic to create a good balance and focus on foods that are high in potassium like lemons or bananas.

3. Choose fresh, organic, GMO-free food whenever possible. Also, look out for minerals to help your body neutralize acid wastes (organic foods have a higher nutritional content).

4. Stay as close to the natural state of a food as possible, meaning eat it raw or steamed as opposed to frying it.

5. Make salads a staple in your meal plan. Leafy greens are the most alkaline foods and also rich in vital micronutrients. Use spinach or kale for best results, the darker the better.

6. Foods like whole grains or some legumes are not alkaline-forming, but also offer nutritional benefits and are a part of a healthy diet – so you should eat them along with your alkaline foods. These are grains like oats, millet, spelt, or buckwheat as well as beans and lentils.

7. Replace animal foods with vegetable sources of protein, such as tofu, beans, or broccoli. These are a lot more alkaline-forming.

8. Incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet by snacking on them, making fresh smoothies or green juices.

9. Try to eat some carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, cucumber, potatoes, or celery every day. Soak and sprout your nuts and grains for more alkalinity.

Other Ways to Alkalize Your Body

As mentioned above, our food choices are not be-all and end-all. Just like there are other factors that can cause acidosis, there are also other ways of shifting yourself back towards alkalinity. So if you want to further support this process, here’s what you can do.

  • Eat slowly and chew every bite around 30-40 times. Be careful not to overeat and overload your system.
  • Make meditation a habit & do some deep breathing exercises to reduce stress.
  • Throw away your chemical-filled shampoos, cleaning products, or air fresheners. Try to find and use natural products instead with only minimal ingredients.
  • Go for a walk or work out, since it helps to move acidic waste products in order for your body to better eliminate them. Extra points for getting some sunshine.
  • Baking soda can also help neutralize the acid and help the body to maintain pH balance in the urine and bloodstream. It is also very useful for relieving heartburn or acid indigestion.
Infographic displaying foods ranging from pH3 to pH10

Have you been looking for information to eat healthier or get a healthier body? How has focusing on these “alkaline foods” helped you so far? Let us know in the comments below.

Alena enjoying a bowl of fresh plant-based food and coffe in a restaurant
Alena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.
dark grey spotted bowl with a variety of vegetables next to small bottle of green smoothie isolated on light background

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60 thoughts on “The Why & How to Alkalize Your Body”

  1. Excellent article Alena. I really appreciate you explaining the difference between the pH of the food itself and its effective pH once inside the body. Lemons are very acidic but once in the body they have a very strong alkaline effect. I looked up the pH of vitamin C and found that it is 2.4 pH. Vitamin C is ascorbic acid so I knew it would be acidic, just not that strong. Despite its strong acidity, our body needs it and it has a very alkaline effect. People need to read this.

    Reply
    • Hey Ben,
      glad you like the article so much! So true what you say about foods tasting acidic and having an acidic effect on the body – huge difference! Great point. It’s actually rather the sugary and processed stuff, that which tastes very sweet, that is acidic to the body.
      Feel free to share the article if you think people would like it too :)
      All my best,
      Alena

      Reply
  2. This is the best pH article I have seen on-line. You bring much clarity and define alkalinity/acidity to your readers. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Wow thanks so much Kristee! Have you been reading a lot on this topic already? What was your motivation to try out a more alkaline diet? Anyways, honored to get this amazing compliment – I researched quite a bit for this.
      Hope you enjoy our other articles as well, feel free to share with anyone!

      Reply
  3. Thanks for a great article! In it you mention baking powder – how do you take this? (Tsp in water? How much water?)

    Reply
    • Hey Deb,
      thanks so much for reading and commenting!
      In order to make alkaline water, add 1/8 tbsp (600 mg) baking soda to an 8 oz. (0.237 liters) glass of water. When the baking soda mixes with the water, it increases the alkaline properties of the water. Shake (if you are using a water bottle) or stir (if using a glass) the mixture vigorously to make sure the baking soda mixes in thoroughly with the water.
      Hope this helps! Be aware that diet is key though, so eat your fruits & veg ;)
      All the best!

      Reply
  4. Hi Alena, thank you for such an informative article. I am a gout sufferer and I’m currently having my first incident in 12 months after missing 5 days at the end of August of my super juice…celery, cucumber, lemon juice and ginger. I was very surprised to see carbonated water with a ph of 3 but it makes sense as I replaced my juice for carbonated water for those fateful 5 days. Can you tell me why carbonated water has such and acidic score please ?

    Reply
    • Hey Mark,
      so glad that you like the article! Your juice sounds delicious and very alkaline indeed. Do you follow an alkaline or plant-based whole food diet overall? This sounds like the perfect basis for you.
      To turn boring water into fashionable fizzy water, carbon dioxide gas is forced to dissolve into said water using low temperatures and high pressure. This process creates carbonic acid, giving most sparkling water an acidity level lower on the pH scale than normal tap water. Unfortunately, I cannot give you the exact score but would advise you go for plain water instead.
      Hope this helps!
      All my best

      Reply
  5. Hi Alena, thanks for this very informative article! I’m currently just starting to look into an alkaline diet and figuring out the truth and separating it from the myths. Your article has helped me get clear on some points I was wondering about previously. It’s good to know that I am ‘naturally gravitating’ towards foods that are recommended on your list (some of my favorite foods are there). I will have to read this article again to better absorb the points. Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hi Peter,
      thanks for your comment! Glad you liked the article and that it could shed some light on the topic. Be careful though, there’s lot of bad, unscientific information on alkaline diets out there as well!
      Best,
      Alena

      Reply
  6. Hi,
    I want to ask you if is it possible to translate all this ? It seems so interesting but my English is not so good !
    It would be wonderful !

    Gabriella ( from Italy )

    Reply
    • Hi Gabriella,
      we don’t speak Italian, unfortunately. So we cannot translate this article for you. Maybe try some free services like https://translate.google.com/. It’s not the most poetic, but it will help you understand.
      Sorry that I cannot do more for you right now!
      Hope this finds you well,
      Alena

      Reply
  7. I am so glad I came across this article! I am dealing with breast cancer and have been very confused about recommendations to eat foods that initially seem to be acidic, like lemons. Your article explained it so well and has been so helpful getting me on track to eat and live healthy. Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Hi Alena, just came across your info graphic while looking up info on alkalinizing my diet. I recently started a low carb diet and although I usually only eat animal protein once a day, I started eating it 2-3 times a day as I included eggs and salmon and turkey to my diet. It worked wonders and my cholesterol, Hba1c and all my numbers went back to normal after many years. However I developed cystitis and microscopic blood in my urine due to ketoacidosis, I believe, an it’s associated metabolic acidity. By changing my diet to include high alkaline carbs and reducing the animal carbs, for only two days the blood in my urine has decreased and is almost gone and so have the cystitis symptoms. Now, all of this to ask you about how to have a high fat, low carb while maintaining a high alkaline diet so this won’t happen again as I am also trying to lose weight

    Reply
  9. Hi Alena,

    Must say the information and tips described here are quite appreciable. Got to know many new and informative things by reading your post. Much time earlier I had listened about alkaline water and diet but never knew what was it. But after referring this post I was like yes I should also try them ! Impressive :)

    Reply
  10. This might be an odd question and some people don’t believe this but have you noticed any correlation between being highly acidic and only have daughters? All the women in my family are highly acidic. My mom had three live daughters and 4 miscarriages. My oldest sister has two daughters. My middle sister has three daughters and I myself have two daughters now. I desperately want a boy! Besides eating my greens and drinking alkaline water, what is the fastest way to change my levels? Currently a 5-5.5 on the acidic side where 6.5-7.5 is “normal”. Please help!

    Reply
    • Hey Aubrey,
      so sorry but I’ve never heard of that. I would suggest you cut out all highly acidic foods such as refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, animal products, and refined flours… and decrease your stress levels! No idea if this will help you get a baby boy but it will definitely support your health and well-being. Sorry I couldn’t be more of a help.
      Best,
      Lars

      Reply
    • Not sure about that but since you only use a very small amount of stevia, I assume it won’t have much of an impact.
      Try to focus on eating a whole foods plant-based diet overall and these little things don’t matter so much :)

      Reply
  11. Hi Alena,
    I’ve had a severe ‘attack’ of acidosis last night, and here I am – reading your article.
    I must say this is one of the most clear and easy to understand article.

    Thank you for writing this one.

    Reply
  12. Great article! We have been vegan now for just over 7 months and since suffering with an ongoing ringworm infection I have started to research the bodies ph effect on such illnesses. I’m so glad I stumbled upon you because you have written a fantastic, informative and concise article. Everything I needed to know. Thanks so much. All the best.

    Reply
  13. I find it very difficult to lose weight even after alkalizing, my body I want to know if it only If an apple cider vinegar with 5%acidity is recommended by to alkalize the best body

    Reply
    • There’s more to weight loss than just focusing on alkalizing foods. It’s mainly about calorie density and satiety! Do you eat a lot of nuts and seeds? Any oils? These are calorically very dense and could be the culprit. Add more potatoes or pumpkin to your plate along with your veggies and limit your nuts/seeds for now.
      We also have a free ebook on easy weight loss here: https://nutriciously.com/lose-weight/
      The apple cider vinegar won’t make much difference, look out for the overall big picture.

      Reply
  14. Hi Alena Thanks a million for sharing the wonderful information about acidic and Alkaline function in our system . Also about diet plan & food and beverages to avoid and it is really interesting. Thanks once again.

    Reply
  15. Hi Alena
    All great information. I have osteoporosis and osteopenia. I need to move to a Alkaline diet. What is the best way to test my body to see how acidic it is? Also, where can I find other Alkaline recipes?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Tracey,
      thanks for the comment. If you want to know whether you’re more on the alkaline or acidic side, you can easily test that at home. Simply get some test stripes at your health food store or online which you can use for either your saliva or urine to show you the results.
      Most whole foods plant-based recipes are actually alkaline – check them out here: https://nutriciously.com/vegan-recipes/
      Since you don’t need to go for 100% alkaline foods (and you shouldn’t because there are others that are healthy, too!) you can have some grains and legumes as well.
      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  16. Hi Alena,
    i have been having some symptoms of diseases quite frequently now, it all started with diagnosing of some sort of blisters in my throat and beginning of esophagus which was later found to be some manifestation of ulcer/acidic reflux. have been taking medications since then but just as i stop them for a short period, the same problems comes back. furthermore there have been much weight loss and signs of some sort of allergies and candida on tongue. i also have some level of heart burn and gas trouble. this article has really shown a connection with all my problems and narrowed the reasons to acid excess in my body. there has also been much hair loss and greying of hair. so i wanted to know if as you mentioned exercise could help me get relief from all this. furthermore pls suggest anything else that i could try in order to get a relief from this apart from medications, as i think 1 full year of medications have been more than enough for me.please help.

    Reply
    • Hey, thanks for reaching out! I’m glad this article was informative. Unfortunately, we’re not medical professionals here and don’t feel able to help you with your serious issues here. Please keep working with your doctors or health practitioners on this! Increasing the amount of whole plant-based foods in your diet won’t hurt and could probably help you with some of it.
      Get better soon!
      Best wishes

      Reply

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