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. Hi your article is very informative.After being informed I had a mediastinal mass with nodes and to prepare my family for tge worst!! I switched totally to a green diet.I lost 15 kg and after 2 years I am still well.I eat some acidic food sourdough bread,lentil pasta and brown rice for calorific value and I am now maintaining my weight.I also make green juices once a day with broccoli,fresh spinach, fresh ginger and fresh turmeric with a green apple.There is so much information, for anyone with a bad diagnosis.Look up green diet,apricot kernels,chiropractor,herbalist,acupuncture,infrared saunas, all of which has kept me alive.Also learning not to stress and enjoy a glass of red wine,without feeling guilty helps.So enjoy life whilst following these lifelines and do not feel guilty,if you try a little acidic sin now and again.

  2. I was really surprised to see–on the infographic– that drinking carbonated water is one of the worst things to drink! Do you agree? I don’t understand why it is different from regular water… Does anybody know? Please reply because I’m trying to start being healthy and I drink 90% bubble water… I want to make sure I’m not jinxing myself. Thanks for this awesome article! You’re a great writer! I was engaged the whole way through.

  3. Hi there. Loved your article. Wondering if adding soda to the grounds when making coffee, makes it more alkaline? I have done it a couple times after I heard that, but didn’t know if it were true.

  4. Hi Alena,

    This article is clear and helpful, there’s a lot of stuff out there now about alkaline foods but most of it seems cut and pasted. Yours is clearly researched.

    I have a couple of quick questions;

    There is a lot of internet hype about apple cider vinegar to help with alkalizing the body. Do you agree with it’s proposed benefits? And if so how much should we take per day?

    With regards to baking soda, I’m intending to take a full glass of water with one teaspoon of baking soda, up to a maximum of twice a day. Does this seem ok?

    Thanks so much and I’m going to be a regular reader now!

  5. Hi Alena,
    Thought I’d contact you because I totally agree with you how vitally important we maintain our bodily functions in the slightly alkaline range, particularly with in our blood stream, for overall health and well being. I didn’t know about alkaline water, and start making it and using it. Thank you. If you get time, you might checkout my website. I have a wealth of info discussing how to achieve and maintain overall health and well being. Hope to hear from you. Thanks, Terry

  6. Oh god not this alkaline your body junk science again!?

    This has been disproven over & over. There is no way to make your body “more alkaline”.

    It’s impossible. To change your blood ph level a fraction means death. Overloading on certain types of foods and peeing on PH test strips is pointless & foolish.

    Forget about PH, forget about getting your body in “balance” or anything like that.

    Just eat healthy food, lots of fresh fruits & vegetables (of any kind) and exercise.

    Thats all you need.

    body PH is a long debunked myth.

  7. Hi Alena, I found your article very interesting. I have acute Osteoarthritis to the point that I can hardly walk. Recently I introduced a very alkaline drink into my daily rituals of trying to beat the arthritis. I juice 1 Lemon with half a cup of mint leaves and about an inch of ginger and half a cucumber. They said to leave it in the fridge overnight and drink in the morning. I’ve been doing this for about a week now and I feel worse than when I started. My question to you is do you think it’s because I’m detoxing or could it be something else.

  8. Thanks for the tips, I am trying to shrink a fibroid and I heard that the first step would be to start alkalinig your body. So this was very helpful.

  9. Brilliant article. My shopping list will look different from now on. I try to take bicarb in water at least once every fortnight but make sure I do not need to leave the house, sure you know why. Thank you. Will share far and wide. All the best for you.

  10. Bill says; way to go! Your info is detailed and easy to follow. Please get some info on your site about the tap water we drink, how bad it is for us and how Ionized water is an essential toward total Alkaline living..

  11. Hi Alena,

    Thank you for sharing this very informative post! I’m vegan since 2 years now and can’t be happier with my diet! However, I recently went to the dentist and I was told due to consuming lots of fruits my teeth are breaking down from all the acid. I was devastated and decided to do some research on which acidic food I should cut out of my diet. I do love my smoothie bowl in the morning though and trying to see if balance is key here or if I really have to cut out basically all fruits I’m consuming… maybe you have an advice.

    Thanks in advance,

  12. Hi Alena,
    Really liked your post wonderfully written .
    Any suggestions on which Oil is best for regular use …I use cold pressed ground nut and mustard oil ( for alkaline impact or least neutral )

    The oil mentioned like canola and rice bran are mainly refined and chemically processed and I herd refined is not good for health so I am kinda confused what to use


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