On the subject of skeletal health, I recently posted about a common misconception that excess protein in the diet is, to paraphrase George Thorogood, bad for the bones (Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh Bad). That post included a fair amount of drug innuendo. And like the drugs it innuendoed, it generated some buzz (which manifested itself in page views and other social media chazerai).
And it is because of that buzz that I write this post, in which I ask you to consider some deep philosophical questions on how and why our bodies work the way they do. This post is not the usual science-heavy, evidenced-based bloviating that you’re used to (in retrospect, I’m a big fat liar). It’s much more philosophical and speculative. Thus the title.
If I were you, and clearly I’m not because you know “innuendoed” is not a word, I’d read that title and assume that Davey H took some LSD and now he wants to share his deep thoughts regarding human creation. That’s where you’re wrong. It’s a contemplation about acid, the low pH kind and not (specifically) the hallucinogenic kind. Although the results may be very much the same.
When We Were Last on the Subject of Skeletal Health…
…I challenged the claim that bones are leached of calcium in response to the increased acidity of the body when we eat too much protein. I depended on an explanation from Dr. Tieraona Low Dog who is a recognized expert in the field of integrative women’s health. That means she has the knowledge to draw from the best of conventional and alternative medicine. Here is my summary of Dr. Low Dog’s assessment:
“the acidity that comes along with a high animal protein diet can lead to a very low-level of acidosis. The primary mechanism for neutralizing acidity is to exhale carbon dioxide. One of the reasons you breathe heavily after a vigorous workout is so your body can reduce the acid that accumulates as you burn energy. A secondary mechanism for reducing acidity is to pull calcium from bone into the bloodstream. But that is secondary. If you’re not eating enough animal protein to cause you to pant, you’re not eating enough protein to reduce bone mass.”
That’s a dense statement and it deserves additional exploration.
The Body is Fighting for pH balance all the Time
Your body has the wonderful mechanism called “homeostasis” that makes sure all your vital signs remain in check. It orchestrates your nervous, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and all your other systems to maintain blood pressure, body temperature, blood sugar, you name it. Just be sure that what you also name is pH level which is the balance between your body being too acidic or alkaline.
That balance teeters in one direction or the other with everything you do. To keep you healthy, homeostasis guides your body back on course. It’s important to note that a body in a heavily alkaline state is just as dangerous as one in an overly acidic state.
Lesson #1: If eating too much animal protein is bad for you because it makes your body too acidic (which isn’t true), then eating too many plants is bad for you because it makes your body too alkaline (also not true).
How Your Body Balances pH
Your body calls on a number of buffering agents that continuously neutralize your pH because everything you do has the side effect of nudging it up or down. For example, when Mr. Wilson used to chug bicarbonate of soda to ward off his heartburn when Dennis the Menace was messing around in his flower garden? That’s the very same substance your body makes to bring pH levels back up to an ideal level of 7.36 to 7.42.
When there isn’t enough stuff available for buffering, the first thing that happens is you breathe faster. This gets rid of excess carbon dioxide and forces a chemical reaction that brings things back to equilibrium.
Eventually, the kidneys, who are always late to the party, start doing their own magic to build more buffers and secrete acid out of the body (“secrete” is a fancy-boy word for #1).
As Dr. Low Dog said, your body hardly ever needs the calcium in your bones to get involved. When it does, it is fully prepared to make up for that transgression by repairing things and you can help your body out by following The Karma Sense Eating Plan mantra #3, Eat More Vegetables and Fruits.
Lesson #2: What you eat doesn’t significantly affect the pH balance of your body. If it did you would be panting after you ate that porterhouse steak instead of in anticipation of it.
Contemplation on Acid and Human Creation
Here’s where things get like the pot-smoking scene in Animal House.
The inspiration for this post and its predecessor came about from me getting worked up over the amazing bullcrap we have to overcome to ensure we have a vibrant and robust life. It’s a reaction to a seemingly credible article positing that we should avoid eating protein because it’s bad for the bones (Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh Bad). But let’s use some Karma Sense here.
One of the main ways we build up acid in our system is through vigorous physical activity such as running or throwing around giant bags of mulch (which is what our Paleo ancestors did before Crossfit was invented). These all put stress on the skeleton.
So, let’s say you believe in evolution’s premise of survival of the fittest. What would be our chance of survival if the major stressor of our pH balance (physical activity) caused irreparable damage to the structural system that makes that activity possible? And what about that other major part of our anatomy that allows this physical activity (muscle)? It’s made of amino acids and amino acids come from the protein in your diet. I don’t think a species whose structural system broke down when you tried to nourish it would exist for very long.
What about people who don’t believe in evolution? What if you believe that an omnipotent benevolent being created us from ashes and dust. That’s cool. Would that being build us so that the very things that make us useful and productive also brings about our untimely destruction? That wouldn’t be very benevolent.
Me? I believe in evolution. But I also believe in the unknowable force that is created by all living things. A force that surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together. Some may say that makes me wishy-washy. Others recognize that it makes me a Star Wars fanboy. I, however, prefer F. Scott Fitzgerald’s interpretation:
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
Once again, when thinking with Karma Sense, we come to a conclusion that manages to support multiple points of view. It doesn’t matter what you believe. The facts never deceive. What do you believe?
Want to fully grok Karma Sense? Get Your Copy of The Karma Sense Eating Plan.
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