While half of all American women and million of U.S. men are at high risk for developing low bone density, traditional medicine’s obsession with calcium, vitamin D, hormone replacement therapy, and anti-resorptive drugs to keep bones healthy is a bit short- sighted. Without fail, most conventional physicians fail to consider the role the pH plays in maintaining strong bones.

Trying to maintain healthy bone density without paying attention to your body’s pH is like running bath water without closing the stopper—most of your efforts will go down the drain. The truth is if you want to maintain strong and healthy bones as you age, you need to support your body’s pH and restore and build up your alkaline reserves.

The typical American diet—which is very high in acidifying foods such as meat, sugar, and caffeine—is a big part of the pH problem. Digesting and metabolizing protein (especially red meat, pork, poultry, dairy, and wheat gluten) creates an astonishingly excessive acid load and burdens your buffer system. Although protein is an essential component of healthy bones, you should avoid eating too much of it and choose less acidifying sources.

Similarly, alcohol, refined sugar, and most artificial sweeteners are highly acidifying and are best avoided. Many fruits are also highly acidic, including citrus, apples, most berries, plums, apricots, pineapple, and raisins. In addition, avoid carbonated soft drinks, “energy drinks,” and caffeine. Fizzy soft drinks with high levels of phosphoric acid are extremely acidic. They can also have very high levels of acidifying caffeine.

Instead, opt for a diet with a strong vegetarian emphasis—with lots of vegetables and soy and other legumes, as well as moderate amounts of raw seeds, nuts, and gluten-free whole grains. Wild-caught salmon and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, organic eggs, and free-range poultry are good animal-based protein sources if you need meat in your diet.