For many women, weight loss can be challenging and although it is common knowledge to eat less and exercise more, what do you do when this formula simply doesn’t work?
Leading Australian naturopath Narelle Stegehuis understands the importance of getting to the cause.
"It’s important to remember that although the elements of this traditional weight loss formula are justified, many others such as acidosis and hormonal factors are often overlooked", say's Narelle.
With the typical western diet high in animal proteins and processed foods, acidosis is not uncommon, and imbalance in your bodies pH can lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms including stubborn abdominal fat.
Acidosis or heightened acidity can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, aches and pains, bloating, digestive problems, hot flashes and mood changes. It has also been associated with health conditions such as Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder, endometriosis, thyroid imbalance and unexplained infertility.
What Causes Acidity?
Acidity is primarily caused by the breakdown of food. When foods such as those mentioned above are broken down, they raise the pH in our body slightly, creating acidity, while whole foods, fruits and vegetables create alkalinity.
For many this unfortunately means that our diet has become 30 times more acidic.1,2 This is because 100 years ago, a typical diet contained more vegetables and fibre but less processed foods and soft drinks. This means the ratio of potassium to sodium has changed from 10:1 back then to 1:3 now.
Top 5 Acidity Triggers
• Poor diet and excessive anaerobic exercise
• Excessive dieting and fasting
• Health conditions such as PCOS, Diabetes or endometriosis
The Impact of Acidity
Over acidity has many impacts upon the body, due to its influence on the cell. Firstly, under healthy conditions, the nucleus (centre) of the cell is slightly acidic but the surrounding area is alkaline. This difference in pH creates an electrical current which allows nutrients to pass into the cell nucleus and toxins to be pumped out of it.
However, if there is little or no difference in acidity between cell nucleus and environment, there will be a reduced electrical current between the two and consequently less influx of nutrients and less elimination of toxins. This affects your cell’s metabolism.
Let’s have a look at the various areas it can impact on.
What are the effects of acidity on:
• Stress hormones
An increase in acidity increases production of the stress hormone cortisol in your adrenals2,3,5.
Cortisol activates the production of inflammatory hormones such as Interferon gamma, leading to a state of (chronic) low grade inflammation symptomatic of unexplained aches and pains or fatigue.2 Inflammation puts your body in an energy-storing rather than energy-expending mode, making it easier to put on weight and harder to lose it.
Acidosis induced cortisol excess also influences tryptophan (a naturally produced mood enhancing protein). This potentially contributes to lower moods or depression.2
• Glucose metabolism
Chronically high levels of cortisol reduce insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by the cells, and increase fatty tissue around the stomach.2,5,6,7,8 This can make conditions such as Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder, or other hormonal imbalances worse.
Leptin is a hormone that regulates your satiety. The lower the leptin levels are, the hungrier you feel.
Acidosis reduces leptin concentration through a negative link with cortisol: the higher the cortisol levels, the lower the leptin levels. Studies have shown that a diet high in protein (acidic) is associated with significantly lower leptin levels than a diet high in fruit and vegetables (alkalizing).2
• Energy production
Acidity blocks energy production in the little powerhouses in your cell nucleus called mitochondria.2 This impairs on the influx of nutrients into the cells slowing your metabolism.
• Thyroid hormones
Chronic acidity decreases T3 and T4 levels but significantly increases TSH levels. This can cause mild hypothyroidism.3,4,5
• Bone health
Acidosis draws calcium from your bones, because calcium is alkalizing. If the pH in your blood increases due to an acidic diet, your body will mobilize calcium from the stores in your bones to alkalize it to reduce its harmful potential. It is your body’s way of trying to maintain equilibrium no matter what cost. This not only leads to an increased risk of osteoporosis as calcium is drawn out of the blood, but also to a higher risk on calcium deposits in the kidneys and gall bladder.3,5
How does this affect your weight?
1. Causes hormonal imbalance
Increased levels of insulin, combined with elevated levels of cortisol, put your body in an energy saving mode. This slows down your metabolism and encourages your body to store fatty tissue, especially, but not exclusively, around the tummy area. Ironically, this fatty tissue is not just dead storage, but starts to act as a gland itself and secretes even more cortisol, insulin and inflammatory mediators. This perpetuates the cycle of unexplained weight gain.
2. Slows Your Metabolism
Your thyroid regulates your metabolism. Acidosis can trigger low thyroid function and a slow metabolism, once again putting you in energy-saving rather than energy-expending mode. Elevated cortisol levels further impact on this, because they do impair the conversion of (largely inactive) thyroid hormone T4 into the (more active) T3. This means there are less active thyroid hormones available for your body to use, slowing your metabolism even further.
3. Increases Cravings and Appetite
With low leptin levels you feel hungry more often, so it is likely that your energy intake through food will be higher. Often you’ll be tempted to choose energy dense foods such as sweets, chocolate, biscuits, or a soft drink to give you that quick boost of energy. Unfortunately, when your body is acidic, your body has no option but to store it for future use: as body fat!
What can you do about this?
For many women, restoring balance is the first step to feeling great and getting on top of their health. It also means they can manage chronic illness or unexplained infertility more effectively as in the case of Michelle Curmi from Melbourne Australia. Once Michelle discovered the cause of her imbalance she fell pregnant after years of trying with PCOS and endometriosis.
You can read Michelle's story at http://www.massattack.com.au/successMichelle.html
Regular exercising and relaxing help reduce acidity in your body, however the most obvious step is to change your diet. Include more alkalizing fruits and vegetables, and reduce the intake of acidic grains, meats, sugars and soft drinks. It is also important to adjust your diet to balance your hormones, especially if acidosis has created imbalances.
Alkalizing combinations containing magnesium, potassium or calcium can help improve the acid-alkaline balance, although they should be used with the guidance of a practitioner.
Remember, your body may need support to recover from the impact of all this acidity. Although it has an amazing capacity to correct itself, sometimes it needs a helping hand. Medicinal herbs and nutritional support to switch your metabolism from energy-saving to energy-expending mode and gently support natural hormonal balance are also recommended.
How can you measure if you are acidic?
If you are concerned about your pH levels, or simply want to monitor them to ensure you do remain within the optimal ranges, you can check this yourself. There is an easy test that you can do at home, to test the pH of urine or saliva, but other body fluids can also be tested. The kit contains a booklet that lists the ideal pH range of various body fluids.
If you are interested in this test kit, or want to talk to one of our practitioners about acidity and what we can do to help you, please contact our clinic on 1300 133 536.
Narelle Stegehuis, is a practicing medical herbalist and naturopath specializing in restorative endocrinology for women, with over 14 years clinical experience. She is both an accomplished writer, editor and technical training advisor for the media. A recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award, Narelle adopts an integrated approach of both medical science and traditional complementary health care principles and can be contacted at www.massattack.com.au
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