Leisa Wheeler, naturopath, health and healing mentor, and fatigue specialist, is the founder and director of Embracing Health, a business dedicated to bringing you health information that can change your life. Leisa’s passions include many areas of health – from food as medicine and nutrition, to physical fitness and detoxification; from emotional release work to spiritual healing; these varied interests shaping her belief in the value of integrated healing on all levels; physical, emotional and spiritual.
There was a post doing the rounds on Facebook yesterday with a “health tip” that claimed to cure arthritis, heartburn, and various other chronic illnesses. The only thing was, that the people sharing this miraculous “health tip” had no idea what they were talking about, or the long term damage that could be done if someone took on their tip and used it as a part of their ongoing lifestyle practices.
The remedy was nothing fancy – it was bicarb soda – and the recommendation was to put half a teaspoon of bicarb in a glass of water and drink as a way of alkalising the body and taking out those pesky acids that cause disease. They recommended doing that several times a day, and had people writing in saying that their arthritis was reducing and they were feeling amazing. Now part of this remedy is true, bicarb does give alkalising substances that can neutralise acids in the body that are implicated in many chronic disease – arthritis being one of them. The problem is though, that although this remedy may be effective as a short term band-aid for the problem. It is not a solution or cure.
One of the main problems with drinking bicarb in water, or alkaline water which I also have a big issue with, is that they have to go through the digestive system. Now, our stomach naturally produced a large amount of very strong acid, designed to digest food, break down proteins into amino acids, ionise minerals for absorption, and the stomach produces intrinsic factor to absorb vitamin B12. These are absolutely essential functions, and we need good quantities of strong stomach acid to allow us absorb the maximum amount of nutrition out of our food. By taking alkalising preparations such as bicarb or alkaline water, you effectively neutralise the acidic environment of the stomach, inhibiting it’s ability to digest food properly. Over a period of time, a person can become malnourished because their stomach is not producing the necessary acid to allow good digestion.
Furthermore, stomach acid is the first line of defense against pathogens in our food. Acid will kill off bad bacteria, fungi, parasites and yeasts that may be in the food, and if there is not enough acid to do the job, then these pathogens move into the intestines where they thrive on eating undigested food. Food that is not broken down properly by stomach acid can also cause irritation and inflammation in the bowel, leading to leaky gut syndrome and systemic toxicity.
In acidic conditions of the body – yes, they need alkalising substances to buffer the acids – but the most important alkalisers are minerals. And how many minerals do you find in a glass of bicarb and water, or in plain alkaline water? Pretty much zero. And how many minerals do you absorb when your stomach acid has been diluted and neutralised by alkalising fluids? Very few.
If a person has a chronic illness, the best thing they can do is build a solid foundation of nutrition underneath them, and that comes from the nutrients found in wholefoods. Rather than drink a glass of bicarb and water, drink a green juice and supply an abundance of alkalsing minerals in a form that support and encourages digestion, rather than halting it. Although simple remedies like bicarb can seem like a cure-all to some, once you understand the basics of biochemistry and how the body is supposed to work, you can see how easy it is to go wrong. If someone is in great pain and needs to alkalise quickly – then a glass of bicarb in water can help – but only well away from meals so that your body has a chance to replenish stomach acid levels before you eat. But again, why consume something that contains no nutrition, when you can achieve the same result with food as medicine?
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