How your body’s acidity influences your overall health.
by Nicole Barnes, Holistic Nutrition Consultant
The foods we eat on a daily basis have a direct impact on the acid – alkaline (pH) balance in our body. Proper balance of pH in the body is crucial for optimal health and prevention of disease, and every time we eat or drink, we are either feeding disease or fighting it (Heather Morgan). The general idea is that our bodies are designed to function at a certain balance between acidic and alkaline, and it’s the imbalances that contribute to dis – ease in the body. In fact, dis-ease cannot exist in an alkaline environment (Dr. Warburg).
Within the body itself, there are several buffering systems (bicarbonate, phosphate, and protein) which help to either neutralize or buffer acid by–products to maintain balance of the blood and cells. To eliminate any acid buildup in the body, the kidneys and lungs are the two main players. In particular, the kidneys help regulate acid-alkaline balance of the bloodstream by eliminating uric acid through the urinary system. And the lungs help to maintain balance through gas exchange (oxygen and carbon dioxide), releasing carbon dioxide through the respiratory system.
In fact, every unit change in pH equals a 10-fold increase or decrease in acidity! If we look at food and beverage, for instance, a can of soda has a pH of 2.5, sweetened fruit juice around 4 and an apple is closer to 8.
Since I’ve mentioned pH several times already, let’s refresh with some Chem 101. If you recall from high school science class, the pH is measured on a scale from 0 – 14 with 14 being the most alkaline, 0 being the most acidic and 7 being neutral. Ideally, we want our bodies to be slightly alkaline and ranging on the scale from 7.35 to 7.45 to function properly, with various tissues and organ systems varying from these numbers. (The stomach, for example, has a pH of 1.5 to 3.5 on the scale and needs to stay strongly acidic to digest proteins and fight pathogens.)
The body works tirelessly to maintain a healthy pH (7.35 to 7.45) through a buffering system I will elaborate on shortly. For now, consider that every unit change in pH (from 2 to 3, or from 6 to 7 for example) is equal to a 10 fold increase in acidity. Given that a can of soda pop has a pH of just 2.5, you can appreciate all the body goes through to maintain a healthy pH level!
Keeping the body balanced and functioning optimally depends almost entirely on diet, although lifestyle factors are just as important.
Our modern diet and lifestyle make us too acidic
From a nutritional perspective, foods are classified as either acidic or alkaline, according to the effect they have on the body. The Standard American Diet tends to be highly acidic, and mostly consists of processed foods, sugars, salts, animal meat, dairy, grains, alcohol and coffee. Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners are the number one culprit in the American diet and should be avoided entirely as they are highly acidic and have been linked to many health conditions. It important to note that some foods we think of as acidic, (such as lemons and limes) are actually alkaline in the body once metabolized. Whether a food is more acidic or alkaline is based on the amount of acid waste that is produced when digested and assimilated. So, it’s important to consider which foods are acidic versus alkaline once they are metabolized, as the body is affected by these waste chemicals, not the actual acidity of a food before its eaten.
When the body becomes too acidic, minerals are borrowed from vital organs and bones to buffer the acid. It steals minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium from stores in the body to balance the pH level. As a result, the body can suffer from health conditions and make someone more susceptible to loss of reserves from bones, leading to conditions like osteoporosis and low bone density.
Lifestyle factors that may promote acidity in the body include excess stress, high fat/ high protein diets, lactic acid build up from over-exercise, sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, and even emotional and mental state. Stress is something more and more people are experiencing and has been found to create high acidity in the body (quantified as having an impact equivalent to a pH of around 3). It’s important to find ways to cope with ongoing stressors so they don’t become chronic and damage our health. Things like meditation, exercise, deep breathing and yoga can all be incredibly beneficial for overall health.
Signs and symptoms of high acidity may include chronic joint pain, muscle breakdown, chronic allergies, frequent headaches, infections and viruses, etc. Health conditions that may be associated with high acidity in the body could be heart disease, gout, chronic allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and other inflammatory diseases.
Your body should be slightly alkaline
Incorporating more alkaline-forming foods in your daily routine will go a long way toward helping to achieve and maintain optimal pH balance. By consuming mostly alkaline foods, our bodies won’t need to work as hard to maintain this constant alkaline balance. Don’t worry, you don’t need to become a vegetarian to maintain healthy alkalinity! However, an optimal diet should be based primarily on leafy greens and fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the easiest and convenient things to reduce the body’s level of acidity is to hydrate first thing in the morning with an alkalizing drink such as lemon water. This also helps detoxify the liver. Drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee and black tea can create a loss of water from the body; therefore, try to drink extra water to make up for the dehydrating effects of caffeine. Water has a double benefit as it is very alkalizing for the body with a pH of 7 and will help you stay hydrated. Yay!
Having a more alkaline diet can help with the following:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved vitality and energy levels
- Improved immune system
- Improved weight management
- Promotes strong bones
- Increased vitamin and mineral absorption
- Reduced muscle loss
- Alleviation from chronic inflammation, pain and allergies
It’s all about balance
Ideally aiming to have a considerable amount of fresh vegetables and fruits each day will also go a long way. Its not just about consuming alkalizing foods, you want to have balance – try to consume 70- 80% alkaline foods and 20-30% acidic foods. When consuming acidic foods, aim for foods as healthy as possible – selecting high quality and organic foods. Below are some examples of foods that are acidic and alkaline forming.
|Acid forming foods/ Beverages
(have less of these)
|Alkaline forming foods/ Beverages
(have more of these)
|Processed and junk foods
Refined sugars (sugars are #1 culprit and should be avoided altogether)
Refined salt (Table salt)
Grains (ie. Breakfast cereals, bread)
Dairy (ie. Yogurt, milk, cheese)
Animal meats/ fish
Processed oils (ie. canola, vegetable)
Most nuts (ie. peanuts)
|Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale)
Most vegetables like celery, broccoli, and asparagus, cucumbers, avocado
Most fruits except blueberries, plums, prunes, and cranberries.
Lemons are alkaline producing in the body once metabolized.
Water (pH 7)
Apple cider vinegar
Most herbal teas
Some nuts and seeds (ie.flaxseeds, almonds)
** To receive a FREE detailed alkaline food chart by category to help you
make better alkaline eating choices, email Nicole Barnes – email@example.com
Ways to test your pH
If you are at all curious to see where your pH measures, you can purchase pH strips from a local health store. What you’re measuring is urine and saliva, in order to gain full insight into the pH of your body fluids. Its suggested that you test the pH at different times of the day and record the readings over a longer period of time – to gain a bigger picture of your progress. A color chart is included for you to assess your results. For urine, a pH level of 6.8 – 7.2 is ideal. For saliva, the optimum number is 7.2.
*Keep in mind that the pH of urine always varies, depending on what you eat and when, and that you should test your second urine of the day for the best snapshot of what’s going on inside.
Try this Green Glow smoothie which is packed with nutritious ingredients like spinach, mango, avocado and lemon to help boost your energy and balance your pH.
Green Glow Smoothie Recipe:
- 1 cup spinach
- ¼ cucumber
- 1 cup mangoes
- ½ cup pineapple
- ½ banana
- ½ avocado
- 1 cup coconut water
- ½ tbsp fresh lemon
- Blend all together and enjoy!
If you are experiencing any health imbalances, concerned about your diet or looking for specific changes, book a FREE 30 minute Discovery Session with our Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant who can help you get back on track and create an individualized health plan.
The Alkaline Diet: Is there evidence that an alkaline pH diet benefits health?
Acid – alkaline balance: role in chronic disease and detoxification
Acid – Base Homeostasis
Effects of low carbohydrate high protein diets on acid- base balance