If you have read other parts of the blog you know I see a lot of patient who suffer from thyroid disease. While thyroid problems can cause chronic fatigue, one of the problems with standard thyroid care is people look only at the thyroid. Often I’ll get someone in my office where the thyroid has been balanced but they are still tired because something else has been missed as every doctor who has seen them has just attributed all their symptoms to the hypothyroidism when other imbalances were present.
Perhaps you have had someone tell you that you are acidic, or perhaps you’ve read popular books about alkalizing your diet and life. These books typically show how the “Standard American Diet” (also called by most doctors the SAD diet) contains highly acidic foods like meat, processed food, and soft drinks but are low in alkalizing foods like fruits and vegetables. Has anyone ever tried to sell you alkaline water? They have the same basic story of how acidic the American lifestyle is and how everyone needs alkaline water. While this story is basically (no pun intended) correct, there are a couple flaws I must point out.
Let’s start out by pointing out one of the premise’s is that things that are acidic are bad and should be avoided. While this sounds good when we talk about diet, in reality is does not make much sense. Do you know that exercising is one of the most acidic activities you can do? Does that mean you should not be exercising because you do not want to produce acid? NO! Human beings are acid producing machines! Remember all the protein in your body is made up of amino acids. They are not made up of amino alkalines. My other big beef with this approach is they typically state everyone is acidic and needs to alkalize. If anyone ever tells you *blank* is good for everyone please run away! So, now that we’ve gone through that, how do we tell if you need to alkalize?
Biochemically, what scientists use to talk about acid and alkaline base is the pH scale. This pH scale is balanced by electrolytes like calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, and chloride, your kidneys, and your lungs. Your body has an amazing buffer system! If you are “acidic” then this means you have lost your ability to buffer acids. This loss of your ability to neutralize acids can cause:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle cramping/twitching
- Inability to tolerate heat
- Poor muscle endurance
- Poor recovery from work outs
- Chronic musculo/skeletal pain
- Frequent urination
- Frequent thirst
- Salt cravings
- Abnormal sweating (high or low)
- Abnormal blood pressure (high or low)
- Alterations in bowel activity (diarrhea or constipation)
- Abdominal bloating
Besides these symptoms most often I see a few blood test markers are altered when a person has become acidic. If you’ve had a CO2 run and it is <25 and your anion gap is >12 it is highly probable you are acidic. Another good test you can do right now is to exhale and then hold your breath. After exhaling, you should be able to hold your breath for about 30 seconds. If you are unable to do that, then your acid buffer system is not working! Let me explain how this test works.
When you hold your breath carbon dioxide (CO2) builds up in your system. The respiratory system in your brain is triggered by the rising CO2 and prompts you to breathe. If you have good buffers in your system, it will take longer for the CO2 levels to rise because as your body creates the CO2 it is quickly neutralized as it is an acid. How did you do on this test? If you have some of the symptoms and did not pass the breath test then you could probably benefit from supporting your buffer systems.
For patients in my office we use things like alkaline water, and typically we supplement with some alkalizing minerals such as potassium bicarbonate to support healthy buffering systems.