When we think of health and fitness, pH balance is definitely not the first thought that comes to mind. However, you may be surprised to know that proper pH balance is crucial to overall health.

Body’s acidity affects everything including hormone production, bone health, and muscle mass. But what is pH balance and how do you know that your pH is off? Read on to find out.

What is pH balance?

The term pH is an abbreviation of ‘the potential of hydrogen’ and refers to the hydrogen ion concentration of a solution (1). It is a measure of how acidic or alkaline a substance is.

A typical pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, while 7 is considered to be neutral. A pH that is less than 7 is considered to be acidic and a pH more than 7 is alkaline.

The pH of our blood should be slightly alkaline – around 7.3 to 7.45 on the pH scale. Our stomach has a pH of about 2 which is necessary to break down the food properly. The pH levels of saliva and urine of a healthy person are around 6.4 to 6.8.

What causes pH imbalance?

Our lungs and kidneys play an important role in maintaining the body’s pH balance. Our lungs perform the vital job of expelling carbon dioxide from the body. This helps reduce acidity.

The amount of carbon dioxide you exhale depends on how deeply you inhale and exhale. The brain monitors this to maintain proper pH balance in the body.

The kidneys also maintain pH balance by excreting acids and bases into the blood. If either of these two critical organs malfunction, it can lead to a pH imbalance.

Disorders caused by pH imbalance

An imbalance in the blood pH can lead to acidosis and alkalosis. When the blood becomes too acidic (pH less than 7.35) it is known as acidosis. Alkalosis happens when the blood becomes too basic (pH higher than 7.45).

There are different kinds of acidosis and alkalosis depending on the underlying cause. Let us learn more about them.

Types of acidosis

Respiratory acidosis

Respiratory acidosis occurs when our lungs are not able to remove enough carbon dioxide from the body. Asthma, emphysema, pneumonia are some of the conditions that lead to respiratory acidosis.

Taking narcotics and sleep medications can also lead to acidosis. Headaches, extreme sleepiness, fatigue, and confusion are some of the symptoms of respiratory acidosis.

Metabolic acidosis

Metabolic acidosis refers to the build-up of acid in the kidneys. There are five types of metabolic acidosis.

  1. Diabetic ketoacidosis: When diabetes goes out of control, and the blood sugar rises to more than 240 mg/dL, the liver starts producing dangerously high levels of ketones in the body. This condition is known as diabetic ketoacidosis.
  2. Lactic acidosis: Alcohol abuse, cancer, heart failure, liver failure, seizures, prolonged lack of oxygen and low blood sugar can lead to a lactic acid build-up in the body. This is known as lactic acidosis.
  3. Hyperchloremic acidosis: Vomiting and diarrhea can cause a loss of sodium bicarbonate in the body and can lead to a temporary state of acidosis known as hyperchloremic acidosis.
  4. Renal Tubular Acidosis: When the kidneys cannot excrete acids it can lead to renal tubular acidosis.
  5. Dietary acidosis: This type of acidosis occurs when undue stress is put on the body when we eat highly acidic food.

Types of alkalosis

Respiratory alkalosis

Respiratory alkalosis happens when there is too little carbon dioxide in the blood. Aspirin overdose, high fever, anxiety, and pain can lead to alkalosis. Respiratory alkalosis can cause twitching, muscle cramping, and tingling in fingers and toes.

Metabolic alkalosis

When the bicarbonate levels in the body get too high, and the body loses too much acid, it can lead to metabolic alkalosis. An overactive adrenal gland, overuse of diuretics and long periods of vomiting can cause metabolic alkalosis. Kidney damage can also lead to metabolic alkalosis.

Hypochloremic alkalosis

This type of alkalosis happens when there is a significant decline in chloride in the body. Chloride helps maintain a balance in the bodily fluids and is an essential part of the bodily fluids.

Hypokalemic alkalosis

When the body has a low level of potassium, it can cause hypokalemic alkalosis. Potassium is essential for the proper functioning of the kidneys, heart, muscles, nervous system and the digestive system.

Symptoms of alkalosis

  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Prolonged muscle spasms
  • Hand tremors
  • Muscle twitching
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Confusion
  • Stupor
  • Coma

Symptoms of acidosis

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Brain fog
  • Frequent coughs and colds
  • Dry skin
  • Acne
  • Sluggish digestion
  • Joint pain
  • Sensitive gums and teeth
  • Shortness of breath

How is pH imbalance diagnosed?

If you observe any of the symptoms mentioned above and suspect that you have pH imbalance, you must seek medical attention.  Many blood and urine tests can be used to determine the cause of you pH imbalance.

  • Your physician may first prescribe a urine pH level test to determine the measure of alkalinity or acidity of the urine.
  • Urinalysis is done to check for proper elimination of acids and bases.
  • Arterial blood gas checks oxygen and carbon dioxide levels and blood pH.
  • Basic metabolic panel checks the kidney function and nutrient levels.

Test your pH level

Testing your own pH level is easy. You can purchase pH strips at your local pharmacy. You can use your saliva or urine on the strip, though the second urination of the morning gives the best results.

Now compare the color of the strip with the pH scale chart that comes with the strip.

Treatment for pH imbalance

The treatment for pH imbalance depends on whether you are experiencing acidosis or alkalosis.

Treatment for alkalosis

  • Medications that help dilate airways.
  • Using devices like continuous positive airway pressure to facilitate breathing.
  • Sodium citrate for treating kidney failure.
  • Insulin and IV fluids for treating ketoacidosis.
  • Oral or intravenous sodium bicarbonate to raise blood pH.

Treatment for acidosis

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Slower breathing
  • Medication to restore the levels of sodium or potassium
  • Electrolyte drinks

Natural ways to maintain healthy pH

Maintaining a healthy pH balance is of the utmost importance to stay healthy. It involves making certain lifestyle and dietary changes.

1. Reduce acidic food consumption

Too much acidic food can strain the body’s normal function over time. The foods that you must reduce from your diet include processed meats, high-sodium foods, cereal grains, fried foods, meat, and dairy products, peanuts, refined grains, caffeine, and alcohol.

Some other foods like meat, eggs, lentil, legumes, oats, brown rice whole-grain bread and walnuts are healthy but can still contribute to acidity. You should eat them in moderation.

2. Have an alkaline diet

The alkaline diet corrects the pH balance of the body by introducing alkaline foods and removing acidic foods from the daily diet. Here are the foods that are included in an alkaline diet:

Green leafy vegetables – Spinach, kale, wheat grass, beet greens are alkaline. Opt for organic veggies as they are grown in mineral-dense soil that is alkalizing.

Non-starchy vegetables – Broccoli, radish, cucumber, tomatoes, celery, zucchini, asparagus

Superfoods – Spirulina, maca roots, chlorophyll, and sea veggies.

Fruits – Many fruits have an alkalizing effect on the body. Even citrus fruits, dates and raisins have an alkalizing effect.

Starchy vegetables – Sweet potatoes, and turnips.

Plant proteins – Navy beans, lima beans, and almonds.

Green drinks – Drinks made from green vegetables and chlorophyll-rich powdered grasses are highly alkalizing.

An alkaline diet is mostly vegetarian, and it is also gluten-free. It also helps in weight loss.

3. Drink alkaline water

Distilled water is neutral and has the pH level of 7. When the pH level of water is less than 6.5, it is considered acidic. This means it may leach metal ions like iron, copper, led, etc. from the plumbing.

The best way to improve this water is to use a neutralizer. Adding pH drops or baking soda to the water also boosts its alkalinity.

4. Reduce exposure to toxins

Different drugs, toxins, and pollutants can disturb the pH balance of the body and contribute to acidosis. Avoid consuming alcohol, caffeine, aspirin, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

If you rely on these medications regularly, you must address the underlying health conditions. Opt for natural methods to heal these problems and reduce your need for these drugs.

5. Destress

Stress can affect your pH levels as much as your diet. When you are stressed, it can take a significant toll on your body. Yoga is excellent for keeping the mind and body healthy.

You must practice yoga and meditation to de-stress.

Final thoughts

The pH of our body is essential for our health, yet we never give it much thought. The pH of our blood should be slightly alkaline – around 7.3 to 7.45 for it to be healthy.

When our body is too acidic, it takes mineral such as sodium, calcium, and potassium from the bones to neutralize the acid and this can put a strain on the body.

You can improve the pH balance of the body by reducing acidic food like processed meats, high-sodium foods, and fried foods and shift to an alkaline diet.

Alkaline food, reduced exposure to toxins and de-stressing activities like yoga and meditation can improve the pH balance of the body.

If our body is acidic, then it takes minerals, such as sodium, etc., from the bones to neutralize the acid which can put strain on our body.