Understanding Your Acid-Alkaline Balance
March 12, 2010 by Dr. Michael Cutler
As newborn babies, we are full of alkaline reserves and our metabolism moves smoothly and cleanly. When we die, we rapidly turn to acid waste. Alkalinity is health, longevity, and quality of life. Acidity, in simple terms, and in the minds of natural health practitioners, means sickness and death. When I see a patient with chronic symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, emphysema, arteriosclerosis, or cancer, I know their tissues and metabolism are running acidic. Regardless of the particular symptoms, all of these conditions originate with an increase in the amount of acid in the body tissues, which translates into impaired cellular metabolism, enzyme function, and energy production within the cells.
Tissue acidity has a long list of harmful effects upon the body if not neutralized or eliminated. For example, the body’s ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients decreases significantly in acid conditions. Additionally, the enzymatic processes that control the repair mechanisms for damaged DNAand other critical structures become weakened. And the liver cannot detoxify heavy metals from the body when an acid pH predominates. Clearly, cancer cells proliferate wildly in acid conditions. Acid tissue pH causes fatigue that leads to depression and stress.
What is pH?
The pH or “potential of Hydrogen” is a measure of the relative acidity or alkalinity of a solution. Because it usually takes a full hour lecture to explain pH in detail, I will first give the technical overview of pH and then follow with a simple explanation of it. The pH of a solution is expressed as a “negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration in a solution.” In other words, in a solution with a pH of 7.0 (such as pure distilled water) there are 10 billion hydrogen ions per cubic decimeter. More simply put, the term pH is a symbol for the amount of acidity or alkalinity of a solution. A pH of 7.0 is a perfectly neutral pH; from 0 to 7.0 indicates acidity; and from 7.0 to 14.0 indicates alkalinity. Another way to think of it is that fluids become more acidic the farther below 7.0 they become (like stomach acid at approximately the pH of 2.0) and more alkaline the farther above 7.0 they become. And just for clarity, here are some pH values for various items before they enter the body:
orange juice is 3.0
tomato juice is 4.0
milk is 6.8
neutral is 7.0
baking soda is 9.0
milk of magnesia is 10.7
household bleach is 12.5
There have literally been volumes written about the pH of the body. The physiologic pH is the acidalkaline level of any given area of the body that allows for optimal function. For example, the blood of a healthy human is at physiologic pH (optimum) which is 7.36 to 7.40. Yet the urine has its physiologic pH ranging between 6.0 and 6.4 when it is dumping acid and at 6.8 to 7.0 when the body is happily alkaline and there is little acid to dump. Saliva is another measurable fluid “compartment” of the body that reflects the lymphatic system and ranges from 6.4 to 7.2 optimally, depending on what else is going on in the body (illness, stress, dehydration, etc.).
The human body is constantly struggling to maintain a healthy alkaline pH level. Why? Since the natural metabolic byproduct of cellular energy production and utilization of nutrients within the cells is generally acid as will be explained, there must be sufficient buffering (neutralizing) effects to keep from moving toward more and more acid.
The Typical American Diet
Many people are not successful and live every day in an acid state. When our digestive system metabolizes foods, acids are produced. The body has natural ways of eliminating excess acid including the lungs, kidneys, intestinal tract, and skin. These systems can become overworked if you consume too many acid-producing foods. If this excess acid is not counteracted by consuming the right amounts of alkaline foods, the excess acid becomes overwhelming for your body to handle naturally and you may begin to experience headaches, illness, colds, allergies, viruses, and diseases. All this dysfunction in the body is the sign that the body is trying to balance the sensitive pH level inside itself.
How Do You Know if You’re Acidic?
You can get a useful trend of your acid-alkaline balance by using pH test strips or litmus paper which you can purchase at most pharmacies. In clinical practice, patients use litmus paper to periodically test their own saliva or urine. Over time, their pH values tend to be more alkaline (toward optimum) as they overcome disease and institute alkaline lifestyle habits.
Does it really correlate with health and is it really useful? This question is often asked by the patient or doctor unfamiliar with the concept of tissue acidity. In fact, you will find that this concept has no meaning to a physician trained only in conventional medicine. But for those skilled in natural therapy and who address the underlying cause of disease, body pH is definitely important.
If you’re like most people who regularly eat animal meats, fried foods, processed foods, refined sugars, pasteurized dairy products, or other acid-producing foods, then most likely you’re acidic. The list below of alkaline-forming and acid-forming foods is revealing— especially if you realize your foods are mostly from the acid forming category.
Breads and cakes
Canned fruits and veggies
Cooked grains (except
millet and quinoa)
Foods cooked with oils
Fruits, especially glazed
Legumes and lentils
Meat: Fish, foul, shellfish
Nuts, seeds, beans
|Pasta (refined grains)
Soy beans, fresh
Soy products (refined soy, not
miso, tempeh, tofu, edamame)
Sugar, white and processed
Sweeteners, artificial (Splenda,
Tea, black and green
Vitamin C (synthetic in pills)
Also remember that stress,
anger, discontent, and any
other negative emotions
contribute to acid-formation
in body tissues.
Testing Your pH
If you choose to test saliva, wait two hours after eating. Spit into a spoon and dip a pH test strip in your saliva. Read the results immediately by matching the color of the pH strip to the color chart for the correct indication of your pH level. An optimal reading is 7.2 which reflects that you have effectively alkalinized your tissues.
When testing urine use any void other than the first one in the morning. Fill a small cup with urine and dip the pH strip in the urine. Read the results immediately by matching the color of the pH strip to the color chart for the correct indication of your pH level. A reading of 6.4 to 6.8 is a favorable reading; more acidic (in the 5.5 to 6.4 range) usually means you are dumping excessive acids but that your kidneys are working hard to do so. Above 7.0 for urine could either mean that you are well alkalinized or that you have stirred some ammonia to help fight an infection of some sort. Urine pH fluctuates more with your diet and daily activities.
If your test results are acidic, then consider what you could do for yourself by increasing your intake of alkaline foods while reducing the acid foods you eat. You may also wish to supplement with alkalinized buffering minerals, such as Ultimate pH Balance™. Ultimate pH Balance™ is a tasteless supplement that you can add to your water (4 drops per 8 oz. of water) to increase the alkalinity of your drinking water which is carried throughout the body.
You really are not the same person that you were last year. The body replaces the lining of the stomach about every five days, the skin in about a month, the liver about every six weeks, and the red blood cells circulate for about 120 days before being replaced by new cells. The new body that you are building today is affected predominately by the foods you eat. And if you eat predominately acidic forming foods, the long-term acidic environment at the cellular level that is created will have a real and damaging effect. If cells cannot function properly, your body cannot function properly. On the other hand, a healthy alkaline diet creates an environment that is conducive to cellular health.
Alkaline Foods and How to Get Started
When discussing foods, you must understand that there is a huge difference between “acidic foods” and “acid-forming foods.” A good example is citrus fruits, which are truly acidic foods because they contain citric acid—until they enter the body. So just because lemons are acidic, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them! In fact, a few drops of lemon juice in your water can be a “pHenomenal” alkaline booster.
How does it work? During the process of digestion, foods change their chemistry. Energy is derived from foods by oxidation similar to the burning of fuel in a stove. And as in a stove, there is always an ash or residue. The residue that occurs in the human body as a result of the burning of foods is termed as “ash” and has a definite chemical reaction. Some foods leave an “acid ash” and are therefore known as “acid-forming foods.”
Other foods leave an “alkaline ash” and are therefore known as “alkaline-forming foods.” To clarify this point, please remember that the acid and alkaline reaction described above occurs AFTER digestion and assimilation, and these terms do not indicate the chemistry of the foods BEFORE digestion. Therefore, do not assume that all acid foods are acid forming, and vice versa.
After reading the extensive food list earlier you might ask, “So what is a person to do—to eat only alkaline-forming foods, and eliminate all the acid forming foods altogether?” No, you can eat tomatoes and acid-forming fruits and vegetables as long as you balance them with other foods. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods to get your body in a healthy balance.
It turns out that our goal is to find an “alkaline balance,” which can be accomplished by eating predominately alkaline foods along with minimal acidic foods. This, of course, takes some serious consideration of how to prepare foods, how to shop, how to combine foods to achieve this alkaline balance, and how to keep from getting “alkaline burnout.” This term alkaline burnout refers to the enthusiastic beginner who starts eating vegetarian only to become disillusioned when former food cravings come back with a vengeance.
|All fresh and raw
Apple cider vinegar
Beets and greens
Fresh, raw juice
Plums and prunes
organic olive and
flax seed oils
|Remember that feelings of appreciation, happiness, and peace are alkaline-forming for the body.
*When doing an internal cleanse, these foods will significantly slow the cleanse process.
Also note: All foods become acidic when sugar is added.
The 80/20 Rule
As mentioned, most chronic diseases and many aches and pains are associated with acidosis. A good rule to follow is the 80/20 rule, where you eat 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acid-forming foods. The easier way is to read over the list but don’t memorize or follow it in detail. Because what do you notice about the list? Can you see some patterns?
The Simple Pattern to Follow
Notice that in the acidic foods list you find nearly all meats, processed foods, refined flours, pasteurized dairy, extracted oils, cooked grains, chemicalized beverages, vegetables, and fruits that have been altered in some way (except a few), sweets, and drugs. Also note that whenever we cook, boil, process, freeze, or otherwise alter foods they become acid-forming in the body. The main exceptions to foods on the acid forming list not being a “whole food” are certain nuts, seeds, and starchy vegetables. This is why when you look over the alkaline foods list you will recognize foods that are high in fiber, enzymes, micronutrients, minerals, vitamins, and otherwise “live foods.”
Now it becomes easier to remember to eat 80% or more from the “live foods” list (alkaline-forming foods) and less than 20% from the dead (acid-forming foods).
Fast Foods and the Acid/Alkaline Balance
Of course, it’s best to avoid fast food altogether, but sometimes it is not possible. We get busy and end up on the run, trying to find some health options at the drive through. Well, if you balance some acid-forming foods with alkaline-forming foods and remember to balance all those later during the day with whole, natural foods, then it won’t be that bad.
You can even look for options such as a grilled chicken salad instead of the fried chicken sandwich, or just grab a vegetarian wrap instead of a burger. Most fast food chains these days offer smaller portions and healthier sides such as salads or fruit cups. Just watch out for added sugar and fats in the dressings.
For example, if you eat acids foods like:
Then balance it with alkaline foods like:
And instead of the sugar-loaded soft drink or sweet tea, ask for water with lemon, which will turn into an alkaline booster once in your system!