When it comes to optimizing your health, pH balance may not be the first thing you think of—though giving it more consideration will be in your best interest. This is because your body’s level of acidity has an effect on everything from your bone health, maintaining muscle mass, and even hormone production.
And, should you find that yours is out of balance, there are corrective measures you can take which only require a little dietary and lifestyle discipline.
Want more information about this highly important aspect of your health?
Read on for what you need to know about your body’s pH, and how to keep yours balanced and healthy.
What is pH Balance?
pH stands for the “power of hydrogen,” and is a measure of the balance of alkalinity to acidity in a solution. It uses standardized values from 0-14 which are set by measuring the potential difference between a hydrogen electrode and a standard electrode, and the lower the number on the scale, the more acidic. Likewise, higher numbers indicate a more alkaline solution, with 7 being neutral. A solution of lower than 3.5 is considered “ultra-acidic,” whereas a solution higher than 9 is considered “very strongly alkaline.”
Nearly everything around you has a pH, which includes the foods you eat, the fluids you drink, the ocean, and the earth itself. So far as your blood’s pH, it needs to be around 7.35-7.45 to be considered “healthy,” which means slightly alkaline is ideal.
As a note of interest, the body’s pH varies from region-to-region and can go anywhere from the ultra-acidic 1.5-3.5 range in your stomach (needed for digestion), to the moderately alkaline 8.1 of pancreas secretions. However, increasing your intake of alkaline foods and alkaline water while reducing acidic foods and fluids is usually the best approach to staying health and avoiding problems associated with an overly-acidic system, which is a condition known of as “acidosis.” (1)
pH Balance and Your Health
So far as concerns for having a pH which is too acidic, there are many, since acidosis has been linked to osteoporosis, kidney stones and cancer, along with a few other vital health concerns. The same can be said about a pH high in alkaline, although circumstances leading to alkalosis are quite different from those causing acidosis, which is usually either diet, drug use, or disrupted metabolism. For alkalosis, causes are either metabolic or respiratory, and can stem from such circumstances as stomach acid loss due to excessive vomiting, loss of fluids and electrolytes, over ingestion of such base substances as bicarbonate of soda (which is rare), or from hyperventilation, which causes excessive loss of carbon dioxide from the bloodstream. (2)
However, what is known of as the “alkaline diet” will not cause an off-balance pH and will instead work to improve your body’s pH balance, since your body naturally rids itself of excess alkaline through the kidneys and lungs. Your kidneys and lungs also work to rid your blood of excess acid, although when these systems start to fail, calcium is then sent by the body to become a buffer, which leads to one of the most common problems stemming from acidosis: osteoporosis. (3)
Acidosis and your Bone and Muscle Health
Naturally, when a nutrient’s main function in the body is to provide strength and density to bones, and that substance is being used instead to buffer excess acid in the blood, bone strength and density suffers. In fact, it has been estimated that with our modern acidic diet, as much as 480mg (about half your skeletal mass) may be lost through the urine over the course of 20-years.
Excessive sodium intake can also play a role in bone loss, as well as loss of muscle mass, and it has been noted that a diet high in sodium can accelerate bone and muscle loss associated with acidosis and disuse. It has also been shown that a diet high in potassium-rich fruits and vegetables along with a reduced acid load can help limit natural age-related loss of bone strength and muscle mass by helping keep the body’s pH healthy and balanced. (4)
Acidosis and Kidney Stones
With increased secretion of calcium and decreased secretion of citrate in the blood comes urine which is oversaturated with calcium that has little solubility, which then harden to form kidney stones. It has, in fact, been shown in recent testing that dietary acidity is the best predicter of calcium oxalate and the formation of urate stones, which can not only be extremely painful, but can cause sepsis (blood infection), and are a risk factor for chronic kidney disease (CKD). There is also evidence that along with CKD comes an increased risk of coronary heart disease, which shows how widespread the dangers of acidosis can be. (5)
Kidney stones have also been linked to hyperparathyroidism, which is a type of hormone disruption associated with depression and other psychological distress, as well as an increased risk of cancer. (6)
Acidosis and Cancer
While more research needs to be done, cell and animal studies indicate that acidosis can increase invasive and metastatic probability of cancer cells. (3) However, while the evidence supporting the relationship between increased cancer risk and dietary acidosis alone is limited, there are concerns that it may function in unison with other health risks, such as obesity or metabolic syndrome, to increase the overall risk of cancer.(7)
What does this tell us? That ALL components of good health are important, since most function in synchronicity with one another. This holds true not just with connections between cancer and acidosis, but in keeping a healthy BMI, cardiovascular system, digestive system, and all other aspects of your body’s functions healthy.
Alkaline and Your Diet
You may have heard of the alkaline diet, which has many benefits, not the least of which is helping you maintain a balanced pH. This is because it is a diet which prescribes leafy greens, fruits, legumes, and other whole, plant-based foods while limiting or eliminating dairy, meats, grains and alcohol.
There are also high-pH waters available—AKA alkaline water—which can help boost your blood’s alkalinity, and there are some foods which may surprise you for their abilities to increase your body’s pH despite their high acid content, such as lemons or apple cider vinegar (ACV).
In fact, ACV is mainly made up of acetic acid, with a pH of 2.8 and 3. This would seemingly make consumption of it a recipe for acidosis, although it is not so, and in reality, it works in the opposite manner and alkalizes the system. This is because there are foods such as ACV and lemons which, while initially acidic, create alkaline compounds when digested. (8)
If you do give ACV a try (recommended), remember to ensure that you get organic, raw, and unpasteurized (look for “from the mother” on the label) for the greatest health benefits. Doing this will ensure that you get beneficial living enzymes and probiotics while avoiding pesticides and other toxins associated with conventionally grown fruits. When diluted with water, it has a pleasantly tart/tangy flavor, and you can also add lemon juice for additional flavor and alkalinity, as well as a touch of honey to add sweetness.
Other examples of alkalizing foods include:
- Asparagus (9)
While there are many foods which can naturally alkalize the body, there are also some acidic foods you need to avoid in order to maintain a healthy pH balance.
These can include:
- Meat, including red meat, poultry and fish
- Dairy products
- Some nuts, including peanuts and walnuts
- Processed foods
- Sodas and other sugary drinks
- High protein foods (10)
By limiting or completely avoiding these foods and increasing your intake of alkaline foods, you can better reduce your risk of the dangerous health conditions associated with acidosis.
It’s very important to be mindful of your body’s chemistry for maintaining optimal health. This means ensuring you have a healthy pH balance which is free of excess acid, which you can check with a simple pH litmus strip. Use saliva to do this, as it holds the most consistent pH, and look for a reading of between 7.35 and 7.45. (11)
However, if your pH level is consistently too acidic, you are putting yourself in danger of osteoporosis, kidney stones, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, and other dangerous health conditions. If this is the case, it is advised that you increase your intake of alkaline foods and fluids while decreasing or eliminating acid-producing foods. Doing this will better ensure your natural good health.
Plus, organic fruits, vegetables, and ACV taste great, and this is the perfect excuse to consume more of them!