Contributing Monkie Brendan Brazier
Published on February 4, 2010
Photographer:V Blak (CC)
G Living’s Brendan Brazier is one the world’s few professional athletes whose diet is 100 percent plant based. He’s a professional Ironman triathlete, bestselling author on performance nutrition, and the creator of an award-winning line of whole food nutritional products called Vega.
The following is our fifth excerpt from Brendan’s book “The Thrive Diet”, on sale now.
The balance of acid and alkaline within the body is referred to as pH (meaning “potential of hydrogen”), and measured on a scale ranging from pH 1 (the most acidic) to pH 14 (the most alkaline). A neutral or good pH balance is 7.35; maintaining this balance is vital. If the body’s pH drops, meaning our body has become too acidic, the likelihood of ailments rises sharply. An acidic environment within the body negatively affects health at the cellular level. It is not possible to be truly healthy when the body is in a constant state of acidosis (characterized by excessively high acid levels).
People with an acidic environment within their body are also prone to fatigue: Since acidity is a stressor, cortisol levels rise, impairing sleep. The consumption of acid forming foods is the number one cause of an overly acidic system, and the overconsumption of acid-forming foods plays a significant role in one of North America’s largest health problems –excessive weight. Since our body is equipped with buffering capabilities, our blood pH will vary to only a small degree, regardless of diet. The body’s ability to cope is a testament to how resourceful it is. Yet, the systems that are recruited to facilitate this buffering use of energy can become strained, and if prolonged, will result in significant stress to the system, causing immune function to falter and effectively opening the door to a host of diseases.
Low-grade metabolic acidosis — when cells remain in an overly acidic state because of too many acid-forming foods being eaten or a high-stress lifestyle in general — is believed to be a leading cause of several health concerns, including the development of kidney stones, loss of bone mass, and the reduction of growth hormone levels, resulting in loss of lean muscle mass and increase of body fat. Lowgrade metabolic acidosis affects the body at a cellular level and is responsible for an increase of free radicals and a decrease in the production of cellular energy. In addition to these serious concerns, viruses and bacteria are able to thrive in an acidic body, again possibly leading to numerous diseases. Interestingly, it is impossible for cancer to develop in an alkaline environment; this shows the importance of alkalinity in disease prevention.
So, what can we do to prevent all this? The answer is to consume more alkaline-forming foods and fewer acid-forming ones. One factor that significantly raises the pH of food, and in turn the body, is chlorophyll content. Responsible for giving plants their green pigment, chlorophyll is often referred to as the blood of plants. The botanical equivalent to hemoglobin in human blood, chlorophyll synthesizes energy.
Chlorophyll converts the sun’s energy that has been absorbed by the plant into carbohydrate. Known as photosynthesis, this process is responsible for life on earth. Since animals and humans eat plants, we too get our energy from the sun, plants being the conduit. Chlorophyll is prized for its ability to cleanse our blood by helping remove toxins deposited from dietary and environmental sources. Chlorophyll is also linked to the body’s production of red blood cells, making daily consumption of chlorophyll-rich foods important for ensuring the body’s constant cell regeneration and improving oxygen transport in the body and therefore energy levels. Optimizing the body’s regeneration of blood cells will also contribute to peak athletic performance.
Although some foods test as acidic, they produce an alkalizing effect once digested. Citrus fruit and balsamic and apple cider vinegar are all acidic, but when consumed, they become highly alkaline-forming.
While I realize that most people who eat a typical North American diet do eat some alkalizing foods, such as fruit and vegetables, the amounts are rarely large enough to offset the acidity formed by the base of the diet. Even many so-called healthy diets, particularly those based heavily on cooked grains, keep the body in an overly acidic state, resulting is slowed cellular regeneration. Not all foods you eat need to be highly alkaline-forming; however, for optimal health, it is important that most of them are alkalizing.
Balanced pH plays a major role in bone health. Studies indicate that it is not a lack of dietary calcium, as is commonly thought, but stress and overconsumption of acid-forming foods and supplements that lead to most cases of poor bone health and osteoporosis. The blood will always remain neutral — this is imperative for survival — so if the body is consistently fed acid-forming, denatured foods and supplements, or encounters stress from other sources, it must take measures to ensure a neutral blood pH is maintained. In doing so, the body pulls calcium, the mineral is our body that is most alkaline, from the bones.
Over time, the bones weaken as a result of this survival mechanism. The conventional way of treating low calcium levels and osteoporosis is to “take” more calcium, usually in the form of supplements. The calcium in tablets is usually derived from oyster shells, bovine bone meal, coral, or dolomite (a type of rock), all of which are extremely hard and unnatural for the body to assimilate — they are not food. The large size of these supplements and, with some types, the number recommended for daily intake is a testament to their poor bioavailability. The body must work very hard to get calcium from these sources.
pH Levels and Enjoyment of Life
Diet has the greatest impact on the body’s pH level; however, there are other contributing factors. Maintaining a positive attitude and setting time aside to do an activity you enjoy on a regular basis will promote pH balance within the body. Taking time out of a busy schedule to do something pleasurable yet seemingly unproductive is actually a key element in improved health and longevity — and therefore greater productivity. Of course, if you enjoy your busy schedule, it will be less stress-producing than if you perceive it as daunting — what might seem a foreboding schedule to someone else may be a source of pleasure for you. If you enjoy working through the night, then there is no need to rest. This further underscores the value of enjoying what you do for the long-term sake of your health.