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Understanding pH - Your Health is in The Balance - Part 2

     In matters of natural health, it’s all about bringing the body into balance.  Maintaining the body’s preferred pH level by keeping acid and alkaline levels balanced is key to enjoying vibrant health and vitality. Research clearly shows that the body best functions in a slightly alkaline environment. But as we learned in part one of this article, the diet and lifestyle of most people in today’s culture easily produces an overacidic state, which impairs cell function and sets the stage for loss of energy, premature aging and poor health. The good news is that energy and youthfulness can be regained, unwanted pounds shed and numerous common health problems prevented and/or alleviated, simply by reducing acidity in the body through restoration of balanced pH levels.

Discovering Your pH Levels

     Whether you are experiencing any of the symptoms or health conditions caused by acid buildup referred to in last month’s article, or if you are just interested in knowing how to maintain a healthy pH balance to prevent such problems, the first step is to get a good picture of what is happening in your body by measuring and monitoring your pH levels. Conducting a simple and inexpensive in-home test will provide you with this valuable information that can serve as a tool to evaluate overall health. Once you find out your pH levels, you can then take positive steps to correct any existing imbalances.

     A pH reading is obtained through dipping a pH test strip (litmus paper) into a sample of urine and/or saliva and making an immediate comparison of the color produced on the strip with the color on the color key provided with the test kit. This will tell the numerical value of the pH level of that particular bodily fluid.  

What Do the Numbers Really Mean?

     Saliva is formed out of lymphatic fluid that permeates every cell in the body.  Therefore, the pH reading of the saliva is like a window through which you can see the body’s overall pH balance. It indicates the level of activity of digestive enzymes manufactured by the stomach, liver and pancreas and whether sufficient amounts are present to process and dispose of excess acids.

     The ideal time to test saliva is first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything, although it can be taken at other times of the day as long as no food or drink is ingested for three hours prior to testing. If the salvia pH is below 6.4, it means that either too many acids are being created in the body or that acids are not being eliminated adequately. In the case of a high reading over 6.8, there may be problems with yeast, mold or fungus and/or other gastrointestinal problems. If the pH levels in the body are in balance, the saliva should average 6.4-6.5.

     Excess acids that cannot be neutralized by the body’s alkaline mineral reserves are excreted through the urine. The urine pH reading reveals how well that “buffering” system is working, as well as how effective the kidney functions in processing and excreting the acids. It therefore provides a good representation of the body’s chemistry. The optimal pH reading for urine should average between 6.4 and 6.8, though readings can fluctuate anywhere between 5.0 and 7.5 during the day according to the foods consumed. Testing urine pH first thing in the morning after at least six hours of sleep will provide the most accurate results. It can also be tested one hour before a meal or three hours after a meal. In any case, the readings should be taken over the course of several days and the results averaged to determine the true level. An average reading below 6.4 is a good indication that the amount of acid is more than the body’s buffering system can handle and that steps need to be taken to balance pH by reducing acidity and increasing alkalinity. It is a particularly critical situation if both saliva and urine pH levels are consistently acidic.

     A consistently alkaline pH saliva and/or urine level (between 7.0 and 8.0) is quite uncommon, but when it occurs can be an indication of more serious health problems. When the pH is too alkaline, the chemical and metabolic processes in the body are often occurring too slowly, resulting in sluggish functioning of organs such as the liver. The lymphatic system can also become overburdened with metabolic waste from the incomplete breakdown of foods. Sometimes it can be a sign that the body is consistently dumping minerals from the muscles and bones to compensate for all the excess acid being produced. In this case, the kidneys are not functioning well enough to filter acid waste from the blood, which causes the liver to produce ammonia, a very alkaline substance, to buffer the acids as a last resort. This usually occurs when degenerative diseases are underway and it is a much more difficult process to regain balance. Only in rare incidences is an alkaline pH caused by consuming too much alkaline food, although it could happen in the case of a pure vegetarian.

Correcting Imbalances through Diet

     If pH levels should fall outside of normal ranges, the primary means of correcting the imbalance is by making adjustments in the diet. A healthy pH balance is maintained by taking in the right amount of acid- and alkaline-forming nutrients. Some foods create an acidic effect within the body while others provide the alkalizing minerals that actually neutralize harmful acids. The more acidic your body’s pH is, the greater amounts of alkaline-producing foods you will want to consume in order to regain balance.

     It is important to understand that it is not the pH of the food itself that determines whether it will cause the body to be more acid or alkaline. It is the food’s mineral content that determines whether the residue or ash produced from its digestion or metabolism will be acid or alkaline.  

     Seven key minerals, known as macro minerals, regulate acidity or alkalinity in the body.  If a food is high in one or more of the four alkalizing minerals - sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, it will have an alkalizing effect on the body. In the same way, if it is high in acid forming minerals – sulfur, phosphorus and chlorine, it creates an acidic condition.  The ease and speed at which foods digest also factors into whether they are considered acid or alkaline. High protein foods such as meats are considered acid because they contain sulfur and phosphorus and are more difficult and slower to digest, whereas most fruits and vegetables are high in alkaline minerals and are easier and quicker to digest. 

Here are examples of major categories of food and the type of minerals contained in them:

  • Meat – sulfur and phosphorus (both acidic)
  • Dairy – calcium (alkaline), phosphorus (acidic) and sodium (alkaline)
  • Vegetables – sodium, potassium and magnesium (all alkaline)
  • Fruits – potassium and calcium  (both alkaline)
  • Grains – phosphorus (acidic), potassium (alkaline) and sulfur (acidic)

Acid/Alkaline Food Tables

     In the book “The Acid Alkaline Food Guide” by Dr. Susan Brown and Larry Trivieri, Jr., you will find comprehensive tables that present the acidifying or alkalizing impact of a wide range of common foods, beverages, seasonings, and additives to guide you in your food choices. These tables tell whether food is considered high, medium or low acid- or alkaline-forming. You can also find many different acid/alkaline food charts and tables online, though they may not all categorize every food in the same manner. The table below, though by no means complete, will give you some idea about the effect that various dietary sources have on acid or alkaline levels.


    In her book “The Ultimate pH Solution,” Michele Cook recommends eating a diet consisting of approximately 70% alkaline and 30% acidic foods.  Many others, including Dr. Robert Young in his book “The pH Miracle,” believe the ratio should be as high as 80% alkaline and 20% acid.  However, since everyone does not produce the same degree of acidity or alkalinity from a particular food once it is metabolized, the ratio could vary with each individual. But in every case, the large majority of foods consumed should be those that are categorized alkaline

     When a person has an acidic pH level, their main objective should be to increase amounts of alkaline foods and reduce amounts of acidic foods until a healthy balance is reached and maintained. Once health has been restored, a lesser ratio may be sufficient for maintenance purposes. Periodically monitoring pH levels using the test strips will effectively determine what the individual acid/alkaline ratio needs to be so that any diet and supplement program can be adjusted to maintain a balanced body chemistry.

Healthy Ways to Alkalize

     Increasing the amount of alkalizing foods eaten not only helps the body to neutralize acids produced as meals are digested and metabolized, but also builds reserves of alkaline minerals so that an occasional overindulgence in an acidic food will not adversely affect pH levels to any great extent. Eating some highly alkaline foods along with highly acidic foods provides alkalizing minerals that may minimize the effect of the acid.  However, the more consistent you are at eating a higher proportion of alkalizing foods and limiting your consumption of acidic foods, the better and longer lasting the health benefits will be experienced.

     The best alkalizing foods are green vegetables, particularly dark leafy ones that are rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium. Lemons are a surprisingly alkaline producing fruit, though they may seem acidic due to their tartness. They are, however, very high in potassium, and can be used to help neutralize an overly acidic body.  In the “Acid Alkaline Food Guide” book, Dr. Brown recommends combining the juice of a half of a lemon or lime with eight ounces of water and consuming it before breakfast and throughout the day with the exception of mealtimes (the neutralizing of acid by the lemon juice will reduce the action of hydrochloric acid in the stomach necessary for the digestion of food, especially proteins). Organic apple cider vinegar can be used to accomplish the same purpose. Eating several servings of non-acidic fresh fruits is also helpful for alkalizing the body.

     Dr. Brown’s suggestions for incorporating more alkalizing vegetables in the diet include having at least one cup of green leafy vegetables each day and/or consuming fresh vegetable juices using green vegetables. Dried forms of highly alkaline “super” greens such as barley grass, alfalfa, spirulina and chlorella are available in powdered form that can be stirred into water or juice or combined with fruit and other ingredients to make a “power” green drink equivalent to eating many cups of high nutrient greens while at the same time supplying the body with many vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.  The inclusion of lentils or root crop vegetables such as sweet potatoes is another good way to increase alkaline levels in the body.

     In “The Ultimate pH Solution” book, the author includes many recipes that incorporate mainly alkaline foods. There are numerous recipes and ideas for breakfasts, entrees, side dishes, soups, salad dressings, appetizers, beverages and even desserts. She even gives recipes for breads made with neutral or alkaline grains such as amaranth and spelt. Also included is a one-week “kick acid” meal plan using the various recipes given in the book.

The Best and the Worst of Acid Producing Foods

     Just because a food is acidic does not necessarily mean it is an unhealthy food choice. Many of these foods, such as cold-water fish (high in omega-3), organic eggs, various types of nuts and seeds, olive oil, berries and other fruits, oatmeal, and brown rice, are loaded with healthy properties. The idea is not to drastically reduce acidic foods to the point of eliminating high protein foods essential for other purposes, such as building and repairing tissues.  Instead, you should make wise choices with the acidic foods you do consume and eat them in smaller portions. In other words, endeavor to make any acidic foods you choose to eat ones with health-producing benefits.

     More importantly, focus on drastically reducing (even eliminating) the harmful highly acidic foods like refined carbohydrates, refined sugar, table salt (Celtic and Himalayan salts are alkaline), hydrogenated fats, and almost every processed food — especially ones containing acidic chemicals such as artificial flavorings, preservatives and other additives. Alcoholic beverages, coffee and tea are also very acidic,  along with the refined sugars, artificial sweeteners and creamers.

     One of the worst offenders for producing an acid condition in the body is soft drinks or soda. We already learned in previous articles how harmful the amounts of sugar and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) in soda are to the body in addition to how artificial sweeteners jeopardize health to an even greater extent (see June articles on “Healthy Sweeteners – Part I” and “Sugar Bondage – Why You Need to Be Free – Part I”).  But even without any sweeteners, a person would need to drink 32 eight-ounce glasses of pure water (neutral pH of 7.0) to offset the acidity produced in the body by the amount of phosphoric acid in a single 12 ounce can of soda contains. This is because it takes approximately 20 parts of an alkaline substance to neutralize one part of something that is acidic. The average can of Coca-Cola measures a highly acidic 2.52 on the pH scale and other sodas are similarly as low.

Other Ways to Balance Excess Acidity

    In addition to the importance of choosing the right balance of foods, there are several other helpful means to remove waste acid from the body and balance pH levels. In addition to drinking lemon water between meals and using dried “super greens” in a drink, other ways acidity can be reduced include:

  • Drinking plenty of mineral or pure filtered water (especially alkaline water) to flush out the system and help to rid it of acid build-up
  • Supporting good digestion by eating less heavily cooked foods and taking digestive enzymes (any food not digested properly can create acid waste)
  • Supplying the blood with more oxygen by breathing from the diaphragm (shallow breathing robs the body of oxygen and lessens the ability of the cells to eliminate acid wastes)
  • Drinking water with liquid chlorophyll, which increases the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood
  • Reducing stress, which releases acidifying hormones that can produce as much acid in the body as acidic foods
  • Exercising briskly enough to break a sweat, which helps acid wastes to be eliminated though the skin and elevates deep breathing to improve oxygen levels
  • Using a rebounder, massage therapy, dry skin brushing or other techniques to increase the movement of lymphatic fluid and help eliminate excess acids and toxins from the body
  • Taking an alkaline bath by soaking in a warm tub of water containing one small box of baking soda (pH level of 12) and one cup of Epsom salts
  • Taking high-quality alkalizing supplements*

Concluding Thoughts

     Getting back to a balanced pH can simply mean getting back to the basics of eating more of the whole fresh foods God put on this earth for us to eat.  It is our modern diet, filled with chemically-laden processed foods and acidic beverages, that that has tipped the scale to an imbalanced acidic state that has produced many of our modern diseases.

     Because your pH balance is the single most important measurement of health, I challenge you to find out what your levels are and begin to make the needed adjustments in your diet and lifestyle to create an environment of health and balance. When your body is free of acid buildup and all its systems are able to function as smoothly as God designed, you will enjoy renewed energy, an ideal weight, greater mental clarity, freedom from aches, pains and premature aging and a level of optimal health you may have not thought possible.

* If you would like to have more specific information on quality supplements to use to help correct an imbalanced pH or would like to know more about pH testing or testing supplies, please e-mail me at Lucinda.Bedogne@myfriendDebbie.com



Copyright © 2008-2015 Lucinda Bedogne, CNHP, CNC

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