(BeWellBuzz) It’s pretty common to hear people talking about “pH” balance in reference to anything from safeguarding against disease to healthy hair and even deodorant. Chemically, “pH” is the measurement of activity of hydrogen ions; whereas “p[H]” measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in a substance. The two are closely related and often used interchangeably.
The term alkaline means several things:
- Able to neutralize an acid
- Having a pH of greater than 7
- Having a lower concentration of hydrogen ions
The pH value of any substance is determined using a “negative” algorithm; so, the higher the concentration of hydrogen ions in the substance, the higher the acidity, and the lower is the pH value. The lesser the concentration of hydrogen ions in a substance, the lower is the acidity, higher the alkalinity, and the higher the pH. The scale ranges from 0-14, with 7 at neutral, the range from 0-7 being acidic, and 7-14 being alkaline.
All life forms require a certain pH value in order to maintain life. The sea has an optimal alkaline pH level of 7.8-8.5. Most healthy soils require a more acidic pH value of about 6.5-6.8. Your kitty cat should show a urine pH of about 6.0-6.5. So what about humans?
Healthy pH for the Human Body
In order for the human body to perform optimally, the blood needs to be slightly more alkaline than acidic. But note that different parts of your body require different pH levels. Whereas the pH value in your stomach is best set at 1.35-3.5, needing to be highly acidic to perform digestion; and whereas the healthiest measurement for hair/scalp sebum is also acidic, between 4.5-5.5; scientists and healthcare professionals agree that the blood pH balance to be desired is 7.35-7.45, slightly more alkaline than acidic.
So how is all of this determined?
Our bodies are designed to maintain this pH in the blood, and diet is not integral to this balancing function. However, an overly acidic diet does affect other systems, organs and functions in the body, as any excess of acid or alkaline compounds will be excreted through fluids, and this can disrupt health. Furthermore, the culprit behind unhealthy levels of acidity, also termed metabolic acidosis, is often unhealthy eating. It’s usually not that I’m consuming too many vegetables or too much yogurt; but not enough whole foods, and far too many processed or junk foods.
IMPORTANT: Overconsumption of foods that are processed, high in refined ingredients such as sugar and flour, and overloaded with unnatural, chemically processed, nutrient deficient salt are probably the main culprits behind widespread metabolic acidosis among the population.
For instance, when a person consumes small amounts of whole plant foods such as whole grains and vegetables, and fills up instead on processed meats and unhealthy snack foods, the body becomes overloaded with acids and works hard to get rid of them. Research has shown that the excess gets released into the urine, altering urine chemistry, and in many cases dramatically increasing the risk for kidney stones.
Acid forming foods do need to be consumed in appropriate amounts. They’re not evil or dangerous and don’t, themselves, make you sick. Wholesome choice and proper balance are the keys to a healthy diet, and the initial tenets of the alkaline diet.
Science vs. Popular Opinion
An official evaluation was conducted in 2012 to measure the lay literature against scientific data concerning the benefits of an alkaline diet. The evaluation expresses that the alkaline diet is a generally healthy one and, therefore, is generally a good idea. The diet is high in fresh vegetables, and eliminates foods that are processed, high in refined sugars and overloaded with salt. The report concludes, “alkaline diets may result in a number of health benefits as outlined below.”
- Increased fruits and vegetables in an alkaline diet would improve the K/Na ratio and may benefit bone health, reduce muscle wasting, as well as mitigate other chronic diseases such as hypertension and strokes.
- The resultant increase in growth hormone with an alkaline diet may improve many outcomes from cardiovascular health to memory and cognition.
- An increase in intracellular magnesium, which is required for the function of many enzyme systems, is another added benefit of the alkaline diet. Available magnesium, which is required to activate vitamin D, would result in numerous added benefits in the vitamin D apocrine/exocrine systems.
- Alkalinity may result in added benefit for some chemotherapeutic agents that require a higher pH.
Another aspect of the alkaline diet involves strictures of food combining. In general, the diet warns against combinations within the same meal, such as proteins with starches or sugars, certain proteins with proteins, or combining fruits with any other food group, just to name a few. More research is needed to verify or contest whether strict food combining rules need to be followed in order to maintain health. Many health practitioners and laypersons attest to the positive results on their health and, admittedly confess that the rules don’t have to be followed religiously, but followed as a general guide. As you measure your own pH levels and note the changes in your health, your body will tell you the best foods and food combinations for you.
 The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health? Gerry K. Schwalfenberg
Copyright © 2012 Gerry K. Schwalfenberg. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/ accessed 3/26/13