February 2018

Nutrition and Health in Bolivia

By: Phoebe Duperron
Projects Abroad Volunteer

Latin American diet and the alkaline diet: from the Spanish colonies to present; staying healthy while eating tasty food.

The traditional ingredients found in Bolivian cuisine are: corn, potatoes, quinoa and beans. The Spanish then brought other ingredients like rice, wheat and meat (including beef, pork and chicken). This diet has evolved over time into something more international, fast foods are not uncommon and foods like pasta and pizza have appeared in the last couple hundred years.

According to a 2017 OpiniĆ³n article, Cochabamba is the second largest producer of chicken in the country (after Santa Cruz). Out of the 1,150 food businesses, 253 are selling chicken, usually eaten fried, this type of food is very unhealthy and very popular. So the alkaline diet would actually be very helpful to bring some balance to the Bolivian diet.

So what is the alkaline diet? Well to answer that, we need to look at how it works. In chemistry, we refer to as alkaline a solution with a pH more than 7, if the solution's pH is equal to 7, it is neutral, and less than 7 means it is acidic.

Now the idea of the alkaline diet is that we can control our body pH balance and that will have various health benefits.

Ash is what we call what is left of food after your body has digested it. So if you eat foods with acidic ash, it makes your body acidic. If you eat foods with alkaline ash, it makes your body alkaline. Neutral foods have no effect.

Acidic foods include meat, poultry, cheese, fish, eggs and grains and alkaline foods include fruits and vegetables.

So the Alkaline diet is a specific diet to reduce acidity and keep the chemical balance by eating foods with alkaline ash and not acidic ash.

Cancer cells also happen to thrive in an acidic body. However, in an alkaline one, the cancerous cells die. So this diet would create an environment in the body that discourages cancer growth.

A 2012 review published in the Journal of Environmental Health found that balancing your body's pH through an alkaline diet can be helpful in reducing many diseases.

When your body fluids contain too much acid, it is known as acidosis. It happens when a problem in your cells changes your chemical balance and your kidneys and lungs cannot fix it. Acidosis leads to health issues, and it can even be life-threatening.

But people suffering from chronic pain because of acidosis who then took alkaline supplements felt less pain afterwards. This means that we can affect the acidity of our bodies through what we consume.

Researchers believe that when it comes to the total acid load of the human diet, there have been considerable changes from hunter gather civilizations to now. Following the agricultural revolution and then mass industrialization of our food supply over the last 200 years, the food we eat has significantly less potassium, magnesium and chloride, along with more sodium, compared to diets of the past.

All of these changes to the human diet have resulted in increased "metabolic acidosis." In other words, the pH levels of many people's bodies are worse. On top of this, many are suffering from low nutrient intake and problems such as potassium and magnesium deficiency.

This accelerates the aging process, causes gradual loss of organ functions, and degenerates tissue and bone mass. High degrees of acidity force our bodies to rob minerals from the bones, cells, organs and tissues.

If you want to measure your own acidity, you can buy pH strips. By urinating on them, the strip of paper will change color. Then with the color guide that comes with the paper, you can see the pH of your urine. Over 7 means alkaline and less than 7 is acidic. You want to aim for 7 exactly, neutral. You could also try using your saliva. Your own health should be your first priority.

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