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Acid-alkaline balance & pH.

One of the key features of body terrain is acid-alkaline balance. Although blood pH lies within a narrow, slightly alkaline pH of 7.35-7.45, pH differs in various parts of the body. (A pH of 7.0 is neutral. A pH above 7.0 is alkaline; below is acidic.) Chemical reactions and enzyme activity occur more readily at a specific pH. In addition, David L. McMillin at the Edgar Cayce research organization, Meridian Institute, cites several studies that show some viruses, including those that cause colds and flu, need a slightly acidic intracellular environment to infect cells. Researchers have also shown that many antibiotics and therapeutic substances are more effective in an alkaline environment. As an example, McMillin refers to berberine sulfate, an antibacterial alkaloid in goldenseal. "At a pH of 8 (alkaline)," he explains, "its antimicrobial activity in vitro is about two to four times greater than at 7.0 (neutral). At an acid pH of 6.0, the antimicrobial activity is only one-fourth as strong as at a neutral pH." In addition to affecting the body's ability to fight infection, the correct pH promotes toxin elimination.

The body works hard to maintain the crucial alkaline pH in the bloodstream. Several organs help regulate acid-alkaline balance. Lungs remove carbon dioxide (an acidifier) from the blood. Kidneys release extra hydrogen atoms into the urine and retain extra sodium when the blood becomes too acidic. When the blood is too alkaline, the kidneys retain hydrogen and excrete sodium. If the blood becomes "extremely acidic," the kidneys excrete hydrogen in the form of ammonium ions (alkaline), according to Virginia Worthington, ScD. Buffers within the blood itself also help regulate pH.

Balancing blood pH is an ongoing process. Stress, environmental pollution, too little or too much exercise, dehydration, infection, smoking, and alcohol make the terrain more acidic. Digestion and the foods we eat also affect acid-alkaline balance. "Normally, after eating, there are transient changes in blood pH, known as the acid and alkaline tides, that correspond to the stomach and pancreatic secretions," Virginia Worthington explains. "Usually the pH of the blood quickly returns to normal. However, if digestive secretions are out of balance, then the whole body can be affected."

Many natural health practitioners encourage people to follow a diet that includes 80% alkaline-forming foods (primarily fruits and vegetables) and 20% acid-forming foods (meats, sugar, caffeine, beans, dairy, and grains) in order to keep body terrain on the alkaline side. Weston Price, DDS, who studied traditional diets of people around the world during the 1920s and 1930s, questioned that advice. He found that people who followed their traditional diets had fewer cavities, better skeletal formation, and better health. These diets were higher in acid ash food than in alkaline ash foods. Dr. Price was more interested in mineral content of both alkaline- and acid-forming foods. "It is my belief that much harm has been done through the misconception that acidity and alkalinity were something apart from minerals and other elements," he said in 1934.

Natural medicine encourages the measurement of urine and saliva pH as a way to assess acid-alkaline balance. A diet that is high in alkaline-forming foods tends to raise urine pH (make it more alkaline). However, Gabriel Cousins, author of Conscious Eating, reportedly said "that about 30% of the people [he] counseled nutritionally responded the exact opposite way. In other words, the fruits and vegetables made them more acidic," according to an article posted at Differences in digestion, metabolism, and genetics may account for such variations.

Urine pH can vary from 4.5-8.0. Most information that I found recommended measuring urine pH at set times throughout the day, beginning with a pre-breakfast (fasting) measurement. Interpreting the results can be tricky since I found conflicting information. Enzymedica, whose information is similar to many other sites on urine pH, says: "The optimal urine pH is between 6 and 7 on the pH scale. If your average [for a day] is below six, you are too acidic. If your average is above seven you are too alkaline." In contrast, Donald Feeney, DC says that a urine pH of 5.5-5.8 indicates that the body has enough alkalizing minerals to handle dietary acids. A pH of 6.8-8.0 (alkaline) is actually a sign that the body is saturated with dietary acid. (Remember the kidneys excrete ammonium ions when the body is extremely acidic.) Dr. Feeney says, "The more protein in the kidney fluid, the more ammonia is produced, and the higher the pH goes." His article is posted at the American Chiropractic Association Council on Nutrition's website.

Views about salivary pH also differ. The Enzymedica article says, "Most authors agree that the pH of saliva is an indicator of alkaline reserve and the condition of the pH of the cells.... The healthy pH of saliva tested first thing in the morning or on an empty stomach is between 6.2 and 7.2." Dr. Feeney says that saliva pH can show whether emotional factors rather than diet is affecting acid-alkaline balance. A consistent saliva pH of 6.2-7.0, first thing in the morning, would indicate that "the patient's emotions are not overwhelming their physiology." A saliva pH of 7.2 to 8.0 (alkaline), however, indicates that the alkaline reserve is nearing depletion: "This person's body is moving toward total exhaustion," Dr. Feeney writes. "You must take caution not to make too many changes in their diet or lifestyle too quickly." Reducing stress, exercising moderately, and eating in a relaxed setting along with dietary changes should help rebalance the system.

I wish researching practitioners with differing views would get together to determine a clear interpretation for urine and saliva pH measurements among different ethnic and metabolic types. At-home pH monitoring would be a simple, non-invasive, inexpensive way for people to monitor acid-alkaline balance if everyone could agree on the meaning of the results.

Feeney D. Saliva & urine pH evaluation. Available at: Accessed October 11, 2007.

The importance of proper pH. Available at: Accessed October 1, 2007.

McMillin DL. Diet and urinary pH: A preliminary study and brief discussion of relevance to infectious disease. Available at: Accessed October 10, 2007.

Minich DM, Bland JS. Acid-alkaline balance: Role in chronic disease and detoxification. Alternative Therapies. Jul/Aug 2007; 13(4):62-65.

Price WA. Acid-base balance of diets which produce immunity to dental caries among the South Sea islanders and other primitive races. Available at: Accessed Oct. 10, 2007.

Tomoda A. Variation of urinary pH and bicarbonate concentrations of students in metropolitan and rural areas of Japan. Archives of Environmental Health. Nov-Dec 1995. Available at: Accessed October 10, 2007.

Worthington V. Acid-alkaline balance and your health. Available at: Accessed October 10, 2007.
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Title Annotation:Shorts
Author:Klotter, Jule
Publication:Townsend Letter
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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