What is pH balance in the body and why is it important?
You may vaguely remember pH from biology class, but not realize how much the right
pH balance in your body reduces health risks, including bone loss, heart attacks
and Alzheimer’s disease.
Do you know your pH? Unfortunately, our modern diets and lifestyles often tip our
pH balance into the warning zone, so it’s time to find out! Here’s how you can and
also what you can do to protect yourself against the damage that can be done by
low body pH balance.
What is body pH balance?
When your pH is balanced, your body is at an alkaline state – and that’s good! It
means your body is able to buffer harmful acids and keep your systems operating
the way they should.
When your body pH balance is tipped toward acidic, your body’s systems can’t keep
up with the amount of acid in your body. As a result of excessive acid, your body
may take alkalizing minerals from your bones or suffer from inflammation that can
lead to disease.
Your pH and digestion
Your stomach is acidic to digest food and protect your body from pathogenic organisms
or food antigens that shouldn’t be there.
Many women who
suffer from acid reflux and heartburn have too little acid in their
stomachs, which can be made worse medications like Pepcid and TUMS that increase
alkalinity in the stomach.
You may want to try getting rid of heartburn by adding more acid to your diet.
What’s the right pH balance?
You should aim to keep your body’s acid base (pH) between 6.5 (slightly acidic)
and 7.5 (slightly alkaline). On the pH scale, the lower the pH reading, the more
acidic the solution is.
What are the dangers of low pH?
Your body can usually handle an occasional heavy acid load without taking too much
from your alkalizing reserves. But many of us are constantly producing excess acids,
especially through our diet. Without a way to neutralize them, your body struggles
to maintain a healthy blood pH and it can contribute to serious health issues, including:
- Inflammation and disease. When your body struggles
to maintain blood pH required for survival, it can result in inflammation. Over
time, this can lead to increase the pro-inflammatory blood acid homocysteine in
your blood. Studies show that high levels of homocysteine in the blood double the
risk of inflammatory conditions like:
- Heart attack
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Bone loss, osteoporosis and osteopenia. The bones
are your storage bank for alkalizing minerals, so when your body has to drain the
“account” to offset acid overload in the digestive tract, your bones are harmed.
This can lead to loss of bone density, osteopenia or osteoporosis. A report published
in the New England Journal of Medicine explains how elevated homocysteine levels
inhibit new bone formation by interrupting the cross-linking of collagen fibers
in bone tissue.
How can you test your pH?
You can test the pH of your saliva and/or your urine with simple litmus strips,
which are available in
our SHOP or at most pharmacies. You’ll want to track your pH for a few weeks
to see any patterns that develop over that time. The
test should come with a color-coded chart to determine your pH reading.
If your test results show that you are “acidic” the next step is to take a look
at the source of the acidity — and what you eat is the most common factor.
Eating to improve your pH balance
Most of the food we eat has the potential to alter our pH. When digested, some foods
leave acidic by-products in the body (acid-forming foods). Others leave alkaline
by-products (alkaline-forming foods). When you eat a diet full of vitamins and minerals,
your body is supplied with the nutrients it needs and doesn’t need to raid your
bones’ resources. Getting enough nutritional support every day can protect you from
serious consequences for your bone health and your overall health.
Here are some ideas on how to restore pH balance to your diet, support healthy digestion,
keep blood pH levels on track, and protect your bones and kidneys, too.
- Add more green foods to your plate. Green foods or
drinks can contain the pigment chlorophyll in abundance. Chlorophyll works in the
body as a strong detoxifier and immunity–building agent. Foods that contain high
levels of chlorophyll include the algae Spirulina and Chlorella and the juice of
wheat grass and other sprouted grains.
- Add fresh lemon to alkalize. Even though we think
of citrus as acidic, lemons are alkalizing because as we eat them, they break down
and donate alkaline mineral salt compounds like citrates and ascorbates. Enjoy!
- Choose root vegetables. Eating foods such as slow-roasted
sweet potatoes, onions and leeks, which are also high in inulin, can optimize your
body’s ability to fully absorb the calcium present in your food and thereby decrease
your risk for osteoporosis. Inulin is a type of prebiotic — used to help beneficial
bacteria to thrive further down into the colon, where it lowers the pH and improves
the solubility and absorption of calcium by the body. Root vegetables are also a
great replacement for refined carbs.
- Avoid refined sugar whenever you can. Soda and fruit
juice with high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame or other chemicals makes your urine
too acidic to pass out of your body safely. That means your body has to use high
amounts of buffering minerals so it can excrete the acid without damaging your urinary
- Eat plenty of vegetable protein, watch your red meat
intake, and keep your servings of the acidifying animal proteins down to four ounces
per meal (the size of a deck of cards).
- Take a high-quality multivitamin. If you find that
achieving the ideal pH balance with diet alone is difficult, you can complement
your diet with supplements. Taking a daily supplement helps fill any nutritional
gaps and ensures that your body has the reserves it needs. It should contain
essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium and magnesium in their
most bioavailable, alkalizing forms.
Top acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods
Considering whether a food is acidifying or alkalizing in the diet can require some
mind-bending, because some foods that we think of as “acidic” are, in fact, alkalizing
in the diet. The case of lemons in the second point above is one good example!
It’s actually better to look at whether the food is an acid–forming food or an alkaline–forming food, not
where the food itself falls on the pH scale.
Paying attention to your pH is an immediate and positive change for your health
that you can make today!