Are You ACIDIC? Why You Need POTASSIUM to Keep You Alkaline
…and Your Heart Beating; Nerves Calm; Digestion Working; Nails, Joints and Bones Strong
Potassium is powerful: too much or too little can make your heart stop beating. Although many foods contain this alkaline mineral, your storage sites can become depleted if you are frequently stressed, or your body or diet is too acidic (check for aches, pains, reflux and other digestive complaints, coated tongue, bad breath). Your body prioritises keeping your blood slightly alkaline. If it is too acidic, then potassium and other alkaline minerals (especially magnesium and calcium) will be withdrawn from bones, joints, teeth, hair, nails, and your muscles including the heart.
Nerves too require calmative potassium or their owners feel irritable, anxious or confused; get tremors, tics, cramps, palpitations, bloating, tingling or numbness; or find it difficult to initiate or sustain Sleep (see TIPS for website articles). Or sleep can be long but not refreshing. Potassium is critical for fluid balance and blood pressure (BP). Too much sodium (#1 source is tinned/packet/other pre-prepared foods) and too little magnesium (depleted by stress; low in highly processed foods) lowers potassium.
Magnesium acts like a doorkeeper at each cell, allowing potassium and Calcium to enter – or not (TIPS). So avoid high doses of calcium supplements without enough magnesium for efficient utilisation. High calcium levels can lead to constipation, weak bones, heart arrhythmia or kidney stones. Harvard University meta-analysis showed that nations with high dairy consumption (dairy is high in calcium, but acidic and low in magnesium) had the highest osteoporosis rates. If needed, a potassium supplement is best professionally assessed. For example use potassium sulphate for chronic sinus or rashes; potassium phosphate for anxiety related symptoms; potassium chloride for periodic inflammation such as bronchitis or endometriosis.
Burn Your Food
To release energy from food you metabolise or “burn” it. The calorie or kilojoule content is a statement of how much heat food can produce. Individual foods can be burned into an ash which will have an alkaline or acid residue (from the Latin word for sour: acidus). Some foods have a different pH prior to eating. For example in cooking terms, lemon is considered a culinary acid. Such foods can tenderise meat or fish; mix with baking powder or soda and help cakes to rise. They hit acid receptors on the tongue, encouraging pleasure and satiety. But once burned to ash, most citrus has an alkaline residue, which leaves mainly potassium, calcium and magnesium. Acid-ash foods are mostly composed of sulphur, phosphorous and chlorine. In chemistry an alkaline substance is termed a base: something that neutralises an acid.
Most vegetables and fruits are alkaline, which improves mineral absorption and retention, plus they are good sources of potassium. The average daily adult need is 4,700 mg daily (4.7 grams). Diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating or exertion, malnutrition; kidney, malabsorption and eating disorders; and some Medications (TIPS) can also cause potassium deficiency. Common offenders are diuretics, which can be prescribed to lower BP by forcing the elimination of fluid and sodium. This lowers blood volume and thus blood pressure. But when you eliminate fluid you also lower potassium. Some newer drugs are potassium sparing but this (sigh) can lead to dangerously high levels. Instead use diet to up potassium which naturally lowers sodium.
Meat, Banana and Beverage Urban Myths
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs such as for arthritis and asthma. They increase potassium loss as do laxatives. These work by pulling water into the bowel and stimulating muscle contractions to move fecal matter through for elimination. Laxatives can interfere with the absorption of potassium and sodium and promote potassium loss through the stool. Adopting an alkaline diet and increasing potassium, magnesium and calcium can often be sufficient to lower high BP; regulate digestion, sleep, Bones and joints (TIPS: Aches and Pains). The Kidneys (TIPS) are in charge of maintaining both BP and normal blood alkalinity of 7.35 – 7.45. The pH scale is from 0 (most acid) to 14 (most alkaline). Anything lower or higher than this status can lead to symptoms and disease. With a blood pH shift to just 6.9 or 7.8 cells stop functioning, followed by coma and death. An indicative pH test follows.
The most acidic foods are refined white Sugar (TIPS), soft drinks, ordinary salt, and beer. Less acidic are Protein foods such as meat, cheese, fish; most nuts, grains and Legumes (TIPS). However, these afford body-building amino acids, vitamins, Minerals (TIPS) and other health-supporters. They do not need to be eliminated, just appropriately balanced with a greater proportion of alkaline foods. Alkaline and acid can be viewed as yin and yang contrasting – but needed – partners. The critical point is to achieve a good ratio of one to another at each meal and snack. Note too the inaccurate assumptions that meat is the most acidic food (yet equal to non-maligned legumes), and banana the highest in potassium (see below).
Good quality water has an alkaline pH of 7 (similar to a healthy bloodstream). Tooth enamel erosion begins with any drink with a pH below 5.5, says Dr Rob Beaglehole of the NZ Dental Association. The Framingham Osteoporosis Study shows it also lowers bone-mineral density. Acidity promotes pathogen growth in the mouth that can promote infection or inflammation elsewhere in the body. Even harmless-looking soda water and SodaStream is less than 5.1 and sparkling water is 3.9. Worse are highly sweetened drinks (juices average 3.5) and soft drinks with added phosphorous or caffeine (Coke and Pepsi 2.3). Even fruit teas (eg hibiscus or rosehip-based) averaged 3.5. Black leaf tea: 6; black coffee: 5.5. Herbal teas such as mint and chamomile 7; plain coconut water 6-7. In warm weather keep a carafe of mint tea in the fridge.
How to Achieve a More Alkaline Diet:
• Have vegetables or fruit at each meal and do not overcook;
• Minimise pre-prepared food; as much as is practical cook from scratch;
• Have 5+ serves of veg and fruit each day (a serving is roughly a handful);
• Have 5 colours of veg and fruit each day (each range contains hundreds of unique nutrient team players: green; red; yellow/orange; black/blue/purple; white/tan/brown);
• Have something raw at most meals (breakfast: sliced fresh fruit with no-added-sugar cereal or toast; with eggs add avocado and baby spinach on your toast; lunch and dinner: add cucumber, radish, mesclun to sandwich or plate; top soup, stew, pasta or rice with sprouts, parsley, grated carrot or beetroot; snacks: nuts with fruit; serve sugar-free crackers and hummus with carrot and celery sticks; dessert: slice raw fruit and drizzle with tahini, macadamia butter or chopped raw chocolate*);
• Feature highly alkaline foods (especially seaweed*; fresh herbs such as parsley; leafy greens; garlic, ginger; low-starch veg such as broccoli, mushroom and courgette; umeboshi pickled plums*);
• Visually your lunch and dinner plate should be about ¼-1/3 protein (tofu and other legumes, egg, fish, meat, organic dairy); ¼-1/3 starchy carbohydrate (eg rice, pasta, potato); ½ low-starch veg. (See The Shape Diet to determine your metabolic body-type and which ratios and food sources suit you best);
• Switch to sea salt with kelp* (more alkaline due to more minerals than highly processed salt). For salty flavour plus other benefits use tamari or other naturally fermented soy sauce; clear fish sauce; olives; mustard; miso (soybean paste) in soup or on bread instead of marmite; my Dynamite spread (The Shape Diet) instead of vegemite; nut butters on bread and crackers instead of sugary jams;
• Season foods with less salt and more herbs, spices, lemon, vinegar, tamarind, pomegranate molasses, chilli, wasabi, wine, tomato, stock;
• Use my website recipes to minimise white sugar and sweeten baking with fresh/dried fruit, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, rice malt, maple/apple syrup, coconut, pureed or grated pumpkin/carrot/sweet potato; sweeten hot drinks with vanilla, cinnamon, honey;
• Have alkaline drinks such as filtered water; liquid chlorophyll*; herb tea; vegetable juice; green drinks* with chlorella, spirulina or barley grass; Teeccino* coffee substitute. Particularly avoid soft drinks;
• Pause before and during eating and dine mindfully (being hurried or tense creates acidity and impairs digestion).
*TIPS: from health stores buy umeboshi, green drinks, raw chocolate, and seaweed fronds (tiny pieces that don’t need soaking; for info on these and sea salt with kelp, see Pacific Harvest; contact my office or Nature’s Way for liquid chlorophyll; see Teeccino for 10 great varieties.
Top Food Sources of Potassium
(in order per 100 grams of food):
Herbs, dried; and spices (especially chervil – 4.7 g; paprika – 2.3g)
Tomatoes, sun-dried – 3 g (sun-dried in oil – 1.5 g)
Apricots, dried – 1.9 g (then prunes, figs, raisins, dates, currants)
Mushrooms, dried (especially shiitake – 1.5 g)
Nuts (especially pistachios – 1 g)
Seeds (especially pumpkin – 920 mg)
Legumes (especially white beans – 561mg)
Potato with skin – 550 mg
Fish and seafood (especially salmon and scallops – 535 mg)
Mushrooms, cooked – 570 mg; raw – 470 mg
Avocado – 485 mg
Spinach, cooked – 400 mg
Banana; beetroot – 350 mg
Fruit, raw and cooked (average 150 – 250 mg)
Vegetables, raw and cooked (average 100 – 300 mg)
NZ and APJCN Food Composition Tables; USDA Nutrient Database; dependent on season, soil, variety, style of preparation
How to test: buy pH test strips with colour chart from pharmacy or online. Upon waking, before eating or drinking, put some saliva on a strip. Compare colour to chart. Next measure pH of your second morning urination (to eliminate acid load from day before): urinate on strip or collect urine in glass jar. Compare with chart. Do for 1 week and determine an average: 7 is the ideal score. Retest after dietary changes.