In the average Western diet, many consume foods which are too acidic to effectively promote and maintain a healthy body. Some examples of these acidic sources we consume are refined sugars, dairy products, and meat, such as beef and pork. There are also different side effects that result from a high-acid diet, such as a diminished immune system and lethargy.
A sugar high can feel good every once in a while when eating ice cream, but remember that unless you attempt to alkalize your body, such habits can take their toll on your body, your health and your energy levels. I must admit that despite being a self-appointed champion of healthy eating, I do have my weaknesses! Oh yes! For instance I have a sweet tooth and I must admit that I kind of indulge my sweet tooth far more regularly than I should. However, I always try to counter the effects of my indulgence by doing a few things to ‘penalize’ my weakness. Thankfully, I don’t have a sweet tooth for everything sweet like cakes, doughnuts, ice creams, biscuits etc.
What I do have an irresistible sweet tooth for, is a certain brand of chocolates called Minstrels (a UK brand), some squidgy spongy type gelatin-based sweets called Haribos and my local grocery shop’s own brand sweet and salted popcorn! However much I have tried to ‘cure’ my habit I have so far been unsuccessful and I regularly do indulge myself sometimes with carefree abandon, only to hate myself shortly after. I realise its simply a mind thing but I guess my mind is not quite ready to give up on its sweet fantasies just yet.
If you are reading this and you have a definite idea how to cure me of my sweet tooth even semi-permanently, please let me know. Drop me a line and I would be glad to share your suggestions after I’ve tried it and seen the results. Now, there’s a challenge!
Alkalizing the body is not difficult, but in order to understand the benefits of doing so, one must first understand the definition of alkaline foods, how they work with the body, and which foods in particular will counteract the effects of their acidic counterparts.
What Is Alkaline?
Alkaline is defined as that which has a pH greater than 7. Because the body functions best at a pH level of about 7.4, it is important to consume foods which will bring those levels up to an appropriate level. To explain a bit about pH levels, pH levels refer to the degree of acidity or alkalinity of food or liquid. pH is short for Potential Hydrogen. A pH number measures on a scale of 0 to14, how acidic or alkaline a liquid is. Any number above 7 is considered alkaline while any below 7 is acidic. Water has a pH level of 7 meaning it is neutral. This also means it has the same amount of acids and alkalis, which balance each other out. This is especially crucial when consuming foods which are acidic and which will bring the pH levels lower than they should be. Pure, distilled water sits at almost exactly 7 on the pH scale. Foods with a higher number are alkaline, while anything lower than 7 is considered acidic.
Benefits Of An Alkaline Diet
As a general rule, foods can be classified as either acid-forming or alkaline forming.
The human body‘s pH is 7.35, or slightly alkaline. The body is always seeking a state of homeostasis (balance) and it works hard to maintain the healthy neutral alkaline zone.
Now, keep in mind that foods in of themselves cannot change this zone in the body, but, the body does have to work extra hard to compensate for the intake of acid-forming foods that are ingested in excess.
This happens because when your diet is highly acidic the body has to leech calcium from the bones, as calcium is an alkalizing mineral. Over time this can lead to bone mineral loss, which, can result in Osteoporosis. This is just one of many effects that an overly acidic diet can have on the body but this is not to sound alarmist as it is never too late to redress eating patterns and habits that can be potentially harmful to health in the long run
Additionally, as a stressor, acidity can lead to inflammation along with increased cortisol levels, and this can impact overall health in the long term.
Conversely, those foods that are alkaline forming are typically plant based and highly nutrient dense, and also loaded with antioxidants.
Including a variety of alkaline-forming foods in your diet allows the slowing of leech of calcium from the bones, and this results in improved bone health.
These foods also support healthy cell regeneration and fights the effects of free-radicals on the body.
Since it is the pH level of blood which concerns us, putting additional acidic foods into our diets actually works against the human system. When more strain is put on the body to fight sickness and disease, it is no wonder a highly acidic diet might make one feel tired and lethargic.
Benefits Of Alkaline Forming Foods For Athletes And Exercise
There is more goods news and that is the major benefits that alkalizing foods have on athletes and for the human body during exercise in general.
A diet high in acid-forming foods results in reduction of muscle efficiency so more energy expenditure is needed for each and every muscle contraction. Now, during a race or intense activity, this means a lot of extra work for the body.
Since alkaline-forming foods greatly reduce inflammation, the muscles work at more functional levels and they also require less force to move.
This allows endurance athletes, such as, those who run marathons and participate in triathlons to push harder for longer. For those who do strength training, and bodybuilders, alkalizing foods will allow you to lift heavier weights with less negative stress on the body.
How To Eat An Alkaline Diet
Increasing the alkaline intake does not have to be extraordinarily difficult, and one must not cut acidic foods entirely from his or her diet.
It is recommended that your diet consist of around 80% alkaline food sources while acidic foods make up the remaining 20%.
This contrasts with the average diet in the West, which often flips that ratio around. There are some changes in the diet which can be made quickly and easily in order to alter your pH level.
Swap Coffee For Green Tea
For example, you might switch from coffee to green tea in order to bring your blood’s pH level higher. Green tea is alkaline while coffee is acidic, so the substitution might make a drastic change especially if you consume coffee quite often. Green tea contains many antioxidants as well. In case you asked, antioxidants help to counteract free radicals in our body systems.
Antioxidants Vs Free Radicals
Antioxidants can be found in vegetables and fresh fruits and are therefore the good guys while free radicals are the bad ones. There are a wide variety of antioxidants that provide great health benefits and I will devote some time to talking about these in the subsequent months ahead. But for now suffice it to know that antioxidants prevent and can even inhibit the proliferation of free radicals (the bad guys) in our bodies and helps to neutralize the effects of free radicals in our blood streams.
Without wanting to sound too scientific, free radicals are occur from normal and essential metabolic processes found within the human body or from external sources such as exposure to various environmental and chemical pollutants, stress, smoking and many other factors. The dangerous thing about these free radicals that occur is that if left unaddressed they can cause a wide range of illnesses and chronic diseases and this is where the power of antioxidants helps to eradicate the effects of free radicals in our system.
Vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables! Always eat your vegetables. The best choice in alkalizing varieties are broccoli, celery, chard greens, collard greens, cucumber, cauliflower, and mushrooms, just to name a few. These foods are alkaline and will not only help reduce stress on the body in fighting acid, but are also highly nutrient dense and plain good for you!
Some of the best fruits are also alkalizing ones, including, melons, lemons, oranges, peaches, pears, apples, bananas, berries, cantaloupe and grapes.
Remember, you do not have to eliminate dairy products, rice, and all protein from animal sources in order to maintain a healthy pH level. However, it might benefit you to substitute your refined sugars with healthy fruits and vegetables more often than not.
Doing that, along with drinking plenty of green tea, will increase pH levels and your chances of finding health-nirvana naturally and easily!
This merely skims the surface on the issue of alkalinity versus acidity and the importance of maintaining good body alkaline levels as opposed to acidic levels. Conventional medicine might disdain claims that disease cannot thrive in an alkaline body environment while it is the opposite with bodies that are highly acidic but it is a widely held belief in the holistic health arena. It is also believed that the aging process is accelerated by free radicals in the body, so there is an incentive to reduce free radical activity in our bodies through good diet, regular exercise and less stress to summarise simply.
I am on this journey with you as my habits are by no way perfect but I do maintain a lifestyle that is highly health conscious of these issues and I spend a lot of time doing research on the latest news and views on holistic and alternative health concerns.
I hope this helps a bit. Feel free to drop me a line to let me know how I can be of further assistance with regards to providing information on other relevant health topics.
Until next time, keep on being special!
From my heart to yours always,
What Is The Immune System
One of the greatest health benefits we can enjoy is learning to develop and to maintain a strong immune system. The immune system is a collection of special cells, organs, and substances that defend the body against infection and illness. It monitors the body at the cellular level and attempts to rid it of anything unfamiliar and intrusive to the body.
You may already know this but any substance that enters the body which the immune system does not recognize is known as an antigen. When an antigen enters our bodies, the immune response is triggered and the attack to get rid of it begins. Our immune system has the ability to destroy anything containing a particular antigen including, germs, viruses, and cancer cells.
It is safe to say that without our immunity we wouldn’t be around too long because it is a tireless warrior protecting our health. There are bacteria and viruses everywhere and our immune systems continuously fight all types of bacteria, viruses and various parasites in order to protect the body from potential harmful effects that their presence in our bodies can cause.
We also use our immunity to fight and kill cancerous cells that can pop up in our systems and while of course it is not always successful as people still get cancer because there are other factors beyond just immunity that can affect the bodies response to cancer, it is a fact that those with a poor immune system are at greater risk of succumbing to cancer than individuals who take care of their immune system but cancer is not the only health threat we face on a daily basis.
It is therefore of great importance to invest time taking care of our immune system health. Thankfully, some of the ways in which we can do this are also beneficial in other ways to our overall health.
What are some ways we can maximize the effectiveness of our immune system to stay as healthy as possible? Here are just a few tips that I know are certainly helpful in building up the immune system:
- Get immunized. Every year, you are given the opportunity to get an influenza shot. This “shot in the arm” will literally boost your immunity against the likely influenza viruses floating around through the winter months. Older people should get the Pneumovax vaccine, which prevents pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria.
- Eat balanced meals. Now, eating healthy meals as daily habit for me poses a real challenge and I am by no means the role model here so I do eat health consciously even if my meals are not as balanced as I would love them to be on a daily basis. I have discovered ways of making up any shortfalls in diet by adopting a more holistic approach to overall health and reinforcing good health and eating habits over negative ones. More balanced eating simply means getting enough nutrition through the meals, fruits vegetables and nuts and seeds that we consume.
There are nutrients in these foods that act as antioxidants, scavenging your body for oxygen free radicals that can damage cellular systems. The problem though is that much of the fruits and vegetables gracing our grocery shelves are increasingly nutrient-deficient as a result of the commercial farming methods used. The continuous impoverisation of our farming soils through the proliferate use of pesticides and other questionable farming methods that have now become common place and acceptable is a whole new topic for a separate blog which I will address hopefully soon.
Organic produce is best but can be quite expensive and most regular income homes might find it beyond their pockets to stick to organic produce. When I suffered from serious ill health issues many years ago, I engaged the services of a natural herbalist who put me on an uncompromising organic food regime and for four years, I only purchased the highest grade of organic fruits and vegetables delivered weekly to me by a local organic store. As you can imagine it was pretty expensive but my health was seriously at stake then and I was determined to regain full health. Later, I will share some tips on how you can maintain good immunity even if you cannot afford to go organic.
- Stay away from tobacco smoke. If you are a smoker please try and commit to quitting. There is help available I you search for support groups in your area and online forums. I know people who smoke that have lived long and even outlived people with healthier lifestyles but that is not the norm. Documented research shows that smoking is extremely toxic to health and significantly increases the risk of lung and other cancers. Smoking is also extremely aging on the skin.
Tobacco smoke unarguably ruins immunity even if you aren’t the actual smoker. Kids have an increased risk of getting middle ear and lung infections when repeatedly exposed to second-hand smoke. Adults are more prone to getting bronchitis and pneumonia when exposed to tobacco smoke. The toxic ingredients in smoke lessen your ability to fight off all kinds of infections.
- Cut down on alcohol. UK government’s unit guidelines state that there are no safe levels of alcohol consumption. Unit guidelines are the same for men and women and both are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week. I am not a regular drinker and I have no idea what 14 units of alcohol actually looks like. Please feel free to contribute to this article by dropping me a line if you know what constitutes 14 units of alcohol and I’ll provide the update in the subsequent blog.
The risk of developing a variety of serious conditions including cancer, increases with any amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis. Excessive alcohol intake also leads to an increased risk of getting infections from a poor immune system. Pulmonary infections are particularly likely to happen in heavy drinkers. Alcohol intake on a regular basis is also aging to the skin and heavy drinkers tend to look older than their age. Because alcohol is dehydrating to the body it is always advisable to consume plenty water throughout the day to rehydrate the body and to detoxify the body from the harsh effects of alcohol.
- Take probiotics. The benefits of taking probiotics on a daily basis cannot be overstated. I came to discover how necessary probiotics are for optimum digestive health and general immunity several years ago and I take these religiously both from food sources and also supplementally. Probiotics are one of the best things to reach mainstream medicine and it’s a topic to devote to a separate article of its own as there is a lot to explain about its immense benefits which many people overlook due to the lack of awareness.
Probiotics consist of living spores of healthy bacteria or living organisms themselves. They colonize the gut and displace the “bad bacteria” that can make you sick. With probiotics, you can have a healthier gut immune system and can avoid gastrointestinal upset from bacteria or fungi in the gut. Probiotics are found in some yogurts as well as in capsule form. I will devote time in a later blog to explain its benefits and the best food sources and supplements for probiotic health.
- Eat garlic. Garlic is one of the oldest and most cultivated culinary spices in the world. It is a perennial plant with numerous health benefits as well as being an antimicrobial and antiviral agent. Garlic belongs in the same food category as onions, spring onions and shallots and has a strong pungent smell when used or ingested. It boosts the immune system in a general way but because it is inactivated by heat it is best taken on its own or by adding to foods just before serving the food. Garlic may also be taken in supplement form. Many will be familiar with the home remedy of garlic, ginger, lemon and honey brewed as a drink and taken warm to relieve, colds and flu. Garlic is an excellent source of Vitamin B6, Manganese, Selenium, Vitamin C and a host of other important minerals.
- Build Up on Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin required by the body for the absorption of calcium. It is widely believed from some research that Vitamin D inhibits or prevents the formation of cancer in the body. The body produces Vitamin D from the absorption of the suns UV rays however many people in sun-challenged climates tend to be deficient in Vitamin D particularly in the winter months and this can negatively impact on immunity. You can get Vitamin D with exposure to the sun or you can take a Vitamin D supplement as it is a bit of a challenge to get sufficient levels of Vitamin D solely from food sources. Some food sources for Vitamin D are: salmon, eggs, fortified milk, Shitake and Maitake mushrooms etc. It is worth having your Vitamin D levels checked periodically until you find a dosage of Vitamin D that brings your level into the normal range. In the summertime, just ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight per day can be a big benefit to your immune system.
- Take Vitamin C. Vitamin C is indispensable in building the body’s immune defense and for ensuring proper functioning of body. The vast benefits offered by Vitamin C are too numerous to mention here and I will devote further articles to explain more about this amazing nutrient. Vitamin C reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also helps in reducing cholesterol, it helps the body fight off infection, improves circulation and is a powerful anti-aging nutrient.
- Eat Shitake and Maitake Mushrooms. Studies have shown that really concentrated extracts of these types of medicinal mushrooms have enhanced the immune system of women who have breast cancer. While eating the mushroom alone hasn’t been studied, it may have a beneficial effect on the immune system of otherwise healthy people.
- Immune Supporting Herbs. There are tons of immune-supportive herbs out there too numerous to mention. Some well-known ones are Echinacea, Ashwagandha, Eleuthero (otherwise known as Siberian Ginseng), Astragalus, Curcumin, Ginger, Ginkgo Giloba, Gotu Kola, Cat’s Claw, Ganoderma (bitter mushrooms) etc. These have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to prevent infection and to maintain a strong immune system. They can be found at most reputable health food stores around you. There is a lot more valuable information to be shared on an even wider range of immune boosting herbs and I intend to do so in later blog articles. I am eager to share my own experience of using many of these herbs on a regular basis.
There are many more factors that determine levels of immunity which are beyond the scope of this article. The ones listed here are just a few tips. I think that it is in all our interests to continue to strive towards improving our immunity levels as it makes such a hugely positive difference to our state of health and well-being. If you have other tips on immunity from your own personal experience and knowledge that you would like to share, please feel free to drop me a line and I would be very happy to share this in further updates to this topic and perhaps you could even send me a full article on this or other relevant health topic and I’ll post it on this forum with your name and details! Wishing you great health and immunity!
From my heart to yours, always
We have all seen tv commercials advertising some great juicing apparatus and extolling the great benefits of juicing. If like me however you can’t be bothered with all the preparation hassles this tends to involve (although some juicers are very convenient to operate), you could use a blender or food processor instead to blend your preferred selection of fruits and vegetables with added water for a healthy smoothie concoction. The additional fiber (if you aren’t fiber intolerant) gained from the blending rather than juicing makes this a preferred option for me.
Smoothies and juicing can be an excellent method to get one’s daily recommended allowance of healthy nutrients, minerals and vitamins and also a great way to shed a few pounds and detox the body. Always consult a qualified health practitioner or doctor before embarking on any health regime as this is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any health condition or ailment. These are suggestions based purely on my personal experience of the health benefits achieved. In particular if you have blood sugar issues you may wish to first seek medical opinion on whether it is wise to embark on juicing because of the reputed concentrated high sugar levels; albeit natural sugar.
I find that I am quite experimental with my fruit and vegetable combinations depending on how I feel on the day. I tend to have purely fruit combinations in the morning for a delectable morning smoothie while settling for fruit and vegetable combinations for afternoons or evenings. Depending on the fruit and vegetable combinations, I sometimes add coconut milk, organic yoghurt, fresh juice, honey or simply filtered water to achieve the desired consistency. Every few months I’ll embark on a smoothie fast. I mentally prepare myself for this at least a week in advance and ensure I am well stocked up on a wide selection of fruits and vegetables to last me for the duration of the fast which will range from three days to seven days. A word of caution for delicate tummies, a dedicated fast may sometimes produce the undesired the effect of an upset tummy or excessive bloatedness.
To lose excess weight quickly but healthily, simply replace 1 to 2 meals daily with fresh green juice or preferred smoothie combinations. There are loads of recipes available online but you could make your personal recipes by mixing an eco-friendly leafy vegetable or two with one,two or even more fruits or more as you desire. I do have a wide selection of superfood powders that I often add to the blend for an extra turbo energy boost. Stuff like organic sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, cacao powder, baobab powder, acai powder, goji berries, lucuma powder and several more different ones. Your local health store will stock many of these varieties. Where possible, I tend to purchase organic brands or brands reputed for adopting superior harvesting and processing methods. I do a lot of research to try to understand the different methods and which ones offer the best bioavailability to the body. I will be touching on some of these in later blogs but for now instead of giving you prescriptive recipes, just try and experiment with as wide a variety of vegetables and fruits as possible and discover which recipes appeal to your palate. To give you some idea of the range of fruits and vegetables I tend to use:
• Bell Peppers
• Pitted Prunes
• Avocado pears
Where possible, I try as possible to make use of seasonal varieties that are available. If you stick to as wide and as colourful a range of fruits and vegetables as you possibly can you’ll definitely be getting a good range of vitamins and minerals in comparison with the average person on the street as well as reducing your calorie intake in a healthy way. However, just start small in whichever way you can and build up your range over time as you begin to enjoy the benefits and the habit of blending and/or juicing different combinations of fruits and vegetables
Once you form the habit of regularly juicing or blending fruits and vegetable for your smoothies, you’ll be fast on your way to becoming a juicing or smoothie-making expert, able to blend or juice up the most exotically healthy combinations. Your body will thank you for it when you begin to experience the many benefits such as improved skin tone and clarity, weight loss including reduced waist line, better hydration and improved bowel movements and so much more
So, now you know, I hope this motivates you to get out your blender or juicer or to invest in a good one. There are lots of reviews online to help you decide which one is best for you based on your budget. Start making it a regular habit to juice or to make your blended fruit and vegetable smoothies. Drop me a line to let me know how you get on or to share tips on your own experience.
Happy blending or juicing!
From my heart to yours, always