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Understanding the Importance of Body pH

Here's another excerpt from my book, regarding the importance of understanding body pH, and acid-forming foods. Remember I love getting feedback, and questions, so don't be shy. Just visit the blog and ask away.

So what exactly is pH?

The concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution is measured using the pH scale (potential of Hydrogen), which is typically depicted using a chart of 0-14. A pH of 7 is considered neutral as the solution contains an equal amount of acid as it does alkaline. Anything below 7 is considered to be acidic, where as a pH above 7 would be alkaline (basic). Hydrogen ions inside and surrounding cells are important to all living things.

The Importance of pH in our bodies

Something not often thought of or considered in our diets is the need to maintain a perfect body pH. Foods we consume are either acid-forming, or alkaline-forming and have an impact on our body's pH and consequently our cells.

Cells survive in a narrow range of pH, and prefer environments with a pH close to 7. As an environment's pH shifts to either end of the scale, they become damaging to the cells. There are some exceptions to this however, for example bacteria living in acidic rivers or alkaline lakes.

Foods we consume play an important role in maintaining a neutral pH.

Our bodies are equipped with all sorts of safety mechanisms. (I.e. Storing excess carbohydrates as fat, for energy when food is scarce.) Well, our amazing bodies come to the rescue again. Since cells can only survive within a narrow range of pH, they have their own safety mechanism called a buffer. A buffer solution is our body's way of maintaining a favorable pH level by releasing or removing hydrogen ions. These buffer solutions have a matched pair of weak acid and alkaline, in order to counteract a change in pH.

An example of this is the carbonic acid, and bicarbonate present in your blood which helps to maintain your blood pH. When you exercise, the concentration of hydrogen ions increases. (Which of course makes your blood acidic) When this happens the bicarbonate in your blood neutralizes them so your blood doesn't become dangerously acidic. The opposite is also true, when the concentration of hydrogen ions decreases, carbonic acid releases more to raise the pH before your blood becomes dangerously alkaline. (And since blood feeds your organs, and cells live in a preferred pH of around 7.4, you can imagine the importance of this function.)

Buffering can come at a cost however. This pH buffering act can throw off your other systems. For example, a body that is acidic has to draw on alkalizing minerals such as; calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and sodium. Imagine consuming a acidic diet over time (I.e. A diet composed mostly of meat, dairy, and processed foods). The long-term effect could be bone or tooth loss, if buffering was pulling from calcium stores.

Exhausting the Body

So don't just put it all on your body. Just like overworking your liver, pancreas, etc. You can sabotage your body's self defense mechanisms by continuously consuming foods that change your pH. To maintain it's ability to buffer, the body will steal these minerals which is facilitated by using electrolytes. The body's major electrolyte sources include calcium, magnesium, and potassium. So, if your wearing down your ability to maintain a balanced pH, beyond normal buffering, then your body is getting robbed of these precious minerals. And that's assuming your diet is providing them. If it's not, then you'll be robbing from systems such as calcium deposits in bones, and your teeth. Buffering also requires energy, and if strained can result is significant stress lowering your immune system.

If the body is unable to maintain a balanced blood pH, then really bad things happen as you can imagine. Especially in regards to Acidosis (See the common Acidosis Symptoms below, as well as some diseases with roots back to Acidosis). When the blood has a continually low pH, the body will simply deposit the acidic substances in an area of the body, so that blood can maintain an alkaline state. If this continues, these areas accumulates acidity and then cells begin to die and turn into acid themselves making matters worse. The cells that don't die will sometime adapt to their environment, and become abnormal cells which are malignant. If you know about malignant cells, you know they do not correspond to our DNA or with brain activity so they grow indefinitely and without order. This is cancer. Here's food for thought; Cancer thrives in an acidic environment, but did you know it is impossible for cancer to develop in an alkaline environment?

The condition of a body that's overly acidic is often referred to as acidosis, while an overly alkaline body is referred to as alkalosis.

Acidic conditions also inhibit nerve action, while alkalinity stimulates nerve action.

Common Acidosis Symptoms

  • Fatigue (Sleepiness)
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Losing Consciousness
  • Comas
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Arrhythmia
  • Elevated Heart Rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Osteoporosis
  • Weight Gain

Common Diseases with Acidosis at the Root

  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Cancers
  • Tumors

Common Alkalosis Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Muscle Twitches, Spasms, Weakness

If the body's pH drops (Acidosis) it affects the body on a cellular level and the chances of complications increases. One common symptom of this is fatigue. The decrease in the body's pH also has a significant impact on cells, which in turn causes the body to stress, raising your cortisol levels (See articles on Fat Storage, as well as hormones).

Ever try sleeping when you're stressed? You can blame cortisol for that as well. And oh by the way, cortisol turns your body into a fat storing machine. This is why we have to be careful not to over consume acid-forming foods, which plays a big role in excessive weight. Notice I said acid-forming foods, and not acidic foods as there is a difference. And it's important to understand the difference. Foods that contain acid are considered to be acidic, where as foods that lower the pH of the body after digestion is considered acid-forming. The opposite is true about alkaline and alkaline-forming foods. A perfect example of this are limes, which have a pH of 1.9 so are very acidic. However, limes are an alkaline-Forming food which will lower the body's pH.

Explanation of Why

Acid Forming Elements

  • Sulfur
  • Phosphorous
  • Chlorine
  • Iodine

Alkaline Forming Elements

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron

According to modern biochemistry, it is not organic matter in food which impacts the body's pH but rather the inorganic elements (Above). Foods which are rich in acid forming elements are comparatively acid-forming, the same is true for foods which contain more alkaline elements, which are alkaline-forming. Back to the lime example. The organic acids in fruits and most vegetables contain many of the alkaline-forming elements (above). Organic Acid when oxidized becomes carbon dioxide and water, leaving only the alkaline elements.

The key to maintaining a good body pH is by consuming fewer foods which are acid-forming, and more foods which are alkaline-forming. Chlorophyll is a perfect food for raising the pH of your body.

What is Chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in algae and plants, which is critical in photosynthesis. I like to think of it as plant blood, as it's the botanical equivalent of hemoglobin in human blood. We'll cover more on Chlorophyll in another article.

Interesting Fact: Chlorophyll absorbs light mostly in the blue portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, followed by red. However, does not absorb the green\near green portions of the spectrum, which is where plants get their green from.