Monday, March 11, 2013

The Great Balancing Act

It seems that at every turn new studies are published telling us why we shouldn't eat this food or drink that drink. We see alarmist articles by journalists and bloggers, many of whom have little or no scientific background, citing scientific articles they have read. It doesn't seem to matter that they don't understand the process of scientific research or the scientific method or even half of the words--they pick out what they can and then write articles that they say are based on scientific fact, give us the citation, and go on their way. No worries for them because most people don't bother checking sources--they just assume the writer read and understood his facts and they, in turn, take it for the gospel and spread the word to all of their friends, and so on and so forth.

Well, I do check. I understand what I'm reading and I understand the process and the method because I am a trained scientist. I also am not a rat, or a mouse, or a computer simulation. I am a living, breathing, middle-aged, menopausal female, human. My cells don't exist in a test tube or petri dish. My body does not respond the same way to the same things as a man's body or a child's body or a really old person's body. So, when I read a study and I see that its subjects were rats, mice, or in vitro, or in silica, I immediately decide to wait and see how the research progresses instead of spreading the word--because the "word" is not ready to be spread and if the reader of that study was a scientist he would understand that it wasn't ready to be spread either.

What I look for are in vivo studies--on humans, to cite.  Then, I look for multiple sources of the same experiments. I then check to make sure they don't use vague language like "is linked to" and the like. If the study only demonstrates a correlation between two or more things then it has proved nothing. Correlation does not equal causation. I look for studies that are double-blind, that have a large number of subjects, that has data for different age groups/genders and the like. I then look to see who paid for the study just to be as certain as possible that it wasn't a special interest group pushing their product or ideology. Once the study has passed these and other criteria, I will likely cite it.

However, this is a blog and it is about my personal experiences and those of others and not a scientific paper or a scholarly journal AND there are quite a few bloggers out there who have done their homework and with whom I mostly agree  who have cited a ton of literature--most of which is good, but not 100%--and I will direct you to them rather than reinvent the wheel.

Now, why did I bring all of that up? Well, I was supposed to do my entry last Thursday on studies but was unable to do so and it linked in with today's topic of finding balance. Specifically pH balance. That is the latest health topic that is beginning to makes its rounds on the internet and I thought I'd jump in and weigh in on it. This way, maybe, I can make you think before you drop yet another food item from your pantry and further confound or overwhelm you.

The enormous importance of the body's pH has long been known by scientists and has been proven to be something we don't want to screw with--or else we die--and your body will maintain it's pH no matter what--even to the point of sacrificing other organs or systems within the body (talk about cutting of the nose to spite the face, eh?).  If your pH wavers even slightly outside the normal range of 7.35-7.45, which is slightly alkaline, you are probably in a diseased state or are entering into a diseased state. If your pH drops below 6.8 or rises above 7.8 you're dead. As you can see, there isn't much wiggle room.
Disease occurs in the body when the pH is outside this range because the body, in its efforts to regain equilibrium will take what it needs from wherever it can. It is an extremely complicated biochemical process and I won't even try to explain it all here, but I will just give you the down and dirty basics. Our bodies contain ions such as sodium, calcium, magnesium, etc. These are both positively and negatively charged. Without them none of our electrical systems would work and we would die. When our body becomes too acidic or too alkaline, ions such as calcium are snatched from their cells and utilized to restore equilibrium to the pH, but at what cost? Once in a while--probably not much. If, however, your body is in a constant state of even slight acidity, the cost is great. Cancer cells thrive in acidic environments. Your bones will suffer from the loss of calcium or other cells' functions are disrupted because the charges within and without the cells are no longer in a state of equilibrium. These are just a few small examples, but I think you get the picture: Your body, like everything in nature, seeks a state of equilibrium. Of balance. When it is out of balance the results are devastating.

If you want to understand more about pH here is something that is written in lay terms and pretty interesting: http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4910711_body-regulate-ph.html

In a recent spate of blog posts and media articles regarding our pH levels and certain diseases came lists of foods that we should not eat because they were too acidic or too alkaline and would upset our delicate balance. In the hands of the wrong people, these lists can do more harm than good. If we followed the lists and the writers' advice there would be precious little that we could consume. In an enlightened person's hands, however, it can just be good old-fashioned useful information. We could look at these lists and determine if we are perhaps eating too much from one group and what we can add to balance things out--things over which we exercise some measure of control. Then, of course, comes the things over which we have no control such as the air we breath and a whole host of environmental factors. There is simply too much and we would lose our minds if we worried about everything. The good news is that most of what affects our pH is within the realm of our control. What we eat and drink play the largest role.

So, how can we help to keep our pH in balance? Simple. Eat a wide variety of foods. Eat plenty of greens, reds, yellows, and oranges. Eat healthy fats. Eat a variety of meats. Have a bit of cheese. A handful of nuts or berries. Stay away from processed food. You get it, right? By eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy (if you can tolerate it), seeds, nuts, and fats, you really don't have to stress this. You'll know if you're getting it "right" because you will feel good. So, take a look at those lists--but just the once. Don't memorize, study, or work yourself up over them--just be aware. You'll immediately see where your diet falls short and you'll immediately know where to make adjustments, if any.

Thanks for tuning in. This Thursday I'll bring this and a few other topics that I've covered together and show how they all fit in the context of inflammation.

Until next time.



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