I have been teaching the importance of understanding acid and alkaline for more than 25 years. It’s a great concept, and is getting more and more attention.
We know that pH is the measure of acid and alkaline (or basic) substances, mostly fluids. It is not exact, but an approximation. A pH of 7 is considered neutral, neither acid nor alkaline. This is the pH of water. Now let’s remember that the acids and bases (alkalis) of the body need to be in very close balance – this is called “acid-base homeostasis.” If it goes off too far in either direction, it may be fatal. In the body, the blood has a pH range of 7.35 to 7.45. If it goes down to 6.9, one dies of diabetic coma. If it goes up to 7.9, one dies of tetany, or lock-jaw. Keep this in mind whenever you read certain authors that insist that we should always be tilting towards alkaline – an excess of either is dangerous (there is a book called “Alkalize or Die” – a preposterous title, as, no matter what we do, we all will, eventually, die). The body strives towards homeostasis or balance. It’s like riding a bicycle.
Let’s look at the pH of “the body.” Different body fluids have different pH values. Here is a brief list:
- Stomach acid: 0.7 to 1.9
- arterial blood plasma: 7.35 to 7.45
- secretions of the pancreas: 8.1
- saliva: 5 to 8
The wide variation of saliva is dependent on the foods we eat. You can test yourself with litmus paper (get it in the drugstore), and you’ll see that after a meal high in flour and sugar, your salivary acidity is higher (the numbers are lower); after soup and salad, no bread, your saliva will be more alkaline (the numbers are higher). From experiences with my students, it appears that the more alkaline (or basic) the saliva, the better one feels.
The body’s pH values are affected by several factors.
1. Movement – activity in the muscles created lactic acid.
2. Breathing – a good balance of the in-and-out breath keeps the pH stable. Breathing in more increases acidity; breathing out more creates alkalinity, as it gets rid of carbonic acid through the carbon dioxide we breathe out. “Hyperventilating” means a lot of breathing out, so making us too alkaline, which has its problems like any imbalance (it may cause numbness or tingling in the extremities, lightheadedness, fainting); then one has to “breathe into a paper bag,” that is, breathe back in some of the acids we got rid of, to regain the proper balance of acids and bases in the blood.
3. The kidneys will release or retain a number of substances, helping keep the blood at the right pH level.
4. The food we eat has some effect on the pH balance as well, especially after being metabolized because they leave behind acidifying or alkalizing residues. What I found first was that the protein foods (meats, fish, beans) as well as the carbohydrates (flour, grains, sugar) all create an acid condition by leaving carbonic acid, sulfuric acid, and phosphoric acid. Fruits and vegetables, as well as salt, all leave behind minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and sodium, which buffer the acids and are thereby alkalizing.
There are a number of diseases that may be aggravated by a pH imbalance in the blood. As this imbalance is very fleeting, it cannot always be uncovered by blood tests – the blood values change rapidly throughout the day, influenced by all the elements mentioned earlier. From what I’ve learned so far, there are three common conditions that should be attended to from this standpoint.
A) Osteoporosis. A diet high in acid-forming foods like flour, sugar, and meat, increases the acidity of the blood plasma, and unless more alkaline foods (vegetables) are consumed, it will drain minerals from the teeth and bones to buffer those acids. If these minerals are not replaced, cavities and osteoporosis will result.
B: Heart Problems. If the blood is too acid, meaning too low in electrolytes (which include minerals such as calcium), it will interfere with many functions, including the beating of the heart, enzyme reactions, muscle contractions, and nerve transmission. Recent studies find that osteoporosis drugs cause just such problems: In 2007, there was a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine describing increased rates of serious atrial fibrillation in patients who took the bisphosphonate class of drugs for osteoporosis, which prevent the release of calcium into the blood. In other words, they save the bones but damage the heart.
C. High Blood Pressure. According to Herb Jacobs, MD, member of the executive board of the American Holistic Health Association, heart rate and blood pressure will change depending of the demands of the body. The body can be deprived of oxygen through shallow breathing, and the heart will compensate by increasing the blood pressure and so getting oxygen to the tissues as needed. When under chronic stress, people tend to hold their breath and thereby make the blood more acidic (by not getting rid of the carbonic acid). Slow, deep breathing will counter this situation, and so lower blood pressure. Dr Jacobs recommends a daily practice of slow breathing, 15 minutes per day, as a simple technique for reducing high blood pressure. (Personal e-mail communication).
For a quick alkalizing recipe, try this old standby. It’s great to counteract having eaten too many sweets!
Easy Miso Soup
1 ¼ cup water
½ sheet nori seaweed, ripped into small pieces
1 – 2 tablespoons barley miso
Place the water in a small saucepan, add the nori, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until all the nori is broken down.
Pour into a cup or bowl, stir in the miso one spoonful at a time, tasting as you go, until it’s good. Drink hot. Serves 1.
1. Cummings, S.R., A.V. Schwartz, and D.M. Black, Alendronate and atrial fibrillation. N Engl J Med, 2007. 356(18): p. 1895-6.