Before diving into Acidic vs alkaline states of our bodies, we first must discuss what pH means and why it’s important in terms of a healthy body. Ph is a measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of a solution. What does that mean regarding your health? It’s basically a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of our body’s fluids and tissues. A sub optimal pH will result in bodily dysfunction and miscommunication at the cellular level. The human body has an amazing ability to maintain a steady pH in the blood with the main compensatory mechanisms involving renal (kidneys) and respiratory systems.
- Solutions with a high concentration of hydrogen ions have a low pH which is termed an acidic state.
- Solutions with a low concentration of hydrogen ions have a high pH which is termed a basic state or alkaline state.
Different systems in the body require varying levels of pH. Our kidneys are the major organ responsible for regulating pH levels of the blood plasma. When the pH is outside a certain range, then dysfunction occurs. pH is measured on a scale of 0 – 14; a lower pH is considered acidic and a high pH alkaline. A pH of 7 is neutral and pure water is scaled at 7. For most bodily processes, a slightly alkaline pH of 7.3-7.4 is optimal. This of course if very generalized as different biochemical processes require a wide range of pH levels. This is a topic that is highly debated in the medical world and one that current research is building upon. I will say metabolic acidosis can be a severe condition that warrants immediate medical attention and could be a clear indication of kidney dysfunction. The following graph shows varying pH levels in our bodies along with its function. Some internal environments thrive in a more acidic environment and others a more alkaline environment.
Biochemical processes function optimally in a set PH range. Varying from these ranges contributes to dysfunction in the body, creates an environment for harmful organisms to strive, damages tissues, and stresses immune function which leads to poor health. Now the most important question. What causes an acidic state in our bodies? The list is long and includes:
- Dietary imbalances
- Shallow breathing
- Excess hormones from food
- Beauty and home cleaning products
- Use of plastics
- Food preservatives
Electrolytes and PH
Everyone has heard the term electrolytes and everyone knows they are vital for health especially in athletes. Electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, will help influence a healthy pH balance throughout the body. In states of high acidity, our bodies will actually rob these important nutrients from one area of the body to another area with increased need. Overtime these cells and tissues which are being robbed end up being deficient in these nutrients which will result in dysfunction. These electrolytes could be beneficial for individuals who want to focus on prevention and general wellness.
The effects of an acidic internal environment can be seen throughout the body via numerous biochemical pathways which will deplete one system while another system responds to the abnormal pH levels. Sodium intake has shown to have an influence on pH for individuals that consume excessive amounts of acidic foods. An alkaline diet has shown to increase growth hormone and osteocalcin which can be beneficial for bone growth. (35) A healthy balance of alkaline and acidic foods is needed in ones diet to maintain optimal health.
An area of the body where pH is extremely important is in the stomach. Your stomach must be highly acidic to break down the food you’re consuming and for proper absorption of nutrients. If you’re pH is suboptimal in the stomach then you won’t be getting those vital nutrients needed for optimal health. If you’re having issues with heartburn, burping, bloating, nausea, or gas after eating, then it’s very likely that you have sub optimal stomach pH. Appropriate stomach acid levels is crucial for our immune system, gastrointestinal system, and for adequate nutrient absorption.
Conditions linked to a sub optimal pH environment
- Digestive disorders
- Joint and muscle pain
- Weight gain
Goals to help with sub optimal pH levels
- Detoxification: very common for individuals with sub optimal pH levels have some degree of chemical or metal toxicity. Starting with a simple liver cleanse is a great start towards wellness.
- Nutrition: an optimal diet is composed of a balance of acid and alkaline foods.
- Increased fruits and vegetables in an alkaline diet would improve the K/Na ratio and may benefit bone health, reduce muscle wasting, and has shown to be beneficial for heart health.
- The resultant increase in growth hormone with an alkaline diet may improve many outcomes from cardiovascular health to memory and cognition.
- Magnesium, which is required for the function of many enzymatic systems, is another added benefit of the alkaline diet. Magnesium is required to activate vitamin D, which has numerous benefits such as immune health.