A year or two ago, I was discussing pH balance with a friend who was on a high protein diet. She was having a hard time with low energy and general fatigue, and wanted to know more about how the diet was affecting her. I hit upon a ceviche metaphor, that she was 'cooking' herself, and here we are!
A Primer on Acids, Bases and Enzymes
Or, Why Digestion Is Hard!
Or, Another Reason to Eat Your Veggies
First, look at enzymes. Enzymes are substances that make chemical reactions happen. Normally, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but enzymes make the jump from point A to point B happen with MUCH less energy (aka Heat).
So, to cook a piece of fish, bake it in the oven, sauté it in a pan, poach it in liquid… any way to cook it, it’s HOT!
BUT, soak a piece of fish in lime juice, and the enzymes in the lime (all living plant materials have enzymes) will also ‘cook’ the fish, with MUCH less heat. Ceviche on a cold day takes a lot longer (or maybe won’t work even at all) than on a warm one (the reason it’s a Mediterranean dish)
Quickly, let’s look at what the enzymes in the citrus (an acid) and the heat did. In this case, they cooked the fish. It went from translucent and floppy to opaque and solid and flakey and tasty.
NOW. Your body makes LOADS of enzymes to help along PILES of chemical reactions that happen for MANY reasons in your body every second. Most chemical reactions need heat, which your body doesn’t have (or you’d cook yourself) so it uses enzymes to ‘catalyze’ the reactions.
Turning food into the energy it takes to breathe and think and blink is one example of a process that uses SCADS of reactions. So your body uses enzymes to break down proteins and carbohydrates along the digestion path (your saliva has enzymes to begin digesting starch even as you chew!).
The very process of digesting protein creates acids, which is counter-productive to digesting. We’ve just seen that acids cook proteins (the kind you’re eating AND the kind you’re made of!) So, having an acidic body will ‘cook’ the foods you’re eating, instead of digesting them. Having an acidic body will also CHANGE the enzymes that are supposed to digest your food, so they can’t work anyway. Too much acid creates an internal environment that is slowly cooking itself.
Therefore, your body functions best in a slightly Basic (Alkaline) environment. What Alkalinizes your body? Vegetables! DARK green ones, LIGHTLY cooked (because cooking changes enzymes! And you want those veggie enzymes!) And WATER! It neutralizes everything! It washes you clean, from the inside out.
Your urine, especially the first thing in the morning, should be slightly acidic. This is because your body removes the acid created from digesting protein and put it in the trash bin (your kidneys are a super waste treatment plant). High acid readings indicate an extremely acidic self. What’s actually acidic? Your blood stream, and because it carries everything everywhere, all of your cells too- both because your blood is carrying acidic fluid to them, and because the acid-saturated blood can’t effectively remove acidic wastes from them, either.
ALL THIS MEANS that you need to counterbalance the protein in your diet (which, by the way, encourages muscle growth) with alkalizing vegetables and water, Lots of Water!