IronSister Says: Ph Balance

Acid/Base Balance:

Alison and I were recently talking about our opinions regarding conventional medicine and holistic medicine.  Personally, I believe in both, I care about both worlds.  I work in acute care; I see the need for medicine, diagnostic imagining and procedures that may be very taboo to a Holistic approach to healing.  I believe this is a luxury we have in the Western world, something that we should be very thankful for and not take for granted.  But Holistic healing is extremely important and helps us to not overuse the luxuries of western medicine, such as medicating when we could be preventing.   I do not believe we need to medicate absolutely every ailment that we face, and the key to optimal health is prevention.  Nearly all of our greatest risks are preventable; sadly, our health care system is utterly exhausted by so many sick individuals who could have easily prevented their illness.  Of course, this is not always the case, there are times when disease cannot be prevented, leading us to the real need for health care. If you follow this blog, chances are you are probably interested in living/eating a healthy way. This is preventative medicine!

As a Respiratory Therapist, I spend a large amount of time analyzing the gases in our blood, which determine and effect our pH, leading to a number of disease processes.  Ventilation care is often determined and adjusted based on blood gas values.  The pH of our body is a massive determining agent in our care, our chances of survival in an acute event and our recovery; this is probably something that few people are familiar with.  Of course, in an acute event, our natural ventilation drive is adjusted subconsciously, and therefore we have no control over our acid/base balance, however from a nutritional view point, there are many lifestyle factors we can consider to control our body’s pH.  In Nutrition school, I remember spending an exceptionally large amount of time learning about the essential need for our acid/base balance in healing. This topic is following me through my Respiratory studies, equally as essential to healing but looking at it from a different angle.  This makes me believe that this is an important topic for our health.

pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity of a substance on a scale of 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral and 0 totally acid and 14 totally alkaline, in between are varying degrees of acidity and alkalinity.  Human blood should be 7.4 (7.35-7.45), slightly alkaline, even slight changes are not compatible with life (less than 6.8 and greater than 8.0).  My medical physiology text book says that only slight changes in hydrogen ion concentration (which determine acid/base) from the normal value can cause marked alterations in the rate of chemical reactions in the cells, some being depressed and some being elevated.  Basically this means that our survival depends on our blood remaining in the slightly alkaline state of 7.4, when our blood becomes slightly acidic, our body will buffer this acid with alkalizing minerals from other tissues, these minerals include potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium.  After these minerals are oxidized, they will become carbon dioxide which is eliminated through our lungs and kidneys.  Among a list of problems, this process is very fatiguing to our bodies and will likely leave you with a mineral deficit that must be replaced through our diet.  In a crisis situation, this is not helpful.

This brings me to the topic of how are diets can relate to our acid-base balance.  Due to the increased availability of produced, refined and processed foods, our whole grain consumption is decreasing.  Fruit and vegetable consumption has decreased by 45% in the last 5 years while fat, salt and sugar consumption has increased by 100% in that same time period.  Diets high in meat, fat and refined products will constantly push our body’s pH towards the acid state, whereas fruits and vegetables are the body’s main source of minerals or alkaline elements.  Regardless of whether we are acidic (more common) or alkaline, stimulating our bodies continuously in either direction will eventually exhaust the body systems, changing its functions in order to adapt to new situations and eventually leading to degenerative changes.  This makes me think back a few weeks ago when we talked about our excessive protein intake, likely changing your body to an acid environment, definitely not optimal for health.  Some symptoms that can be associated to even a slightly acidic environment include: fatigue, stomach pain, allergies, insomnia, water retention, migraines, arthritis, alternating constipation and diarrhea, and pain upon waking in the morning.  In general, fruits and vegetables are alkalizing and meats and grains are acidifying, however, here are a few more examples:

Acidic foods: Bread, eggs, fish, flours, grains, meats, most nuts, oatmeal, rice and shellfish.

Alkaline foods: Almonds, fruits, vegetables, beans, berries, millet, and potato

With that said, studies have shown that whole grains when chewed thoroughly can become alkaline by mixing with the alkaline salivary enzyme, however, will leave an acid residue if not chewed thoroughly.  Also, acidic fruits like lemons and oranges have an alkalizing effect on the body because their acid is burned off by the body in the cellular respiration process.  The tendency of our western diet is towards high acid forming foods and therefore a pH shift towards an acidic state.  It is likely that the majority of us could benefit from increasing alkaline forming foods in our diet, and conveniently these foods tend to eliminate processed, refined foods and excess fats.  For many other reasons, that we’ve already looked at, this only contributes to a far better way of eating anyways.  If you do live in an acidic state, you can also benefit by increasing your alkaline food to return your pH to normal and create a healing environment for your body.

Obviously this is all a bit scientific and tedious. But a commitment to educating yourself on how best you can care for your body, will help you prevent many diseases down the road.



IronSister Says: Thoughts On Protein

This post is a little bit fig & fennel and a little bit Ironsister.

fig & fennel – Usually my “Thoughts On:” section is about non food related topics. But I feel like I’ve had the conversation 50 times in the last few weeks, people saying things like, oh I can’t cook vegetarian, my husband plays hockey and needs protein. Or, well I’d eat vegetarian, but I work out so I need protein. So I wanted to address the topic of how to eat enough protein from non-meat products. It is, in fact, surprisingly easy to do! We do not eat exclusively vegetarian and I find no need to come up with an appropriate label for how we eat, but I usually cook a meal with meat in it about once a week, and we try to have fish once a week. So we eat mostly plant-based food. My personal motivations are as follows: health benefits, desire to be conscious of the environment, complete disgust of handling raw meat. There is a disgusting amount of animal cruelty out there, but I avoid these concerns by buying meat ONLY from local farms that are organic and provide a reasonable quality of life for their animals. This is a bit pricier, but we eat so little meat that I can afford to do so.

I know there is a substantial move out there among Foodies, which I embrace with a happy heart, to move towards more vegetarian cooking. I have some friends who cook pretty typical meat and potatoes type meals all week but plan a “Meatless Monday” meal. A number of smaller local restaurants I know have vegetarian meals one day a week. This is great because people can order something new, love it, or not, and realize that it’s not hard or intimidating to cook vegetarian.

I’m sure many of you have seen the video floating around Youtube and Facebook, about the benefits of eating less meat. The basic research of the mini doc is this: if everyone in Britain ate ONE less meat based meal per week, it would be the equivalent of taking 50 million cars off the road. This is MAJOR! How much more if all of North America did this?! Cows eat soya, which is unnatural to them and makes them produce more methane and it takes a skillion bags of soya and lots of energy to get ONE beef serving from a cow. Ridiculous.

You’d be surprised at how protein-frenzied and misinformed we are about the topic of protein needs. Here is some interesting info for you, brought to you by IronSister. We just did a workshop on all this stuff  so I’m all fired up about it…

Protein Requirements

NOTE: Ideal body weight does NOT mean how much you should weigh, it is the scientific formula for determining your nutritional needs. Just before everyone freaks out…

Recommended protein requirements: 0.45 grams/kg of Ideal Body Weight per day
Ideal Body Weight for Women: 100lbs for 60 inches + 5 lbs for every inch over 60 inches
Ideal Body Weight for Men: 106 lbs for 60 inches + 6 lbs for every inch over 60 inches

So let’s take a woman who is 5’4″. That means their ideal body weight is 120lbs. 120lbs = 55kilos. 55kilos x .45 = 24.75 grams of protein in food.

Protein Serving size (grams)
Beef, lean 4 oz (24)
Chicken breast 3 oz (24)
Fish 3 oz (16-18)
Turkey, 4 oz (9)
Cheese 1 oz (8)
Cottage cheese, ½ cup (16)
Egg 1 large (6)
Egg white 1 large (4)
Milk, skim 1 cup (8)
Yogurt, plain 8 oz (12)
Peanuts 1 oz (7)
Peanut butter 2 tbsp (8)
Pumpkin seeds ½ cup (20)
Sunflower seeds 1 tbsp (3)
Soybeans, ½ cup (14)
Soymilk 1 cup (8)
Tofu ½ cup (20)
Beans, black ½ cup (8)
Beans, pinto ½ cup (7)
Chickpeas, ½ cup (20)
Lentils ½ cup (9)
Beans, kidney ½ cup (12)
Milk, skim 1 cup (8)

Isn’t that amazing!!!?? It does not take a lot of work to get our needed protein. And look how easy it is to get it in NON meat things! Sprinkle 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds on your salad and voila! almost all you need in a day! Or think of just normal stuff, 2 eggs for breakfast, one glass of milk, peanut butter sandwich for lunch and some kind of beans in your supper = 36. 50% more than you need!!!  Please note, these numbers are relevant for active people as well. Unless you are doing some shocking level of physical activity, than the formula is a good guideline for you!

SO my friends…bottom line….eat more vegetarian and help save the world. Don’t forget mommies, YOU are Queen of the Castle, how you cook and how you eat is how your family will follow. Get creative and make some yummy vegetarian things and I bet you barely get any complaining.

IronSister Says:

Superimmunity for the Next Generation

What can we feed our children now to prevent disease in their futures?

I feel as though I am noticing young families and new babies every where I turn!   This could be for a number of reasons, but primarily two: I sincerely hope to start my own family in the near future, (however in the mean time, this is my Boston Marathon year, so that will be on hold for just a little longer…) But more so, I am surrounded by growing children, my nieces and my friends children, and I am daily reminded of what our future; society, health care and my own personal future, will look like.

There are astounding and devastating statistics in regards to teen obesity and somehow every year the average age of an increase in obesity-related health problems becomes younger and younger.  What could this possibly mean for our already exhausted health care system?  As a senior, when my needs for health care are increased, will there even be anything available?   Or will it be the generations behind me that require even more care and consume the very small amount of workers who are healthy enough to work.  Do I sound paranoid?  Maybe.  Or perhaps my mind just cannot accept a problem, potentially a massive crisis, that is completely preventable.

Somehow, maybe we can turn this around!

So this week, let’s consider nutrition and our childrens immune systems.  Children have a remarkable immune system that is kept strong through optimal nutrition.  If we optimized early childhood nutrition, it is very unlikely that allergies would be on the rise, like they are, and recurrent ear infections would not be a yearly epidemic each winter.  A child’s health begins with their mothers health before they are born.  After birth, infant nutrition is very important. Breast feeding, when possible, provides all the nutritional needed to support our children’s developing immune systems.  Toddlers and school age children learn habits that may influence their health and eating habits for the rest of their lives. The information and attitudes we pass on to our children in these early years, about healthy food, will stay with them for their whole lives.

Much research suggests that the key to a strong immune system lies within Essential Fatty Acids.  EFA’s can reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease, and this wonder-nutrient is actually absolutely necessary for our health.  This is because 1. It maintains our immune system and 2. Our bodies cannot make it, so we MUST find it in our diet.  EFA deficiency is linked with serious health conditions, such as heart attacks, cancer, insulin resistance, asthma, lupus, schizophrenia, depression, postpartum depression, accelerated aging, stroke, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s Disease, among others.

EFA’s are found most richly in nuts, seeds and fish.  The highest amounts of EFAs are found in: Flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, hempseed oil, hempseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, avocados, some dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, collards, etc.), canola oil (cold-pressed and unrefined), soybean oil, wheat germ oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, albacore tuna.

EFA’s have nearly been eliminated completely from our diets.  EFA’s are delicate, fragile oils that are easily damaged by air, temperatures and processing.  Furthermore, if we (or our children) are nutrient deficient, or eating the wrong types of fats, then even the minute amount of EFA’s that we do consume may not be used properly in our bodies.  This issue is further to our deficiency in an “essential” dietary need.

Each piece of information we talk about is another very small piece of the puzzle that represents the artistic masterpiece that we call optimal nutrition.  The encouraging thing is that whatever our age and whatever our children’s ages, optimal nutrition can be achieved.  Past mistakes can in fact be remedied.  Next week I’m going to take an indepth look at fats in our diet.  This should hopefully allow us to act further on our need for EFA’s.  Perhaps in preparation “one” might provide us with some tasty fish and cold pressed oils recipes (hint, hint….)

fig & fennel – hint taken, stay tuned!