Just one year ago I was feeling like I was an old lady. My bones ached, it hurt to walk, I didn't feel like getting out much, etc. Six months later I was feeling fit, and I started bike riding/working out with weights and built to a full body routine. I also lost over thirty pounds. What was the difference? My diet.
This article is the first in a series on tools you may decide to consider using yourself on your journey to optimal health. As with most of the things I write, the format uses the steps of action research (discovery, measurable action, reflection) and its natural cycle of growth and reflection to discuss the science behind an alkaline diet and the process of adopting one.
It started with a friend of mine who's incredibly vibrant and fit telling me that the reason she never got sick was because she kept an alkaline diet. This was one of those moments when my intuition tweaked that this was an important message, and I knew at the time I was going to adopt this pattern of eating. It turned out to be a fantastic decision. I would learn that the standard Western diet becomes acid in our bodies as they digest. Meat, dairy, wheat, fruit, and all of their byproducts as well as anything sugar metabolize in our bodies as acid. That meant to me that I had 56 years of acid buildup. When I tested the pH of my system through my saliva and urine I found I was in the five point range, with a healthy body being 7.35 to 7.5 PH. This translated to two very important things: first I couldn't lose weight because my body was protecting itself from the acid environment by holding onto fat, and, second, that much acid breaks down immunity and I was in danger of being sick much more often.
The science of the importance of alkalinity in the body is largely the work of Dr. Robert Young. Like many leaders who have flown in the face of opposition to the norm, let alone the standard medical model, his work and life are a study in contrast. On the one hand he has millions of testimonials of people who were ravaged by all kinds of diseases or obesity and were able to come back to health because they switched their diet. On the other hand he has to fight lawsuits and his work has been disregarded because it travels down a different logic than normal medical practice which sees the body like a machine that needs to be fixed. My attitude has always been, "who cares about the politics, does it work?" And the answer here for me was that as soon as I brought my pH into the proper range the weight just fell off my body. Clearly I was happier as well when I stopped hurting.
What foods metabolize as alkaline? Basically anything green. There are charts you can download from the internet. We found that everything had a good alkaline replacement - so pasta could be spelt pasta - the same with crackers. We pretty much gave up bread although there are some interesting ones made with spelt, quinoa, and soy flours - all of which are mildly alkaline.
The six months that it took for me to adopt an alkaline lifestyle (or 80% of an alkaline lifestyle) were an exercise in taking on a new idea slowly and allowing it to cement in my life. This was composed of a series of small steps, including:
- learning about alkalinity
- changing our water sources to ones with higher pH
- setting up systems to drink 3 to 4 liters of green drink (ionized water with powdered wheat grass, barley grass or mixture of greens and a view mineral salts)
- getting pH test strips so I knew exactly where I stood
- taking one meal at a time for one week at a time and changing my diet for that meal
- getting cookbooks and finding resources for alkalinity
- learning how to judge the alkalinity of a recipe and make replacements
- slowly introducing some acid producing substances back into our diet but watching the pH balance in our systems
How did all of this really work? It actually wasn't hard given the constant positive results. I think what helped the most was having the pH test strips and having constant data about how I was doing against some objective measure that was kinder than a scale and didn't play into old distress from dieting. Since I believe in the science of this solution, I believed in the outcome and a focused on the path until I got there. Also subjective data was good: I would get a little better, my body didn't hurt so much, I lost a little weight, people would tell me my skin looked great, etc. These small changes kept telling me I was doing the right thing.
Now, six months later, I have really good habits for exercise but perhaps more acid has snuck into my diet again, although it is generally pretty easy to maintain. If my pH tests too high I drink more green drink for a few days and cut out the glass of wine at night. Have I stopped drinking coffee? Absolutely not -- I enjoy it too much. Am I willing to cut down on it when my pH gets to acid? Absolutely - I believe in the outcome too much to let myself slip too far. Have I kept the weight off? Yes. And I intend to lose that last little bit this coming year. I had to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes, and I love it.
I hear people in the gym where I teach water aerobics talking about how getting old is difficult. A year ago I would have agreed with them. Now, I realize that our bodies are truly miraculous about how far they can bring us back to optimal health if we would just go on the journey with them. For anyone feeling like they are not as fit as they used to be, and who may want to regain previous vitality, I highly recommend that your journey to optimal health start by adopting an alkaline diet.