Break Your Bones #3: Acid from Food

May 05, 2010

Break Your Bones #3: Acid from Food 

 Competency: #5 The Way to Eat Reference:  Building Bone Vitality by Michael Castleman and Amy Joy Lanou, McGraw Hill May 5th, 2009 

 We’ve learned that eating more calcium does not reduce fractures last week.  We’ve learned that societies that eat the most calcium and drink the most milk have, in fact, the highest fracture rates in the world.  Why do northern European and American populations have greater fracture risks?  The hypothesis is all about “acid” in your diet. 

 Here is how that works.  When you eat food you break down all the molecules in the food into the simplest components so that your body can rebuild those building blocks into proteins, fats and carbohydrates that humans use. All that digestion ends up with different waste products or “ash” from different food sources.  It’s actually pretty simple.  The “ash” from all animal foods is a wee bit of acid.   The “ash” from all plants is a wee bit of alkali. 

 Now, your internal acid/alkali balance is extremely critical to keep in balance.  Your kidneys have to balance it to a very fine and precise ratio.  If you eat acid, your kidneys have to get rid of the acid.  If you eat too much alkali, you have to get rid of the alkaki.  Your natural pH is actually slightly alkaline.  Your normal pH is about 7.4 + .05.    

Here is our human design complication.  Our kidneys love alkali and do just fine with it, thank you very much.  With acid, well, not so much.  We balance the acid by soaking up some bicarbonate out of our blood.  The bicarb comes along with a calcium atom.  And……..(drum roll….)……that calcium is borrowed from your bones.  In fact, for every gram of animal protein you eat, you borrow about 1 mg of bone calcium.  Yup, one milligram for every gram.  For a hamburger, that has 20 grams of protein in it, you lose about 20 mg of net calcium from your skeleton.   

There it is.  That’s the mystery.   Animal protein has more amino acids that have sulfur atoms attached to them and have an acidic effect that needs balancing out.  To make matters a bit worse, our tendency to eat table salt makes it even harder to balance things out.  Vegetables come along with lots of magnesium and potassium bicarbonate salts that our kidneys use to balance the acid.  With animal foods, we don’t have those neutralizing salts. 

 So the scene is set for losing calcium from our bones by the animal protein we eat.  The more we eat, the more we lose.  A supplement doesn’t make up for it.  There are societies all around the world that average only 500 mg of calcium a day and that have very healthy dense bones and low fracture rates.  In America and Western Europe, we keep trying to get to 1,000 mg a day, and even with that our bones are too thin. 

 WWW: What Will Work for Me?  The analogy that works is that of a bathtub.  If you want to have a full bath, you have to plug the drain as well as run the water.  We’re trying to run the water faster and faster while the drain remains wide open.  We eat more and more calcium without cutting down on our acid.  It doesn’t work.  Next week.  How to really get dense bones, naturally.  (We aren’t quite this simple.  How about some exercise and Vit D too)  

Column written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)