4 Steps to Achieve Proper pH Balance
Most of us never consider the acid/alkaline balance of our blood, but a proper pH is a crucial aspect to overall health. Many doctors stress the importance of reducing acidity and increasing alkalinity with an alkaline diet because a balanced pH helps protect us from the inside out. Disease and disorder, they say, cannot take root in a body whose pH is in balance.
What is the meaning of “pH balance”? Do you know if your pH levels are off? Well, pH balance refers to a proper balance in the body between acidity and alkalinity. Your body does a great job of keeping its pH balanced in most cases, but by eating an alkaline diet may help prevent unhealthy microbes and organisms from flourishing, tissues and organs from becoming damaged, minerals from being depleted, and your immune system from being compromised. Why? You’ll have to read on to find out!
What Is pH Balance? And Why Is It Key for Good Health?
What we call “pH” is short for the “potential of hydrogen,” or the measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of a solution. pH is also a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of our body’s fluids and tissues. It is measured on a pH scale that ranges from 0 to 14. The more acidic a solution is, the lower its pH value. The more alkaline it is, the higher the pH number is. The acidity or alkalinity of different solutions, including human blood but also many others found outside the body (such as the ocean), are indicated on the pH scale.
What should the body’s pH level be ideally? A pH of 7 is considered neutral and “neutral” means it is equally acidic as alkaline. Blood (serum) pH, as well as the pH in the majority of bodily tissues, should stay around 7.365, while the stomach is at a pH of around 2 in order to break down foods properly. Saliva and urine are typically on the acidic side, between 6.4-6.8 in a healthy individual.
Alkaline diets (sometimes also called alkaline ash diets) that help restore proper pH levels have been associated with health improvements including:
- Protection from heart disease
- Prevention of calcium accumulating in urine
- Prevention of kidney stones, kidney disease and damage
- Reduced inflammation
- Lowered diabetes risk
- Maintaining stronger bones/better bone mineral density
- Reductions in muscle wasting or spasms
- Better protection against vitamin D deficiency and related consequences
- Improvement in lower back pain
What causes pH imbalance?
The Merck Manual’s definition of acidosis is “An overproduction of acid in the blood or an excessive loss of bicarbonate from the blood (metabolic acidosis), or a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood that results from poor lung function or depressed breathing (respiratory acidosis).”
What can cause your pH level to shift towards a more acidic state, thereby causing imbalance?
In truth, your body almost always does an excellent job at keeping your pH levels balanced. Unfortunately, you hold the key in determining how hard your body must work to achieve this.
An increase in acid overwhelms the body’s acid-base control systems, causing the blood to tend toward acidity. Normally, the kidneys maintain proper balance of pH and electrolyte levels, including calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. But when we are exposed to acidic substances, these electrolytes are used to combat acidity.
The kidneys start to excrete more minerals out of the body via the urine. High degrees of acidity from diet or medical conditions force our bodies to rob minerals from our bones, cells, organs and tissues. Cells end up lacking enough minerals to properly dispose of waste or oxygenate the body completely. Vitamin absorption is then compromised by mineral loss. Toxins and pathogens can start to accumulate in the body, and this can suppress the immune system.
Basically, you force your body to work in overtime to keep your blood at a neutral pH while destroying the nutrient levels your body innately needs to accomplish the task. These disruptions include ruining the potassium:sodium ratio (until our diets changed so drastically, it used to be 10:1, while it’s now 1:3); reduction in magnesium levels; a dangerously low level of fiber; and an early loss of function in the kidneys, particularly during aging.
You may not technically have a pH imbalance, but your body isn’t going to have the stamina you might like to lead you into gracefully (and healthfully) aging if you force it to always stay in overdrive.
Types of Acidosis
There are five basic types of what doctors refer to as “metabolic acidosis,” meaning that the body has a poor pH balance or is working too hard to maintain proper pH.
- Diabetic ketoacidosis — Sometimes wrongly confused with the state of ketosis, diabetic ketoacidosis happens when a diabetic doesn’t handle their condition well and the liver produces dangerously high amounts of ketone bodies. This typically happens when blood sugar is upwards of 240 mg/dL.
- Hyperchloremic acidosis — Vomiting and diarrhea can cause a temporary state of acidosis called hyperchloremic acidosis, which means your body has lost the base of sodium bicarbonate it uses to neutralize your blood.
- Lactic acidosis — Too much lactic acid can result in acidosis. According to Healthline, “Causes can include chronic alcohol use, heart failure, cancer, seizures, liver failure, prolonged lack of oxygen and low blood sugar. Even prolonged exercise can lead to lactic acid buildup.”
- Renal tubular acidosis — If your kidneys can no longer excrete acids to your urine to get rid of them, the blood can become acidic.
- Dietary acidosis — Only recognized as a legitimate form of acidosis in recent years, dietary acidosis (or “diet-induced acidosis”) is the state of eating a highly acidic diet that puts undue stress on the body, resulting in elevated disease risk and poorer overall function. A 2010 review of the topic says that diet-induced acidosis “has a significant, clinical, long-term pathophysiological effect that should be recognized.”