by Kathleen Cole ND
Scientifically pH stands for "potential of hydrogen" The acidity or alkalinity of substances is measured in terms of pH, the lower being more acid and the higher more alkaline. The pH of your blood stays within a narrow range of slightly alkaline- 7.35-7.45. Your body has many feedback systems to keep it at that level, your lungs ( acid control mechanism), kidneys, bone, and digestion. pH will shift slightly depending on your energy output, mineral status and toxicity level. Acid in the tissues requires alkaline minerals, calcium, magnesium and potassium to neutralize them. Your diet and lifestyle can diminish reserves and these alkaline minerals can then be drawn from the bone, increasing risk of osteoporosis. Acid producing foods lower the body's pH and in response the kidneys work to buffer that acidity.
The extracellular matrix (ECM) is the ground substance between the extracellular space and the cells in the body and is an active site for interaction between the cell and extracellular space. Under acidic conditions enzyme processes are hindered and toxic waste can become trapped in the ECM, leading to cellular dysfunction and inflammation, which causes further acidosis. Detoxification of the ECM is important to reduce acidity in the tissues and a healthy alkaline reserve is necessary for detoxification.
Mild acidosis can also contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, kidney stones, acceleration of oxidative damage and aging, joint pain, low energy and bacterial overgrowth.
Due to industrialization and the agricultural revolution pH levels of the oceans, the soil, plants, animals and humans have changed from a relatively alkaline environment to an acidic one. Generally the modern western diet and lifestyle contributes to a low grade metabolic acidosis.
Causes of acidosis are :
- diet high in animal protein and cereal grains, low in fruits and vegetable
- excess refined salt (sodium chloride) in ratio to low potassium
- too much phosphorus (phosphate soft drinks & use of superphosphate fertilizer on crops)
- too little calcium and magnesium
- renal dysfunction due to aging
- bone and muscle mass loss
- chronic stress
Fruits and vegetables contain high levels of potassium and other alkalizing minerals. These minerals consume hydrogen ions when they are metabolized, increasing the alkalinity of your body.
Simple tests that can be done at home urine and saliva, will give you a good idea of pH through. The saliva tests your digestive function and the urine your kidneys role in pH balance as well as mineral and electrolyte balance.
The urine is a way for the body to remove excess acidic or alkaline substances that are not buffered in other ways. The urine pH fluctuates between 6.0- 6.5 in the morning and 6.5-7.5 in the evening. If the urine pH is below 6.5, this indicates the buffering system is overtaxed. Ideally your urine pH should be between 7.0 and 7.5. Above 7.5 may indicate you are either taking excess alkaline mineral supplements that may not be needed, or the urine is alkaline because the internal environment is acidic and the alkaline reserves are being drawn to neutralize.
Test your urine on the second void in the morning and this should be around 6.8. Check your urine again between breakfast and lunch and again between lunch and dinner. The pH should be 7.0-8.5 a few hours after eating. During a meal, the stomach produces HCL to digest the food and an equivalent base of bicarbonate is transported to the saliva, pancreas and liver. The maximum amount of base in the blood is reflected in the urine which is most acidic at 2AM and most alkaline at 2PM.
The morning saliva test indicates the overall state of your health; your alkaline reserves, which is a reflection of your diet and lifestyle over the years. The saliva pH is generally between 6.5-7.5 and indicates the efficiency of your digestive enzymes, produced in your stomach, liver and pancreas. If your saliva pH is too low- below 6.3, this indicates your body is too acidic, either because it is producing too many acids from an acidic diet and lifestyle, not enough alkaline minerals, or that your kidneys are not able to remove them through the urine. If the saliva pH is too high, you may be more prone to bacterial overgrowth.
The most accurate reading of saliva pH is recorded immediately upon awakening. Test your saliva again 5 minutes following breakfast. This number should go up from what it was prior to eating. The ideal saliva test is 6.8 on awakening or 7.0 before eating and 8.5 following breakfast.
Your pH urine test will fluctuate as the kidneys work towards homeostasis but if your urine and saliva tests are consistently acidic you need to improve your digestion. If your urine pH is consistently too alkaline you could have a urinary tract infection or your kidneys are overtaxed and your body may be producing ammonia to buffer the acid. Your kidneys may need support to remove the excess acid.
To rebalance your pH:
- change your dietary pattern to more alkaline 80% alkaline foods/20% acid ( may need to change this % depending on individual requirements)
- increase plant foods and alkalizing minerals (magnesium, calcium, potassium,sodium)
- Deep breathing exercises
- 8 hours of quality sleep
- regular aerobic exercise
- change acidic emotions such as resentment and anger to more alkaline feelings of appreciation, and kindness
- drink 6- 8 glasses of pure water
- maintain healthy gut flora to promote healthy pH of the gut
- detoxification ( see your naturopath or health professional for guidance)