Acid:Alkaline Balance – pH
pH is the abbreviation for potential hydrogen. The pH of any solution is the measure of its hydrogen-ion concentration. The higher the pH reading, the more alkaline the fluid is. The lower the pH reading, the more acidic it is. The pH range is from 0 to 14, with 7.0 being neutral. Anything above 7.0 is alkaline, anything below 7.0 is considered acidic.
Your bodies physiology operates optimally at a slightly alkaline pH of 7.365. Most cells have a pH of about 6.8 but they are bathed in blood and tissue fluids with an optimal pH of 7.365. If blood pH moves too much below 7.2 or above 7.6, enzymes stop functioning properly and illness is inevitable. An acidic balance will: decrease the body’s ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, decrease the energy production in the cells, decrease it’s ability to repair damaged cells, decrease it’s ability to detoxify, help tumor cells thrive, aid invading pathogens such as fungus’ to thrive, and make you more susceptible to fatigue and illness.
If you have a health problem you are most likely to be acidic. Research shows that unless the body’s pH level is slightly alkaline, the body cannot heal itself. So, no matter what type of modality you choose to use to take care of your health problem, it won’t be as effective until the pH level is up. If your body’s pH is not balanced, you cannot effectively assimilate vitamins, minerals and food supplements. Your body pH affects everything.
Symptoms/disorders that can be caused by over-acidity and subsequent infections include diabetes, athletes foot, cancer, atherosclerosis, chronic fatigue, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, adrenal/thyroid disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, influenza, psoriasis, thrush, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, acne, headaches, obesity, metabolic syndrome and fibromyalgia (just to name a few).
Restoring an alkaline environment can help restore health. This is why improving the acid:alkaline balance in the body by increasing alkalinity should always be the first intervention in the treatment of chronic diseases.
An acidic pH can occur due to several reasons which include: an acidic diet – which is a typical western diet many of us are currently on, emotional stress, toxic overload, immune reactions, food allergies/intollerances or any process that deprives the cells of oxygen and other nutrients. The body will try to compensate for acidic pH by using alkaline minerals such as calcium from your bones to neutalise the acids. If the diet does not contain enough minerals to compensate, a build up of acids in the cells will occur.
How to Test your pH
Purchase a pH meter from any pet store or aquarium suppliers. The meters are marketed for monitoring fish tank pH but will work just as well for saliva and urine. They may also be purchased from pool/spa supply stores and finally more expensive types are available from scientific equipment suppliers. Once you have purchased a meter you then need to provide a saliva and urine sample into a clean cup which you can then measure.
Salivary pH Test: While generally more acidic than blood, salivary pH mirrors the blood (if not measured around meal time) and is only a fair indicator of health as it can vary greatly so is not as reliable as blood or urine pH readings. It tells us what the body retains. Salivary pH is a fair indicator of the health of the extracellular fluids and their alkaline mineral reserves.
Optimal pH for saliva is 6.4 and above. A reading lower than 6.4 is indicative of insufficient alkaline reserves. After eating, the saliva pH should rise to 7.8 or higher. Unless this occurs, the body has alkaline mineral deficiencies (mainly Calcium and Magnesium) and will not assimilate food very well. To deviate from ideal salivary pH for an extended time invites illness.
Urinary pH Test: The pH of the urine indicates how the body is working to maintain the proper pH of the blood. The urine reveals the alkaline building (anabolic) and acid tearing down (catabolic) cycles. The pH of urine indicates the efforts of the body via the kidneys, adrenals, lungs and gonads to regulate pH through the buffer salts and hormones. Urine can provide a fairly accurate picture of body chemistry, because the kidneys filter out the buffer salts of pH regulation and provide values based on what the body is eliminating. Urine pH can vary from around 4.5 to 9.0 for its extremes, but the ideal range is 7.2 or greater.
Blood pH Tests – Your GP can order a blood test for you where its pH can be measured directly and ideally should be 7.365. The pH of your blood usually varies very little so is of limited benefit. It is also worth noting that this test measures the pH of your blood and not the pH inside your cells.
If your pH is too low you should act to reduce your acidity.
How to Treat Acidosis
(1) Supplements – Immediate action should include a supplement designed specifically to treat acidosis in order to reduce acidity as quickly and effectively as possible. Most alkaline supplements on the market usually contain the bicarbonate salts of alkaline minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium. The bicarbonate being quite reactive is supposed to neutralise any acids while the alkaline minerals also help. The problem with these is that the bicarbonate part will react with any acid (HCl) in the gut to neutralise it which as a result will form the chloride salts of these minerals, carbon dioxide and water. The bicarbonate being no longer present obviously will not be able to neutralise any acids systemically as it has been “used up” before it was even absorbed. The chloride salts of these minerals produced in the gut by reacting with the acids are poorly absorbed, except for possibly potassium chloride, so their ability to reduce systemic acidity has been greatly impaired. Not to mention that this reaction has reduced the acidity of your gut which is essential for the digestion process and thus potentially can inhibit digestion.
Our laboratory has produced an alkaline powder mixture containing the citrate forms of the alkaline minerals – potassium, calcium and magnesium. These do not react in the gut and are one of the most highly absorbable forms of all these minerals which ensures that they are actually absorbed into your systemic circulation. Once absorbed there are enzymes which convert the citrate into bicarbonate thus producing the active neutralising agent in circulation allowing it to reduce systemic acidity without affecting the acidity of your gut. The high absorption rate also ensures that the alkaline minerals themselves are absorbed and thus also able to assist reducing systemic acidity, not to mention their other vital roles in the body. It may also be used as a general mineral supplement. This alkaline powder is available online through the members section of this website.
(2) Alkaline Diet – For long term maintenence of an alkaline system you must also adhere to an alkaline diet. This would include drinking generous amounts of alkaline water (with a pH of around 9.5) and eating the proper balance of alkaline and acid foods. Ideally 80% of your diet should consist of alkaline forming foods and the remainding 20% acidic foods. This means that acidic foods like meats can be eaten, they just take up a much smaller part of the plate than usual.
Foods to Consume Freely in the 80% alkaline component:
Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, green beans, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, peas, peppers, spinach, sprouts, zucchini.
Nutrient dense grasses such as wheat grass and barley grass.
Fruits- avocado, tomatoes, grapefruit, lemons, limes, coconut. Lemon, limes and grapefruit are alkaline in the body because they contain lots of sodium and potassium bicarbonate and very little sugar.
Healthy fats- extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, flax seed, avocado oil, pomegranate oil, nuts, seeds.
Acidic foods that must go in the 20% component:
High starch vegetables: potatoes, pumpkin, yams, kidney beans, chick peas.
Grains- rice, amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat
Fruits. Fruits high in sugar are acidic
Organic meats, fish and eggs.
Dairy, yeast, wheat, sugar, flour, soft drinks, fruit juices, vinegar (use lemon or lime juice instead), alcohol, coffee, artificial sweeteners, trans-fatty acids, peanuts, corn and soy sauce.
More comprehensive food lists are provided during a consultation.
(3) Other Strategies
Food and water are not the only sources of acidity in our lives. Other strategies to decrease acidity include:
Minimise stress and negative emotions. Depression, guilt, hatred, anxiety etc all increase acid levels in the body. Finding ways to minimise these are health promoting.
Replace strenuous exercise with more controlled aerobic exercise.
Detoxify from environmental toxins. A table spoon of apple cidar vinegar twice a day can help. Lemon juice can also reduce acidity along with certain minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Ongoing monitoring of your saliva and urine pH will indicate how successful your treatment is and if it requires any adjustments.
There are a number of articles on the internet which reject the theory that food and minerals have any affect on your acid alkaline balance. They provide explanations based on a limited and incomplete understanding of how the body functions. A study conducted by the University Hospital in Freiburg, Germany, confirms that a mineral supplement rich in alkaline minerals was able to increase both blood and urine pH – click here for details. For all those skeptics refer to the list of references below for more research which confirms the diet link with acid alkaline levels:
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- Barzel US, Massey LK: Excess dietary protein can adversely affect bone. J Nutr 1998, 128:1051-3. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Bushinsky DA: Acid-base imbalance and the skeleton. Eur J Nutr 2001, 40:238-44. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Frassetto LA, Morris RC Jr, Sellmeyer DE, Sebastian A: Adverse effects of sodium chloride on bone in the aging human population resulting from habitual consumption of typical American diets. J Nutr 2008, 138:419S-22S. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Chan JC: Acid-base disorders and the kidney. Adv Pediatr 1983, 30:401-71. PubMed Abstract
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- Sebastian A, Harris ST, Ottaway JH, Todd KM, Morris RC Jr: Improved mineral balance and skeletal metabolism in postmenopausal women treated with potassium bicarbonate. N Engl J Med 1994, 330:1776-81. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
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- Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Chen H, Cupples LA, Wilson PW, Kiel DP: Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999, 69:727-36. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Mardon J, Habauzit V, Trzeciakiewicz A, Davicco MJ, Lebecque P, Mercier S, Tressol JC, Horcajada MN, Demigné C, Coxam V: Long-term intake of a high-protein diet with or without potassium citrate modulates acid-base metabolism, but not bone status, in male rats. J Nutr 2008, 138:718-24. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Frassetto L, Morris RC Jr, Sebastian A: Long-term persistence of the urine calcium-lowering effect of potassium bicarbonate in postmenopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2005, 90:831-4. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Jehle S, Zanetti A, Muser J, Hulter HN, Krapf R: Partial neutralization of the acidogenic Western diet with potassium citrate increases bone mass in postmenopausal women with osteopenia. J Am Soc Nephrol 2006, 17:3213-22. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Arnett TR: Extracellular pH regulates bone cell function. J Nutr 2008, 138:415S-8S. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Marangella M, Di Stefano M, Casalis S, Berutti S, D’Amelio P, Isaia GC: Effects of potassium citrate supplementation on bone metabolism. Calcif Tissue Int 2004, 74:330-5. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Frassetto L, Morris RC Jr, Sellmeyer DE, Todd K, Sebastian A: Diet, evolution and aging – the pathophysiologic effects of the post-agricultural inversion of the potassium-to-sodium and base-to-chloride ratios in the human diet. Eur J Nutr 2001, 40:200-13. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Welch AA, Mulligan A, Bingham SA, Khaw KT: Urine pH is an indicator of dietary acid-base load, fruit and vegetables and meat intakes: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Norfolk population study. Br J Nutr 2008, 99:1335-43. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Kiel DP: The acid-base hypothesis: diet and bone in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Eur J Nutr 2001, 40:231-7. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Lanham-New SA: The balance of bone health: tipping the scales in favor of potassium-rich, bicarbonate-rich foods. J Nutr 2008, 138:172S-7S. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Vormann J, Daniel H: The role of nutrition in human acid-base homeostasis. Eur J Nutr 2001, 40:187-8. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text
- Everitt AV, Hilmer SN, Brand-Miller JC, Jamieson HA, Truswell AS, Sharma AP, Mason RS, Morris BJ, Le Couteur DG: Dietary approaches that delay age-related diseases. Clin Interv Aging 2006, 1:11-31. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text