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The Acid/Alkaline Balance

The "acid/alkaline diet" is not so much a diet, but rather it is based on the principle of understanding that the body is naturally (slightly) alkaline, and that providing the body with an abundance of alkalizing foods is most optimal for our health.  The acid/alkaline balance refers to a diet that promotes a healthy balance between acid-forming and alkaline-forming elements in the diet.

"Today's diet and lifestyle choices puts the body in a continual state of low-grade acidosis.  The body neutralizes this excess acid by using its own alkaline minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, and potassium."

 

Several factors affect the acidity and alkalinity of the body:

  1. The foods we eat will are either acid or alkaline forming.  ...Read more
  2. The normal metabolic processes of the body, which result in the continual creation of acid.
  3. The level of stress our body is experiencing.
  4. Pollutants (chemicals in the environment, food, and personal care items).
  5. The natural aging process.

Regardless of these factors, the body always works to maintain a precisely controlled pH balance.  This is because your life and the functioning of your organs depend on this balance.  If you eat a primarily acidic diet, the body must balance out this excess acidity by neutralizing it.  

Our bodies come well-equipped to do this:

  1. Buffer Systems
    The buffer systems of the body protect against sudden shifts in acidity and alkalinity by releasing the body's own supply of alkaline minerals (such as calcium) to neutralize the excess acids.

  2. Lungs
    Our metabolism creates carbon dioxide which is mildly acidic.  Carbon dioxide is excreted into the blood, where it is carried to the lungs to be exhaled. The more carbon dioxide in the blood, the more acidic it becomes.  By adjusting the speed and depth of breathing, the brain and lungs help regulate the blood pH on a continual basis.  The more deeply we breathe, the more we alkalize our blood.

  3. Kidneys
    The kidneys neutralize excess acids by combining them with bicarbonate and other alkalis before eliminating them with urine.  The kidneys make these adjustments more slowly than the lungs.

  4. Skin
    The skin eliminates acids via sweat. 

If these systems did not exist, strong acids would build up in body tissue, quickly leading to serious harm, and even death.  Learn more about acidosis and alkalosis.  

Understanding pH

The pH scale was invented in by Danish chemist Soren Peder Lauritz Sorensen.  A pH scale is a measure of how acidic or alkaline (also called "base") a substance is.  The pH scale is actually measuring the activity of hydrogen ions in a standard quantity of liquid, which is why the letters "pH" stands for hydrogen power:  p(ouvoir) h(ydrogene).  The more hydrogen ions, the more acidic the liquid is, the less hydrogen ions, the more alkaline it is.

pH scaleThe pH scale is measured from 0 to 15, with 7 being in the middle, or the "neutral" point on the scale.  Any substance with a pH lower than 7 is considered acidic, and any pH higher than 7 is considered alkaline.  Each mark on the pH scale indicates a ten-fold difference in the hydrogen ion concentration, and even a small change can have a dramatic effect on biological activity.  

The pH of the Human Body 

The pH ranges of different parts of our bodies vary.  For example: 

The pH of bodily fluids such as saliva and urine can show how alkaline our bodies are.  But overall, the human body works best in a slightly alkaline state, indicated by a pH of slightly above 7.0.

Knowing that arterial blood has a pH of 7.4, a person is considered to have acidosis when the pH falls below this number, and alkalosis when it rises above it.(1)  Maintaining an acid/alkaline balance within the body is critical not only for our cells and tissues, but also for human life.  Human life will not survive beyond a few hours if the pH of the blood falls below 6.8 or extends above 8.  The medical book, "The Merck Manual" states:  A blood reading as little as 7.35 could cause metabolic acidosis, with symptoms of deep breathing, nausea, vomiting, and one could go into shock."

If the Body Can Maintain A Balance, What's the Big Deal?

Even though the body can neutralize and eliminate excess acid, it has its own limits.  Today's diet and lifestyle choices can cause the body to become overwhelmed and be in a continual state of low-grade acidosis.  The body resolves this continual crisis by neutralizing this excess acid, but unfortunately, it does this by releasing it's own alkaline minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, and potassium.   Some of these minerals are continually circulating in the bloodstream, but the majority are found in our teeth and bones.  Over time, not only do the alkaline minerals become depleted in our bodies, but the kidneys inability to eliminate all the excess acid can contribute to chronic kidney problems.

How we become overly acidic...

 


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