By Teri Arranga
Kirkman Group, Inc.
Nutrition and diet counselor Betsy Hicks gave easy-to-do tips for meal planning and supplement use, during a presentation August 29 in Hollywood, CA. The key takeaway from Betsy’s presentation was that nutritional supplements need an alkaline environment in the body for absorption and, therefore, utilization.
I found this point so important that I decided to interview Betsy and her husband, Dr. John Hicks, to discuss alkalizing the body and how to get the most out of the supplements you take.
Before we begin, let’s briefly talk about pH levels. The pH range goes from 0 to 14, with 7.0 as neutral. Above 7.0 is alkaline; below 7.0 is acidic. An optimal body pH is 7.4. The lower the body pH, the more acidic and oxygen-deprived the fluid. This is important because harmful bacteria may flourish in an oxygen-deprived or anaerobic environment.
Chatting with Dr. John and Betsy Hicks
Q: Betsy, when you say that the gut needs to be “alkaline,” what do you mean?
A: A pH-balanced body absorbs nutrients from foods and supplements more readily. This maximizes the efficiency and value of your foods and supplements. If your blood is tending toward acidic, then nutrient absorption can be inhibited. This, in turn, starves your body of nutrients it must have. Furthermore, your body can only assimilate vitamins and minerals optimally when your pH is balanced. Otherwise, you may be literally flushing away the value of your food and supplement purchases and depriving your body.
Additionally, according to Donna Gates of bodyecology.com, “As your blood becomes more acidic, it will look for minerals from anywhere in your body in order to get your blood to its more ideal alkaline state. Acidic blood robs your body of minerals, even taking minerals from your bones.”
Q: Dr. Hicks, what part or parts of the gastrointestinal – GI — tract is Betsy referring to when she says that the gut needs to be alkaline for optimal nutrient absorption? Don’t different parts of the GI tract have different pH levels?
A: Betsy is talking about the colon. Yes, different parts of the GI tract have different pH levels, but you want the colon [the part of the large intestine extending from the cecum to the rectum] and small intestine to be more toward the alkaline side of their ranges.
Q: Betsy, what are your top tips for parents helping their children eat or drink foods and beverages that will encourage this alkaline environment – especially starting the day off right at breakfast? You mentioned small amounts of lemon juice in your lecture…. Can you please explain that?
A: Breakfast is one of the hardest meals to increase alkalinity as most breakfast foods are highly acidic.
Here are a few ways to increase alkalinity:
- Drink purified water with lemon juice (chlorine in most tap waters will acidify).
- Eat a handful of sprouts — sunflower alfalfa, and radish are all great.
- Drink smoothies with spinach added.
- Eat cultured foods.
- Eat raspberries and pineapple.
Foods that increase the chances of making you acidic include high fructose corn syrup, sugars, artificial foods, breads, crackers and meats. If you eat these foods, they should be balanced with something that is alkaline.
Q: Betsy, how can a lemon help with an alkaline environment when it tastes like a sour acid?
A: Outside of your body, the lemon juice is acidic; however, inside the body after its minerals dissociate, the effect of the lemon juice is alkalizing. Just a small amount to start your day is more healthful than the acid-producing effect of coffee for example.
A: My book has a lot more information, and I am happy to do individual consultations. Here are a couple of tips to get you started:
- Use a strategy of “first this, then that” to encourage first bites.
- Introduce new foods in extremely small amounts.
Q: Are there nutritional supplements that themselves, under appropriate medical supervision, encourage the alkaline environment?
A: You can look for dietary supplementation specially formulated to assist in balancing the pH of individuals who are either too acidic or too alkaline and small amounts of baking soda.
Other Thoughts on This Subject
In my library, I have Dr. Theodore Baroody’s book Alkalize or Die. For emergency support involving gastrointestinal upsets, Dr. Baroody suggests using fresh lemon juice and charcoal capsules or powder.
Regarding fresh lemon juice Dr. Baroody said, “Fresh lemon juice in 4 ounces of water, one teaspoon every 15 to 30 minutes until the crisis passes. Very safe and super alkalizing.”
About charcoal he offers, “Used for acid food poisoning or other stomach and gaseous upsets. Although it is very safe, I do not advise the consistent use of it except in a very uncomfortable stomach crisis. Take 5 capsules or stir a teaspoon in 8 ounces of water.”
Of course, this does not substitute for medical advice, and you should always check with your overseeing physician. Care should be taken, especially, in timing charcoal away from necessary prescription medications.
Other nutritional supplements that encourage an alkaline environment in one or more parts of the body include the following:
- Digestive enzymes that include amylase, protease, lipase and cellulase
- Concentrated trace minerals
- Beta-carotene (vitamin A)
- Essential fatty acids
- B-complex nutrients
- Calcium and magnesium (consult with your healthcare practitioner for appropriate ratio)
These are just some of the nutritional supplements that could be helpful in supporting the body. Remember to check with your family’s doctor and discuss which supplements are best for your situation.
Another aspect to an alkaline environment in the body is adequate water consumption. Hicks explained during her presentation that we should divide our weight (in pounds) in half and drink that many ounces of water each day.
Drinking a liberal amount of pure, alkaline water every day, while eating a healthful diet, will aid in the removal of acids from the body. Alkaline water has a pH of between 9 and 11. You can go to your own kitchen sink and prepare neutral distilled or reverse osmosis water. If you have a reverse osmosis filter – or a water filter of any kind – you absolutely must find out how to clean it regularly to remove any unhealthful build-up. If you want more information on alkaline water you can read the book, The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health, written by Dr. Robert and Shelley Young.
WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW
Hicks gave you some great tips earlier in this article, like drinking purified water with lemon juice first thing in the morning (instead of coffee) and eating alkaline fruits at breakfast. Betsy’s smoothie recommendation lets you drink your veggies to receive a greater concentration of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. Items like carrots and beets will make your green juice sweeter. As always, check with your doctor to ensure that your body can handle components of plant items such as oxalates and phenols, or find out what your doctor recommends in order to assist in handling these.
Finally, detoxification should be done under the caring and watchful eye of a healthcare provider experienced in your body’s area(s) of specific concern and need. It is important not to detoxify too quickly, which would place a stressful burden upon detoxifying organs in the body. But you can start in a gentle and gradual way by replacing unhealthful dietary elements with more healthful dietary elements.