In the past couple of years, patients have come to me with questions and concerns about their blood pH. Despite the new trend of “alkalizing your blood,” basic physiology states that what you eat or drink has little to no effect on your blood pH. However, what you take in to your body does have a measurable effect on your overall health.
Certain foods are acid-forming, while others are more alkaline. Understanding the difference can both keep you away from unnecessary fads and prevent the development of serious health problems like kidney stones, osteoporosis, and even cancer.
The Sudden Trend of “Alkalizing Your Blood”
A few years ago, a new trend hit the natural health market in the form of alkaline water. The theory behind alkaline water is that if you consume enough of it, your blood pH will become alkaline and every disease you ever had will simply disappear. Though curing disease through natural means is certainly an option, over-alkalizing your system will not do it. As a matter of fact, if your body becomes too alkaline, it can lead to serious health problems, which I’ll discuss later in this article.
If You’re Up and Walking Around, Your Blood pH is Stable
Despite popular claims, you cannot change your blood pH through dietary changes. The pH of your blood is carefully regulated by a complicated system of buffers, which work continuously to maintain a healthy range of 7.35 to 7.45. This range makes your blood only slightly more alkaline than pure water.
So, if you’re up and walking around, going about your daily business, your blood pH is stable. You would know if it wasn’t.
Here’s what really happens when your blood pH becomes imbalanced:
When your blood becomes too alkaline and your pH rises above 7.50, you develop a condition called alkalosis. Alkalosis causes neurological hypersensitivity, which cause symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, muscle spasms, and uncontrollable convulsions. These convulsions can become so severe, they lead to death.
If your blood pH levels fall below 7.35, you develop a condition called acidosis. Metabolic acidosis can cause symptoms such as heart palpitations, dizziness, decreased heart rate, nausea, vomiting, seizures, coma, and even death if your pH falls below 7.00.
What Really Affects Your Acid/Alkaline Balance
There are two main forces at work that can cause a disruption of the pH of your bodily fluids. When you consume certain foods and liquids, the end result of digestion and nutrient assimilation will result in an acid or alkaline-forming process. Also, regular anabolic and catabolic activity affects this process.
The reason there is so much interest in food and alkalizing the blood is that the vast majority of highly-processed foods have an acid-forming affect on body systems (not blood), which can contribute to the development of major disease. When you hear about or read health information on the Internet about alkalizing your blood, it means you should eat a balance between acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods to protect your health.
A lifetime consumption of acid-forming foods causes a draw on your calcium reserves and increases the amount of this essential mineral that is lost through urination. This is a primary, yet often unrecognized, cause of painful kidney stones. The buffering systems that keep your pH levels balanced have to work overtime in order to neutralize the harmful effect the acid-forming diet is having on your system.
If we eat and drink the wrong things, our body systems will take quite a beating to keep our blood pH between 7.35 and 7.45.
Health Risks of Eating a Highly Acid-Forming Diet
If you look at recent studies on the relationship between an acid-forming diet and osteoporosis, you’re liable to get some conflicting information. While a high-protein diet has shown to be beneficial to calcium utilization and bone health, the health benefits lie in what type of protein you consume.
Processed meats containing nitrates and fillers are highly-acidic and may increase your risk for the development of osteoporosis by causing calcium-waste in urine excretion. On the other hand, organic, grass-fed meat and poultry, eaten in moderation, can be of great benefit to your health.
Other health risks of an acid-forming diet include metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, organ failure, obesity, neurological disease, and cancer.
Consume More Alkaline-Forming Foods for Optimum Health
In order to maintain optimum health and prevent the above-mentioned health problems, it is important to understand the difference between acid-forming foods and alkaline-forming foods.
- Acid-Forming Foods
Acid-forming foods include alcohol, soft drinks, coffee, refined sugar and flour, all artificial sweeteners, white flour (bread and pasta), barley, refined salt, cheese, flesh meats, cold breakfast cereal, most beans, white vinegar, and seafood.
- Alkaline-Forming Foods
Fruits, vegetables, vegetable juices, seaweed, herbs, nuts, lima beans, adzuki beans, and green beans are examples of alkaline-forming foods.
This doesn’t mean you need to avoid all acid-forming foods, but rather find a healthy balance between them.
My Take on Alkaline Water
For the past few years, websites have been popping up all over the Internet selling “miracle alkaline water.” Multi Level Marketers claim this water contains powerful antioxidants that eradicate free radicals and cure everything from warts to cancer.
When a person who ordinarily consumes coffee, tea, fruit juice, and soda as their primary source of liquid suddenly switches to alkaline water, they may, indeed, feel better. This, however, is not so much attributed to the alkaline water, but the fact they are just better hydrated! All of a sudden, instead of artificial drinks, the thirsty body is getting the water it so desperately needs to feel healthy.
The only time I would recommend the use of alkaline water is for the short term purposes of detoxification. Alkaline water should not be consumed for any longer than 1 or 2 weeks. Die-hard alkaline water drinkers may have felt so amazing in the first few weeks or months of consuming the water, they mistakenly believe any symptoms they experience are a result of a “healing crisis.”
While the healing crisis is a very real experience felt during detoxification, if it continues and worsens, it is likely a symptom that your body has become too alkaline.
Over-consumption of alkaline water raises the alkalinity of your stomach, which interferes with the acid content in your stomach required to digest food.
This alkalinity can result in the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria, yeast, fungus, and parasites. In addition, an alkaline stomach can result in the inability to properly break down and absorb nutrients from food, leading to chronic nutritional deficiencies.
Though you cannot alkalize your blood pH, trading in your highly-processed foods for a balanced diet of organic acid and alkaline-forming foods will help you achieve your best health. If you’re going to try alkaline water, do not consume it for long. It can help with detoxification, but may be detrimental to your health in the long-term.