Our body is designed with many checks and balances in order to stay balanced and functioning optimally. Thankfully, it has a powerful system to balance the acids and bases that we ingest or create from physical activity because there is very little wiggle room for the body’s ideal pH to fluctuate. The normal pH for a human being is about 7.4, and if it goes lower than 7 or higher than 7.7, you would be in severe distress.
When food enters our stomach it is doused with stomach acid composed primarily of hydrochloric acid (HCl), which has a pH of 1.3-3.5. So, no matter what pH your food may have been before it was ingested it surely will become acidic once it enters your stomach. As the broken down food enters the small intestines it is buffered with bicarbonate to become more alkaline, and allow our body to finish the digestion process. The pH of our food after it is broken down is most important, which is why foods like apple cider vinegar is beneficial (see below).
Let us back track just a little bit. What do you think regulates your body’s pH? If you guessed the stomach you are partially correct! However, our lungs and kidneys are the two big hitters.
For the purpose of keeping this post from being too long I will not go into depth of how our lungs regulate pH. Just know that when you breathe oxygen and carbon dioxide are being exchanged from our blood stream through our lungs and into the air, and the other way around. This process allows the body to increase or decrease acid molecules in the blood. The frequency of our breathing is dependent on oxygen need and acid-base balance. The more you breathe the more oxygen is inhaled (for example, during physical activity for muscle function), and your body decreases the pH (become more acidic) of its blood. The reverse is true for increasing the pH of blood.
Our kidneys regulate blood pH primarily through the excretion of hydrogen ions, which is a fancy way of saying excreting acid. Our kidneys, like our stomach and intestines, have buffers like phosphors and bicarbonate to keep our blood close to that sweet alkaline spot of 7.4. Your urine’s pH can be altered quickly by what we eat or drink, but this does not reflect the core pH of our entire body.
So then, you ask: “What’s all the hubbub about using pH strips?” Great question! pH strips can be a great way to monitor your body’s acid base balance over time. If over the course of a few weeks your body is constantly showing high excrement of acid, then you can try to alter your diet to incorporate more alkaline foods. Remember, your body will get rid of excess acid based off of immediate changes such as after eating, which will appear in your pH urine stick fairly quickly. So, it is best to evaluate this process over several days to weeks. This will give you a better idea if your overall diet is balanced rather than specifically what the last thing you ate the night before is doing to your body and making large diet changes based off of that.
This is also important to know because, as mentioned before, our lungs also balance acid and bases in our blood, not just our kidneys. Also, other processes in our body create excess acid as metabolic waste such as… you guessed it: exercise! So your pH strip can give you information off of things other than your diet.
Take home notes/review for acid-base balance in our bodies:
- Eat in a way that optimizes pH balance by not over consuming meat, dairy, sweets, caffeine, alcohol, artificial and processed foods, and consuming more fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, and seeds.
- In general, animal products and grains are acid forming, while fruits and vegetables are alkali forming. Pure fats, sugars, and starches are neutral, because they don’t contain protein, sulfur, or minerals (1). So, again, find the balance.
- Alkaline foods are beneficial to us because they help to eliminate from our diets harmful foods such as sugars, processed foods, or too much red meat. These foods when consumed in excess can cause inflammation, which is the real problem causer (1).
Apple cider vinegar: Judd’s Fav!
This information is taken from Braggs.com, which is a great brand of apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar also possesses a number of characteristic acids, vitamins, mineral salts and amino acids. Among these active ingredients are soluble fiber in the form of pectin, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, beta-carotene and lycopene. This elixir also contains minerals such as sodium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium (try saying all of those components in one breath!).
This amazing liquid has several other functions such as an astringent, detoxification, acne, dandruff, etc.
Pectin, which is a type of insoluble fiber as mentioned above is particularly important because high-fiber foods increase feelings of satisfaction and fullness.
Please note! Raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains all of these benefits! The clear non-cloudy types you may find in major supermarkets have been distilled and may be ok to use around the house, but not for health benefits!
Finally, what is ash? After foods are metabolized or broken down, the ash is their left over products, and the pH of that food is based off of its ash. For apple cider vinegar, which is acidic before being metabolized, its ash is basic which is why it is great for maintaining an alkaline diet!
By: Vanessa Nordin, DC, CSV Health/Lifestyle Coach