Fatigue, frequent cold, muscle pain, mood swings, hormonal issues. Sound familiar? Do you constantly feel run down by some, or maybe all these symptoms?
If you feel your body is not performing at its best, there could be something wrong with your body’s pH balance, something that most conventional doctors would ignore and not even consider taking into account. But the fact is, your body maintains a very delicate pH balance (acid-alkaline balance), which is important throughout all your cells, enzymes and the bacteria. Your body needs the correct pH balance to work properly. And any inconsistency herein can affect your health in a number of ways that you may not be familiar with.
What is pH?
A pH value is the amount of acidity or alkalinity of a fluid. It is measured on a scale of 0 to 14, where solutions with pH levels below 7 are considered acidic, while those with pH levels above 7 are alkaline. For example, the hydrochloric acid released by the stomach lining has a pH value of 1 (strongly acidic).
To put it a bit more scientifically, pH value is determined by the amount of hydrogen ions in a solution. Fluids, or solutions, with high a concentration of hydrogen ions are considered to have low pH or high acidity. Similarly, fluids that have a low concentration of hydrogen ions have high pH or high alkalinity.
Different pH levels for different body parts
Your pH levels are not the same throughout the body. The reason is very simple. Not all cells, enzymes and tissues work at the same pH. They have different functions and they need a specific pH range to perform these functions. Let’s take a quick look at a few examples.
Your skin maintains a pH level of about 5.5. This borders on a slightly acidic side, which helps the skin to fight germs in the environment. Saliva, on the other hand, has a pH of around 6.5 to 7.4. This slightly neutral pH is important for the salivary enzymes to function properly.
The digestive tract shows the most interesting and varying pH readings – ranging from 1.5 to 7.0. In the stomach, you need slightly acidic conditions for the proper functioning of digestive enzyme such as pepsin that is required for digesting proteins. Pepsin breaks down proteins into smaller peptides and need a low pH to operate. Things change when the food moves from stomach into the small intestine where pH levels increase. Again, this is because the enzymes that work in small intestines need an alkaline environment to be active and properly function.
The body works hard to keep blood pH levels in a tight range – 7.34 to 7.45, which is on the alkaline side. Even a slight deviation here could spell serious trouble for your health.
How does your body maintain pH balance?
Your body is an incredible machine that knows how to create a balance or restore lost balance if something goes wrong. And when it comes to regulating pH balance, the body employs a number of mechanisms to do that.
For example, to preserve a perfect acid-alkaline balance, your body makes use of its mineral reserve. Minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium are alkaline and provide an excellent buffer against increasing acidity that your body faces. Eating a mineral rich diet would normally take care of the acid-alkaline balance with ease. But this would be an ideal situation. In the real world, our diet is lacking in these minerals and also other nutrients that you need to maintain your health and energy levels.
The respiratory and renal systems also help regulate pH levels. For example, when you exhale, you release carbon di-oxide from lungs, which is slightly acidic.
Accumulation of CO2 in the blood increases your blood pH, resulting in respiratory acidosis. Lung disorders, asthma, chest injuries and obesity can cause this kind of acidosis. Faster and deeper breathing can help get rid of excess carbon di-oxide and regulate pH of the blood. Similarly, kidneys have the ability to either eliminate or retain excess acids depending on the requirement. The kidneys will dump excess acids through urine while retaining bicarbonate to offset toxic overload. When your kidneys are not able to get rid of toxins or acids, this can result in metabolic acidosis.
There is another pH regulating mechanism. Your body has naturally occurring acids and bases – called chemical buffer systems – that protect against any abrupt change in pH. One of the most important buffer systems is the bicarbonate buffer system.
So … minerals, lungs, kidneys and various buffer systems work in tandem to maintain a healthy pH balance in body fluids and tissues – preventing acidosis and disease.
What happens when there is an imbalance?
The role of pH in our health is a very complex subject. Experts in this field say that you need to maintain a slightly alkaline state at about 7.0 to 7.4. Why?
Enzymes need a perfect pH range to be active and stable and do their job, which is to facilitate and speed up countless biochemical reactions taking place within the cells. These chemical reactions are the reason why you are alive. These life-sustaining processes include energy production, elimination of toxins and metabolic waste, digestion and absorption of nutrients, synthesis of proteins and hormones and burning fat. Even a slight pH imbalance can adversely affect the way enzymes and cells function, dramatically impairing all these functions.
In addition, acidosis results in poor oxygenation at the cellular level. This means less oxygen is delivered to the cells. This in turn creates an anaerobic environment, conducive to the growth of candida, bacteria, viruses and even cancer cells. Studies show that cancer cells grow and thrive in an acidic environment.
Let’s look at the ways pH disturbance can affect various body systems, leading to real health problems.
What happens when your body gets in to an acidic state?
Your body needs access to its “mineral pool” to counter the build-up of acids. And it knows what it must do if there are not enough minerals available in the blood stream. It is simply compelled to pull these minerals from the sites where they are primarily stashed away such as your bones, teeth, muscles and other tissues. This may a life-sustaining action, but it does eventually take a toll on your overall health, wreaking havoc on your immunity, hormones, weight, skin, energy levels and bone health.
Poor bone health: One of the earliest signs of an acidic body is joint pain and poor bone health. Again, as we just mentioned it is because your body extracts minerals from bones to offset the acid overload. Ongoing depletion of minerals – such as calcium and magnesium – weakens your bones and cause osteoporosis. Unfortunately, chronic loss of minerals and acid accumulation in tissues can also cause osteoarthritis.
Nutritional deficiencies: Acidosis impairs the body’s ability to absorb nutrition from food. It also results in a lack of minerals in the body – resulting in painful muscle cramps, poor immunity, dry skin, brittle nails and dry, thinning hair.
Poor immunity: pH in the acidic range can even affect how your immune system works. It appears that an acidic environment lowers the production of white blood cells. It also reduces the activity and movement of white blood cells – ruining their ability to destroy pathogens and making it easy for viruses and bacteria to take over. In fact, studies show that cancer cells, viruses and bacteria all tend to grow in acidic, low-oxygenated environments. On the other hand, an alkaline state is resistant to disease and infection.
Weight gain: Typically, your body knows how to regulate pH levels. It eliminates acids and toxins through skin, lungs, intestines and kidneys. But what happens when you have more acid-build up than you can get rid of? Your body produces fat storage cells to store all this excess acid. Maintaining healthy pH level, therefore, could be an important component of the overall strategy to lose weight and also keep it off.
Impaired ability to detoxify: First, pH imbalance can cause deficiency in minerals. And minerals play a huge role in getting rid of toxins and heavy metals, which if not properly eliminated from the system can accumulate in tissues – causing infections, cold, asthma, bronchitis, kidneys stones, poor energy levels, weakened immunity and many more problems. Simply put, an ‘out of order’ pH balance can impact the way your cells remove toxins and other cellular waste and creates more acidity and inflammation – pushing the body towards a diseased state.
Hormonal issues: Out of range blood pH is especially detrimental to your hormonal health – affecting the levels of thyroid, adrenal and estrogen hormones. For example, disturbances in acid-balance triggers the body to increase levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that is associated with diabetes, heart disease and depression. Low pH or high acidic state also interferes with the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into active thyroid hormone (T3); and impairs the ability of your cells to absorb T3 hormone, leading to thyroid dysfunction. This effect may be due to nutritional deficiency created by acidosis. You need minerals and vitamins like zinc, selenium, magnesium and B vitamins for optimum thyroid health. This is another reason why you face a flurry of health issues when your acid-alkaline balance goes haywire. Hormonal imbalance leads to weight gain, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, depression, mood swings and low energy … to name just a few symptoms.
Inflammation: Acidosis stresses out your body on many levels. It increases the production of free radicals and creates an inflammatory environment – damaging your cells and tissues and causing premature ageing. A 2013 study reported that “low pH may thus contribute to inflammation in acidosis-associated pathologies, such as atherosclerosis and post-ischemic inflammatory responses”. 
Insulin resistance and heart disease risk: High acidity combined with mineral deficiency can lead to atherosclerosis – the hardening or thickening of arteries caused by accumulation of plaque within the arteries. This study reported that even a small degree of metabolic acidosis makes muscle cells resistant to the action of insulin (insulin helps cells to absorb and use glucose) and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney stones.  And a 2018 study found that increased acidity caused by poor diet impairs insulin sensitivity, increasing the risk of diabetes. 
Energy drain: With pH levels going crazy, cellular functions take a huge hit overall. This includes metabolism – leading to less energy production. In addition, nutritional deficiencies make the matter even worse. Minerals like magnesium play an important role in energy production in the body. Poor mineral status leads to poor energy levels at the cellular level. Energy deprivation affects the health of your nervous system too – impacting you mentally and emotionally.
In a nutshell, out of whack pH causes a lot of issues. It causes nutritional deficiencies, poor oxygenation at cellular level, inability to detoxify and hormonal issues. As a result, cells don’t perform at their optimum best, leading to inflammation and disease. In fact, studies show that diet induced acidosis (increased acidity caused by acidic diet) have the potential to alter cellular activities that increase the risk of cancer.
Here are some signs and symptoms that indicate acidosis in the body.
- Failing energy and constant fatigue
- Frequent colds and allergies
- Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections
- Mucous production
- Joint pain, muscle cramps
- Skin rashes
- Acid reflux, indigestion
- Water retention
- Bad breath
- Brittle nails
- Bumps on the tongue
- Difficulty breathing
Unhealthy diet, stress and lack of exercise are some important factors that promote acidosis. There are other conditions too that can disrupt this delicate pH balance and cause your body to work very hard.
- Impaired kidney function
- Negative emotions like anger and stress
- Overuse of antibiotics and drugs
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Long-term exposure to toxins and chemicals
- Consumption of refined and processed foods
- Alcohol misuse
- Excessive use of sugar and animal fats
- Chronic and critical illnesses
Abnormal pH can impact your health in many ways – leading to osteoporosis, gastritis, inflammation and recurrent infections. A body with a healthy pH value performs at its peak and it is able to absorb nutrients, detoxify waste material and create an environment that is not conducive to the growth of bacteria and viruses.
- Rajamäki et al. Extracellular acidosis is a novel danger signal alerting innate immunity via the NLRP3 inflammasome. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2013.
- Adeva et al. “Diet-Induced Metabolic Acidosis.” Clinical Nutrition. 2011.
- Gæde J et al. Population-based studies of relationships between dietary acidity load, insulin resistance and incident diabetes in Danes. Nutr J. 2018