The pH of our body is a critically important but rarely discussed aspect of health. pH stands for “potential or power of hydrogen” and refers to the acidity or alkalinity (also referred to as basicity) of various bodily fluids such as saliva, blood and urine. This is not to be confused with stomach acidity issues or what's commonly referred to as heartburn and its 21st century incarnation: acid reflux. A healthy, properly functioning stomach has a naturally acidic pH and is an entirely separate issue from the pH of other bodily fluids.
The pH scale ranges from pH 0 (extremely acidic e.g. battery acid) to pH 14 (extremely alkaline e.g. household lye), with the pH of human blood falling just above neutral at 7.4. To maintain health & function optimally, our blood must stay within the pH 7.0 to 7.4 range; slightly alkaline. In fact, maintaining proper blood pH is so critical that the body will pull minerals and nutrients from our bones and tissues to buffer acidity and preserve acid-base homeostasis; in other words, to keep our blood in the alkaline zone. The term ‘acidosis' is used to describe the condition of having a consistently acidic pH and is more common that most people realize. Acidosis alters our body terrain and sets us up for numerous health issues including increased susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections, accelerated aging, osteoporosis, obesity and cancer, to name but a few.
Our pH is largely determined by 3 factors: diet, stress and oxygen intake. We can maintain a healthy pH if we eat an alkalizing diet, do our best to manage stress and incorporate some form of regular physical activity into our life. We can test the pH of our blood, saliva or urine using pH test strips which are sold at most health food and natural medicine stores; they quickly indicate if we're in the alkaline or acid zone. If our pH consistently registers below 7.0 then we know we need to make diet and lifestyle adjustments to ma intain our health. Adjusting our diet to include more alkalizing foods is by far the quickest and easiest way to change our pH with the recommended ratio being 75% alkalizing foods to 25% acidifying foods. However, there are common misconceptions about acid & alkaline foods with the most prevalent being that citrus fruit is acidifying to the body whereas it's actually alkalizing.
A food's acidity or alkalinity is not determined by its pH when it's sitting on our plate, but by the pH of the metabolic byproduct or the “ash” that remains after it's been digested and absorbed by the body. One of the best acid and alkaline food charts originally appeared in Sam Graci and Harvey Diamond's book The Power of Superfoods and can also be found by clicking here. It clearly and accurately indicates which side of the acid-alkaline fence the most common foods, beverages, sweeteners and seasonings fall on. Have a look, print it and post it in your kitchen for a quick reference guide; you'll be an acid and alkaline expert in no time.
For more information on the acid – alkaline issue, check out these amazing books:
Acid and Alkaline by Herman Aihara
Alkalize or Die by Theodore A. Baroody
About Joan Ullyett
Joan Ullyett BA, RHN is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. Please visit her website thehealthnerd.com for more information, news and online health consultation.