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Understanding pH - Your Health is in The Balance

     In my first health article entitled “Building Health through Balance”, I wrote about how the goal of natural health is to maintain a state of balance and a healthy internal environment where cells could thrive and function in the way in which God designed. Since 60-70% of our body weight is comprised of water-based fluids, located both inside and outside of the cells, no state of balance is more important than the pH balance of those body fluids. Without the proper pH balance, cells may not survive - much less thrive.

     The pH level is considered the most important measurement of health since it reflects the critical balance between an acid and alkaline state. The body is dependent upon the proper pH balance for all of its metabolic processes to function optimally. Just as a goldfish will die if the pH of the water is not within a certain range, our cells will cease to function if they are surrounded by an overly acidic or alkaline environment for any period of time. 

     Many conditions of illness are merely an expression of an imbalanced pH and may be eliminated simply by balancing the pH.  Not only can a balanced pH mean the difference between poor health and great health, but it also can mean more energy and vitality and less excess pounds and premature aging.

What is pH?

     The term pH, which stands for “potential of hydrogen,” is the measurement of the amount of hydrogen ions in a particular solution. A scale of zero to fourteen is used to measure pH levels, with zero being the most acidic and fourteen being the most alkaline. Lower pH readings indicate an acidic, oxygen deprived state with a higher concentration of hydrogen ions; higher pH readings indicate an alkaline, oxygen rich state with lower concentrations of hydrogen ions. A pH measurement of 7.0 (mid-range) is neutral, with anything above 7.0 considered alkaline and anything below 7.0 considered acidic.

A Critical Balance

     Different parts of the body must have different pH levels to function optimally although the overall preferred pH of the body is slightly alkaline. For instance, the stomach pH may go as low as 2.0 to provide the acidic environment for breaking down foods for digestion whereas the liver and bile has a more alkaline range of 7.1 to 8.5. Although the pH of these organs fluctuates as they carry on their functions, the blood pH must be maintained within a very narrow range of 7.35 to 7.45 for sufficient oxygen and nutrients to be carried to the cells. In fact, symptoms of illness or dysfunction will generally accompany anything above or below that range. Should the blood pH go below 6.8 or above 7.8, cells will cease to function altogether and the result will be death.

The Problem of an Overly Acidic pH

     While it is possible for a person’s pH to be too alkaline, an overly acidic state is the most common form of imbalance experienced by people today due to a number of factors. The principle cause of the imbalance is the modern diet, which is too high in acid-producing foods (sugar, grains, meat, pasteurized dairy, processed foods) and beverages (coffee and soda), while too low in alkalizing foods (such as certain fruits and most vegetables). Even the fruits and vegetables we do eat today are missing the minerals that they once contained.  This is because the soil in which they were grown is not only mineral-deficient, but also laden with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that combine to add to its acidity. The very air we breathe and water we drink contribute to the acidity of our body’s tissue, since they are often laden with acid-producing chemicals and toxins.

     Besides the effect from chemicals and toxins produced in the environment, too much acid is produced in our own bodies due to chronic stress, poor digestion, dehydration, shallow breathing, medications, and the lack of sleep and exercise.  In addition, acid is produced in the body itself as a natural by-product of metabolism (converting food to energy to run the body’s systems), digestion, respiration and cellular breakdown. Alkaline elements, on the other hand, only come from dietary sources.

How the Body Copes with Overacidity

     Fortunately, God has designed the body with built-in acid regulators and organs like the kidney, liver, lower intestine and skin, which help remove toxic wastes and excess acid from the body. He also designed reserves of alkaline minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium, to be stored in the tissues, muscles and bones to help buffer any excess acids in the system. Many of the body’s normal processes– breathing, circulation of blood, digestion and hormone production –work to restore and maintain a healthy biochemical balance.

     However, the body’s ability to maintain an ideal pH has its limits. When it is subjected to a high acid/low alkaline diet and lifestyle over a period of time, these mechanisms are overtaxed and a condition known as “acidosis” can result. Acidosis exists when excessive acids accumulate in the body’s fluids to the point where they cannot be adequately eliminated. When this happens, the body will do whatever it takes to maintain the essential pH balance of the blood, drawing so heavily upon the mineral reserves in the tissues, muscles, and organs that it will eventually deplete important alkalizing minerals from the bones themselves.

     The organs and systems affected must then shift to operating in a more acidic range, which generates additional toxic waste in the cells.  This toxic waste, in turn impairs the cells’ normal functions. This state of overacidity creates an internal environment conducive to disease and can lead to the eventual breakdown of tissues, organs and body systems.

Potential Effects of an Acidic pH

     Any breakdown in the body begins at the cellular level. When the pH is chronically acidic, the decreased oxygen levels that go along with it eventually cause cells to die. The acidic waste from those cells produces further acidity, which spreads to other healthy cells, creating a vicious cycle leading to deteriorated health. The energy production of the cells, as well as the ability of the body to repair damaged cells and detoxify from heavy metals and chemicals, suffer in this acidic environment.  The more acidic an individual is, the more fatigue will be experienced.

It is difficult for harmful microorganisms to get a foothold and cause illness in a balanced pH environment, but an acidic environment allows yeasts, fungi, molds and viruses to flourish.  The appearance of these invaders causes the immune system to respond in defense of the body.  If the acidic condition continues, the immune system gets worn out from constantly fighting the invasion, so its capability to protect against other threats, such as colds, flu and other types of viral and bacterial infections is impaired.  If the overly acidic environment continues, the imbalance in pH can increase the likelihood of yeast and fungal overgrowth (conditions such as Candida), food sensitivities/allergies, and parasitic growth.

     In addition to problems caused by bacteria, viruses, yeasts and fungi, a wide array of seemingly unrelated ailments can also be linked to an acid pH environment. Balancing pH levels is not a cure all for every condition and other factors may certainly be involved. However, people who have experienced many of these types of symptoms and conditions have found them to improve or disappear altogether when steps are taken to reduce acid levels and restore a balanced pH level in the body. Some types of general symptoms associated with acidity that may be noticed initially are:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Aching muscles and stiffness
  • Skin eruptions
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory loss
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Digestive disturbances

As time goes on and a high level of acidity continues in the body, more serious or degenerative conditions can arise such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Gout
  • Kidney stones or disease
  • Insulin insensitivity (precursor to Diabetes)
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Premature aging
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer

    It is beyond the scope of this article to elaborate on just how each of the above-named conditions correlates with an acid pH.  However, I would like to briefly point out at least a few of the connections with the last four on the list – obesity, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer, since these are among the most prevalent health concerns facing people – and women particularly -- in today’s world.

Osteoporosis – a Case in Point

     Bones contain 99% of the calcium found in the body. When continuous withdrawals of calcium from the bones are made to neutralize excess acid, a widespread degenerative condition known as osteoporosis occurs. In this condition, the quality and density of bones is reduced to the point of these bones becoming porous and fragile. If a person has an acidic pH, dietary or supplemental calcium ingested may be stolen as a buffering agent before it even reaches the bones.

     A seven-year study of 9,000 women conducted at the University of California confirmed that a greater risk for bone loss exists with those with chronic acidic pH levels versus those with normal pH levels. The premise of the scientist who carried on this study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was that high acidity, caused by a diet rich in animal foods and low in vegetables, led to many of the hip fractures prevalent among middle aged women. It is reported that 20,000 people die every year as a result of hip fractures.

     Deterioration of joints and cartilage has also been linked with acidity in the body. Cartilage requires a slightly acidic pH, but its cells dehydrate in a high-acid environment. When this occurs, the high-acid environment interferes with the joint’s ability to create new tissues.  The lack of tissue, combined with the reduced ability to regenerate tissue, result in greater friction produced in the joint, which contributes to the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritus.

Connection with Heart Disease and Cancer

     Cardiovascular health is affected when excess acid in the blood erodes the cell wall membranes of the heart, arteries and veins and causes damage to these vital tissues. The liver then produces LDL cholesterol to be deposited in those areas to protect the arteries from the damaging acids. This build up of cholesterol and plaque leads to constriction of blood vessels.  The reduced diameter of the blood vessels in turn results in decreased blood supply and oxygen, which often precipitates a heart attack or stroke. Further, an acid pH depletes magnesium from the body which is a vital mineral needed to maintain a normal heart rhythm.

     Cancer is one of many diseases that indicate deep imbalances in the body connected with acids that build up in the blood and are released into cells, tissues and organs. Most normal cells within areas of the body where excess acids have been deposited will eventually die and turn into acids themselves. However, due to the low-oxygen environment that acidity produces, some cells survive by mutating into abnormal cells, which grow without direction or order (that is, they become cancerous). These cells obtain their energy through fermentation, which does not require oxygen. It is difficult for such mutated cells to survive in an oxygen-rich alkaline environment. A balanced pH plays an important role in providing a healthy cellular environment that resists the growth and spread of cancer cells by reducing the acid that supports their viability.

Overweight or Overacidic?

     A balanced pH is key to weight loss, because a healthy body naturally maintains its ideal weight. Dr. Robert O. Young, in his book “The pH Miracle for Weight Loss,” explains how the body retains fat as a protection against the over production of acids produced by the typical American diet. Once you understand the role of acid in excess pounds, it will be easier to see that being overweight is not as much the problem as being overacidic.

     The excess acid produced in the body through cellular breakdown, as well as various toxins, bind with fat to keep them from circulating through the bloodstream where they can cause additional damage. Fat takes on a self-protection mode in the body, preventing acid from damaging arteries, cells, tissues and organs. When there is more excess acid than the liver and kidneys can process, it is stored in the body as fat. If cells are alkalized and the pH balance is restored to an optimal level, the toxic fat can be released.

     An additional complication regarding weight and pH balance is the vicious cycle acidity creates. A person with an acid pH is often fatigued and sluggish, which decreases their desire for exercise and increases their desire for substances like sugar and coffee, which only cause them to be more acidic.

     Acidity also prevents metabolic enzymes from operating efficiently, which impairs the normal breakdown of fats. In addition, it helps to trigger insulin insensitivity, which results in increased amounts of insulin flooding the body. This, in turn, causes more fat to be stored by insulin, commonly known as the “fat storing” hormone. Reducing the body’s acidity restores balance at the cellular level, which allows fat stores to be broken down and weight to be rebalanced.

Hope for Balance

     Once you understand how the body can become acidic, there are simple choices you can make in your diet and lifestyle that will help to bring about a state of balance and renewed health. In next month’s article we will explore how to find out your own pH levels and understand what may be occurring in your body based on those levels. You will also learn which foods are acidic or alkaline, forming and great ideas for how you can alkalize your body and protect yourself from the adverse consequences of an acidic pH.  Achieving balanced body chemistry will enable you to provide the right kind of environment for your cells to flourish and produce vibrant health.


The pH Miracle - Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health by Robert O Young, Ph.D. and Shelley Redford Young
The pH Miracle for Weight Loss – Balance Your Body Chemistry, Achieve Your Ideal Weight by Robert O. Young, Ph.D. and Shelley Redford Young
The Ultimate pH Solution – Balance Your Body Chemistry to Prevent Disease and Lose Weight by Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAc, CNC


Copyright © 2008-2015 Lucinda Bedogne, CNHP, CNC

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