One of the buzzwords that has been around for several years in health is "alkaline," and you can find all kinds of articles and posts about "being alkaline" and why it's so important for optimal health. In fact, one of the simple dietary recommendations I always point back to is an acronym I learned named PACO. It stands for "Primitive, Alkaline, Colorful and Organic," and it's a great tool for screening your food choices.
So what is alkalinity, why is it important and how do you actually create it in your body?
In simple terms, alkalinity is a measurement just like acidity is a measurement. They both create the pH scale, and the important thing to remember is that the body has very strict controls on pH levels for everything to work properly. Your stomach, for example, has to be very acidic so it can break down proteins and prepare things for digestion in your small intestine. This is why drinking alkaline water is a terrible idea - it cancels out your stomach's efforts and makes digestion harder, leading to a higher probability of undigested food making its way into your colon and rotting or fermenting.
Likewise, your blood maintains an extremely strict pH window that is slightly alkaline (7 is neutral, and your blood is slightly above that). What this means is that any change in your blood's pH level has to be accounted for immediately. When you drink a soda, for example, you're dumping massive amounts of acid into your body that have to be neutralized or otherwise they would wreak havoc. This is where minerals come in, and from this simple example we can understand the true meaning of alkalinity.
What Alkalinity Really Means
To cancel out the soda, your body will pull minerals like calcium or magnesium from your teeth, bones, muscles and anywhere it can just to restore the pH balance. Over a long period of time, this acidic effect of metabolism will take its toll - as we can plainly see in rising osteoporosis rates, cavity rates and so on even in the young. This is why the "SAD" (Standard American Diet) is appropriately named, it is so acidic and devoid of nutrition that it is indeed very sad.
Now it's very important to understand here that true alkalinity refers to your body's overall reserves of minerals and nutrients to be able to balance out the inherent acidic effect of life and metabolism.
In other words, alkalinity of the body is a measure of how well you can combat stress.
It does not mean drinking alkaline water or taking anything that forces an alkaline situation. Remember the soda example? The reverse is true with alkalinity. These are fundamental processes that you always want to support indirectly rather than directly. While alkalinity is a true concept in chemistry, companies that sell alkaline water or other similar products have taken this concept and twisted it's understanding in the health industry with clever marketing to fool people into thinking that their magic substance will give them this holy grail of health. So, be careful.
How to Be "More Alkaline"
To be "more alkaline" means essentially that your body has more nutrient reserves to handle metabolic and environmental stresses. In other words, you need to follow my recommendations in the 5 Pillars of Optimal Health and utilize a comprehensive nutrition program that includes all the major minerals and vitamins, like a quality magnesium supplement because magnesium regulates your electrolytes.
With that said, alkalinity like anything else in health is a practice. It involves several important elements and is a result of actions over time, not taking some product that will make you "alkaline." In fact, if there was such a product (detergent anyone?) you'd best stay away from it. If you want to really be more alkaline, try the following tips:
Shoot for 7-10 servings of vegetables per day (note: not fruits). Vegetables are mineral and vitamin rich, giving your body the resources to build reserves. If you have a hard time reaching this number, then quality whole food powders like this one can help make up the difference.
Improve your digestion with supplements like digestive enzymes and betaine HCL. Breaking your food down helps to liberate the nutrients from the food (especially vegetables that have lots of fiber) so this is important in becoming more alkaline.
Avoid things that drain minerals from your body like pharmaceutical drugs, antibiotics, smoking, alcohol, poor quality food, excessive protein, etc. All of these things create an acidic response in the body that requires minerals to be cancelled out.
Stress drains minerals and resources, leading to a more acidic terrain (i.e. low on your mineral piggy banks) so try to minimize your stress and adopt a practice of gratitude. If you need help then check out my 10 day course on gratitude because it will change your life.
And that's about it. Don't fall for the hype and forget about alkaline water. Instead build a solid practice around these habits and you'll have no problem "being more alkaline" for years to come.