The term Acid-Base Balance is relatively new to health conscious people, but it is intimately and critically related to good health. It is a basic key to health. One cannot think of a diet without considering how it will affect the acid-base balance in the body.
In many ways, life is possible because we are able to counterbalance the acidic waste created and excreted by our own metabolic process. Humans need a continual supply of alkaline food to neutralize the acidic environment. Our life and health are linked to our body's physiological abilities to maintain the pH of blood at 7.4, through a process called Homeostasis.
The term pH means the potential of Hydrogen. It represents the amount of Hydrogen ions in a solution. When there are many hydrogen ions, the solution is acidic and if the solution has small amount of hydrogen ions, it is alkaline. pH is measured on a scale from 0.00 to 14.00. Anything above 7.0 is considered alkaline and below 7.0, is acidic. Pure water has a neutral pH of 7.0.
The normal pH for all the tissues and fluids of our body, except the stomach, is above 7.0, alkaline. The digestive secretions from the liver and liver bile, for example, range between 7.1 and 8.5. Bile from the gallbladder ranges from 5.0 to 7.7. If these pH systems are not functioning at optimal level, the health and well being of the individual will be affected. All the pH ranges in our system contribute to maintain a balance of pH in the blood that must be kept between the narrow range of 7.35 and 7.45.
The narrow range of blood pH causes our body to give high priority to maintaining the homeostasis of the blood pH at 7.4. This is accomplished by exchanging acid or alkaline forming elements from other tissues and fluids. With the exception of the stomach, where the pH ranges from 3.0 to 5.0, tissues and fluids have their optimal enzymatic pH in the alkaline range. If the blood becomes more acidic, organs will shift to more acidic range by exporting alkaline elements to the blood thus maintaining the blood pH at 7.4. This action in turn, causes an imbalance in the proper functioning of the digestive system. This shows us that a balanced blood pH is extremely important and it is intimately related to good digestion.
The next priority of this homeostasis system is to maintain a good digestion so that nutrients can be assimilated and transported to different organs and fluids maintaining the proper acid-base balance of the blood and the entire body. Proper digestion supplies electrolytes and nutrients to the surrounding extra-cellular fluids. If there are electrolyte imbalances ( e.g. Sodium, Potassium, magnesium, Calcium ions), the fluid transport system will be affected and nutrients and wastes are not carried in and out of the body respectively. Electrolytes and other nutrients are important for cellular oxidation and metabolic functions, critical for the life of the cell. The extra-cellular fluid absorbs waste and acids from the cells and serve as transport media for elimination of waste.
Seventy per cent of our total body weight is fluid, about the same percentage of land to water as the planet earth. The fluid within the cells of our body : 55% of the body weight. The ECF is approximately 15% of the body weight, 5% of the ECF is blood and 10% is the fluid in the tissues that bathes the cells.
The concentration of minerals, nutrients and oxygen in the extra-cellular fluid must be balanced and throughout the day should not vary by more than a few percentage points to function properly, otherwise cells begin to die. Health is directly related to maintaining correct acid-base homeostasis in the blood and in the extra cellular fluid.
Skin, large intestine, kidneys and liver are organs that, aside from other functions, aid in excreting wastes and toxins from the system and they are the primary method in which the body eliminates excess acid or alkaline elements to maintain the blood pH and to keep the pH of the body system within its normal ranges. Urine is a good indicator of the bodyC"b,b"s electrolyte and acid-base buffering mechanisms. If acidity increases in the system, the kidney will eliminate acid through the urine to maintain the systemC"b,b"s alkalinity. The urine pH in this case will be acidic. The urine pH may vary throughout the day and from day to day. Its range is from 4.8 to 8.4 and it can be a good monitor to maintain a perfect health. Great variation in the urine pH may signify a disease process.
ACID-BASE BALANCE AND DIET
Regardless of our diet, our body system can compensate for acid-base imbalances, but there are limitations and a threshold where we will overload the system and consequently breakdown or slowdown the entire process. Hence, with this sub-optimal environment, the cells in our body can not efficiently sustain life. Diseases are a reflection of this inefficiency. Therefore, what we ingest plays a very important role in our health by maintaining a sustainable internal environment within our body system.
There are many other causes for acid-base imbalances, but diet is the most important factor. If our diet consists of many acid-forming foods, such as beans, high amounts of flesh foods, pasteurized milk, white sugar, lots of fats, we will become acidic, dependent on our propensity to become acidic. If we ingest too much alkaline-forming food, like fruits, vegetables, sea vegetables and miso, we will become more alkaline, according to our propensity to become alkaline.
According to Dr. Cousens studies, it is not the food per se that determines the acid or alkaline environment in our body but how we respond to the food. In his studies he found that 28,5% of vegetarians were acidic and 17% of flesh-food eaters were alkaline. Overall, 46% of flesh-food eaters were acidic and 28.5% of the vegetarian were alkaline and a greater percentage of vegetarian had a balanced pH between 6.3 and 6.9.