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Digestion 101

Digestion 101

Staying Healthy on an Alkaline Diet

November 2, 2014

carrots @ rosycheeksproject.comIn my previous blog post , I talked about how a healthy digestive system is the number one gateway to improved well-being. Varying factors affect digestion such as gut flora, sufficient fiber and water intake, and pH balance amongst other variables. Today we will focus on how to promote gut health with a balanced acid-alkaline diet.

“Studies show that people with more acidic blood were more likely to be ill.” (Holford, 1999)

What is Acid-Forming or Alkaline-Forming? How does it Work?

When food is metabolized, acids are produced which are then neutralized by alkaline producing minerals (such as magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium). Therefore, the mineral compositions of the foods you eat directly affect your acid-alkaline balance. As a general rule of thumb, avoid highly acidic processed foods, refined grains and meat. Instead, eat more vegetables and fruits. 
 
What is the ideal pH? 
pH 7.4-7.5 is the ideal pH level

Effects of an Acidic Diet 

The pH level of our blood affects every single cell in the body. Overconsumption of overly acidic foods may lead to acidosis. Acidosis is an increased acidity (pH levels below 7.35) in the blood and other body tissues.

Acidosis will:

  • encourage breeding of fungus, hold bacteria and viruses
  • compromise immune system as the body is too busy trying to balance and neutralize acids instead of fighting off disease forming bacteria and viruses
  • cause symptoms of indigestion

Symptoms of Acidosis:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • grouchiness
  • exhaustion
  • aches and pains
  • headaches
  • difficulty sleeping

Benefits of an Alkaline Diet

  1. Energy boost as a result of a fully nourished body
  2. Reduced food cravings
  3. Increased immunity
  4. Reduce gas and bloating
  5. Prevent food allergens (caused by leaky gut)
  6. Mental clarity

Acid-forming vs. Alkaline-forming foods 

Many people associate sour tasting foods to high acidity. Contrary to common misconceptions, many sour tasting foods like lemons, grapefruit, raspberries are actually alkaline when digested. So don’t be fooled by the sourness!

Alkaline Acid Food List

Red highlights = eat less! Green highlights = eat more and indulge! Source: Holford,1999

 Here is a list of common acid forming foods to eat less of
  • bacon
  • eggs
  • white bread (or anything made of refined flour)
  • donuts
  • beef, poultry, pork (meats in general)
  • fish
  • rice
  • pasta
  • cheese
  • alcohol
  • coffee
  • black tea
Here is a list of common alkaline forming foods to eat more of
  • apple
  • avocados
  • banana
  • milk
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • grapes
  • potatoes
  • spinach

My Top Alkaline-forming Food Picks

These are foods (or super foods) that are not only alkaline but are also rich in vitamins and minerals that I highly recommend you to integrate into your daily diet!
  • avocados
  • beets
  • chia seeds
  • almonds
  • green leafy veggies (spinach, kale, collard greens)

Alkaline Meal Ideas

(recipes coming soon!)

Lime water with chia seeds

Spritz up your water with lime and lemon! Add some omega rich chia seeds while you’re at it!

Alkaline Breakfast
Instead of bacon and eggs in the morning… try this!

+ Oatmeal (acidic) with Fruits (alkaline)
+ lemon/lime water with chia seeds (alkaline)

Alkaline Lunch
Instead of a chicken alfredo pasta for lunch..try this!

+ Spinach salad (or any leafy greens) with sliced avocado and dried cranberries topped with hemp seeds (alkaline)
+ served with quinoa (acid)
+ oil (extra virgin olive oil/hemp/avocado/hazelnut oil) (alkaline)
+ green tea (slightly acidic)

Non-Vegetarian Option: Replace quinoa with
+ chicken breast or 
+ baked salmon 

Alkaline Dinner
Instead of steak and fries..try this!

+ lentil and leek soup (alkaline)
+ lightly blanched kale with tempeh drizzled with olive oil (alkaline) and pine nuts (slightly acidic)
+ served with quinoa (acidic)
+ with tahini and lemon dressing (alkaline)

Non-Vegetarian Option: Replace quinoa with
+beef (no more than 3 oz)
+cold water salmon/trout/halibut/mackerel

How to Achieve an Alkaline Diet: The 20:80 Acid/Alkaline Ratio 

Keep in mind that eating an excessively high alkaline diet is harmful too! Just like all other things in life, finding the right balance is key.


Easy tips on how to transition to an alkaline based diet:

  • start slow! reduce meat/grain consumption by small amounts
  • replace meat/grain with more vegetables/fruits per meal
  • start your meals with vegetables/fruits first
  • maintain 20:80 ratio; portion out your meals with 1/4 acidic + 3/4 alkaline foods

Transforming your diet can be very easy with a few small changes!

 

Sources||

Holford, P. (1999). The optimum nutrition bible (pp. 170-173). Freedom, Calif.: Crossing Press.
“ACIDOSIS: THE KISS OF DEATH!” The AAA Diet. Web. 2 Nov. 2014. <http://www.acidalkalinediet.net/acidosis-the-kiss-of-death.php>.

Digestion 101

Bloat After Eating? Understanding Your Digestive Health.

October 3, 2014

Oops… just ripped a big F**T. Excuse me. Ahem.

It’s normal. We all have our moments. The occasional flatulence does no harm and is actually quite normal. Our digestive tract naturally produces gas during the digestion process. But when you experience frequent gas and bloating – you should probably take a second look at your digestive system.

Of course, some foods naturally produce more gas than others like black beans or chick peas for example. On the other hand, a compromised digestive tract can cause a number of problematic digestive conditions such as gas and bloating in addition to many other conditions.

Some common digestive conditions:

  • food intolerances
  • acid reflux
  • bloating
  • cramping
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • ulcers

What are common causes of digestive issues?

  • poor diet choices
  • food allergies
  • frequent use of over-the-counter medications
  • low levels of nutrients in the body

When we’re talking about nutrition and health, it’s important to start by healing the gut. After all, our gut is the center of our powerhouse. It’s the gate house that receives, filters, and assimilates important minerals and nutrients into the body. Without a well functioning digestive system to provide fuel for the body, it’s most likely everything else is at sub-optimal performance too.

Digestion and Nutrients Absorption

Digestive System Chart

source: healthfavo.com

To understand how to heal the gut, we must first understand how it works.

Let’s think of the stomach as a churning and prepping agent – the refining mechanism. Its key responsibility is to break down food into manageable pieces and prepare it for nutrient absorption in the small intestine. An adequate level of stomach acid (HCl, also known as hydrochloric acid) is required to lower the pH level of chyme to an optimal level of 2.3. Thereafter, the chyme is then released into the small intestine.

The small intestine is sensitive and fragile – and does not operate well under highly acidic conditions.

When the extremely acid chyme enters the small intestine, it activates an ‘acid trigger’ which releases neutralizing agents, bile and bicarbonate, to raise the chyme’s pH level up to a slightly alkaline state (pH 7.5-8). Enzymes (brush border enzymes in the Ileum) are then mixed into the food and nutrients permeate through the intestinal membrane into the blood stream.

When Digestion Goes Wrong.

Remember when I mentioned we need adequate levels of stomach acid? Stomach acid (HCl) plays a very crucial role in digestion. When HCl is low, pathogens in the food are not sterilized. Food starts to ferment which turns into fermentation acid. This as a result is the culprit of bloating, acid reflux, and heart burn. Without enough HCl, pH level remains high when it leaves the stomach, causing a string of digestive impediments thereafter.

The pH level of the food is too high to activate the “acid trigger”. The chain effect continues on to a reduced release of bile and bicarbonate. The chyme passing through is now too acidic to the small intestine’s liking. The acidity not only damages the intestinal walls but also reduces proper digestion of food. Bad bacteria feeds off undigested food causing an imbalance in good vs. bad bacteria (a digestive condition called dysbiosis). Undigested food ferments and putrefies, or in other words,”rots” in the intestinal lining – producing gas and bloating, again.

Wait, it gets worst.

Our stomach do not have the proper enzymes to absorb nutrients from undigested food, which could eventually lead to malnutrition. What’s more, undigested food damages the intestinal wall which causes ‘leaky gut’, increased permeability of the intestinal lining. Unwanted food molecules ‘leaks’ into the blood stream, becoming antigens the body tries to fight off.

Uh Oh. This is how we develop food sensitivities and food allergies.

How do I heal the my digestive tract?

alkaline food recipes

Click here for Alkaline Meal Recipes!

Follow these 5 simple steps to a happier gut.

  1. Eat an alkaline diet.
    Maintain a 60-80% alkaline rich diet to improve enzyme function and decrease pathogens.
  2. Get tested for food allergies.
    Find out what food allergies or sensitivities you have. Remove them from your diet.
  3. Are you producing enough stomach acid?
    Drink a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar after a meal to help lower the pH in your stomach. (I use Braag’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with the “Mother)
    For a more palatable option – you can incorporate it into your salad dressing instead!
  4. Clean up your diet!
    Reduce or eliminate stimulants like alcohol and caffeine, processed foods, refined grains and refined sugars from your diet.
  5. Support your gut with good bacteria with probiotic supplements.
    Two primary strains of good bacteria are Lactobacillus Acidophillus and Bifidobacteria Bacterium.

I know all of this may sound overwhelming and intimidating. Start making small changes first. Start taking notice of the type of foods you’re eating on a daily basis. Are you consuming a predominately acidic or alkaline environment for your gut? Are you eating lots of refined grains like white bread or pasta? Try making small changes like introducing more veggies into your meals is a good start!

Just by being more aware of what you’re eating, what it’s doing to your body and making diet improvements, you are already on your way to a healthier gut!