I was chatting with my dad the other day and telling him about my revamping my diet to include liver-healthy foods with most every meal. As my dad does when we discuss topics interesting both of us that we agree on, he got very excited and imparted what he’s learned through his experiences or research. A few years ago, his doctors put him on an alkaline diet to decrease acidic toxins in his body for particular reasons. My dad did what I would do – he bought a book about it (there is no denying I am his daughter). This book was The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health by Christopher Vasey. After our chat, my dad loaned me this book and gave me a list of acid vs. alkaline foods.
This book has a great deal of information regarding different acids and their effect on the body, as well as how acidified the body can become over time. While the focus of the book is how to de-acidify the body rather than eat for optimum liver health specifically, there is a section at the end where he discusses the methods for eliminating excess acid where, while discussing the importance for intestinal health, he mentions the liver and how important it is to have good bile production because proper intestinal functioning depends on it for eliminating acids and toxins from the body. This was probably the most interesting section of the book for me given my sensitive digestive, biliary, and intestinal system. I was happy to read that I already incorporate many of the suggestions and supplements he recommends:
- Green food – I use Amazing Grass brand green food each day, which provides a wealth of nutrients from a blend of green foods such as barley grass, alfalfa, wheat sprouts, and many other nutrient-packed greens.
- Milk Thistle – specifically for biliary and liver health.
- Probiotics – these healthy organisms are very important for intestinal health. I eat plain Greek yogurt with live cultures each day.
- Flax – I try to eat something with flax meal each day. Flax is loaded with omega-3 essential fatty acids, lignans with antioxidant qualities, and fiber. This combination provides anti-inflammatory properties and makes it a must for aiding my digestive problems. Flax is one ingredient that, after just a few days of adding it to my diet, I saw nearly an immediate reduction in my digestive symptoms and a drastic decrease in abdominal pain. I love flax.
- Herb teas – these are healthy because they aren’t acidic in the way that coffee or black tea are. My favorites are ginger and chamomile, which I drink almost daily. I also drink green and white teas.
- Water – Everyone knows this: drinking plenty of water daily is vital for keeping the body functioning properly, by aiding in eliminating excess acid but also in providing the body’s cells enough fluids to function properly for their individual jobs.
- Whole grains – while not an alkaline food, they are only slightly acidifying versus refined white grains which are highly acidifying because they have been stripped of all their nutrients. The nutrients and fiber in whole grains are beneficial (unless you are gluten-intolerant) so long as you eat these in moderation and with more alkaline foods (vegetables).
- Fruits and vegetables – Vegetables are the most alkaline foods with fruits being slightly alkaline/acidic depending on the fruit. I incorporate fruits and veggies in my morning smoothie. I usually eat fruits for my morning and afternoon snacks and vegetables at lunch and dinner.
- Lean meats and tofu – I eat fish and tofu. Other meats are equal to fish on the acidity chart, but I personally can’t digest them. The natural oils/fats in fish make them easier for me to digest than chicken, turkey, beef, etc. I also eat eggs for protein.
Vasey frequently recommends consuming soft white cheeses versus aged cheeses, saying the soft white cheeses are less acidic than the aged hard cheeses. I have difficulty with all cheese unless it’s reduced fat or fat free. Since I have biliary issues, and bile is necessary in digesting fat, full fat cheeses can wreak havoc on my digestion. Avocados can as well because of how much fat they have – about 1, maybe 2 teaspoons of avocado no more than twice a week is about the maximum my system can handle. I am trying to incorporate cheese AT VERY SMALL QUANTITIES since I do love the flavor. My favorite is goat cheese crumbles, so I have begun using maybe 4 – 5 crumbles on a dish a couple times a week. So far, so good. Goat cheese has such a strong flavor that a very small amount provides a punch of flavor.
The primary reason I am not a vegetarian is because I can only eat a small portion of legumes once a week without suffering severe digestive problems. It is not a viable protein source for me like fish. Legumes are noted in the book as being either acidifying or slightly acidifying depending on type. Vasey notes that they contain little water, being made up almost entirely of a combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, which are all acidifying nutrients. On page 86, he notes that tofu and soy milk (regulars in my diet) are much less acidifying because of the way they are manufactured that makes them easier to metabolize. While I have made my peace with limiting legumes, I will always miss hummus. It was while eating hummus that I had the massive pain attack that sent me to urgent care, then subsequently to a number of medical tests before it was clear I needed surgery.
Diet is of utmost importance for optimal health. I believe everyone needs a different diet based on their own needs. My husband can eat almost anything with little negative effect. Other people are like me who have to constantly be aware of what they are eating, what ingredients are in their foods, maintain portion control, and understand what foods are trigger foods. Much of my time is spent creating menus that I can eat that will be appealing to the rest of my family. This can be frustrating at times for someone who loves food as much as I do and has to consistently limit some foods and completely eliminate many foods that I used to savor.
After years of pain and illness, I finally feel healthy and energetic. It’s an addictive feeling that makes the restrictive diet worthwhile. I don’t view it as restrictive, but rather as a diet full of options that I need to explore. I wasn’t raised with a diet full of fish so I have plenty of options to explore with fish and seafood, and how to incorporate a variety of vegetables. The pescatarian diet is full of possibilities. Eating out has become 80% more challenging than eating at home. Eating at home means I can control what goes in my food. That’s pretty cool for someone who likes to cook.
I hope others with similar digestive, biliary, or intestinal sensitivities can find something worthwhile from my experience and my research. There are sites devoted to eating for diabetic health, gluten-free health, dairy free health, and so on – each complete with a choice of sample recipe, but I’ve had to piece together information from numerous books, sites, and articles to get a clearer picture of the biliary system and it’s effects on digestive and intestinal health. The acid-alkaline diet theory provides a lot of information about how cells function and how acidification negatively impacts the body as a whole, but doesn’t discuss foods that support biliary health. It only lists two supplements (milk thistle and boldo – leaves from a Chilean tree). While aspects of the theory are helpful for overall health, I was left wanting more specifically regarding biliary and liver health.
If any of you out there have food sensitivities, allergies, or require specific diets, please comment on your experiences. What do you think of the acid-alkaline diet theory?
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