It is said that we are born alkaline and die acidic. When you are born, your body has its highest alkaline mineral concentration and also its highest pH level. From birth onward however, the process of life causes you to gradually acidify, and this inevitable deterioration in the body’s pH level leads to a dangerous build-up in acidic wastes. (see What is pH?).
Should I be concerned about my pH level?
Since all liquids have a pH that determines their character, and the human body is about 60-70% water-based, the pH level of our internal liquids has a profound effect on how well our body operates. Extended pH imbalances (either too acidic or too alkaline) are not well tolerated by the body. In fact, the management of pH is so important that the body has strict procedures to monitor acid-alkaline balances in every cell. And all regulatory mechanisms, including breathing, circulation, digestion, and hormonal production, serve the purpose of balancing pH by removing caustic acid residues from the body’s tissues. If the cells deviate too far from their optimum pH range, they become poisoned by their own toxic waste and die.
How does a dangerous pH condition come about?
The human body contains about ten gallons of fluid, so the body’s cells are suspended in an ocean of fluid that is either alkaline, neutral, or acid. Although most cells live in an almost pH neutral environment, they all produce acid as a by-product of converting food into energy to perform normal functions. This weak acid produced is easily eliminated by the respiratory system (lungs and breath). It is the most natural source of acid in our bodies, and the easiest to eliminate.
However, the North American diet is largely acid-forming – refined flour and sugar products, meats, dairy, fried foods, sucrose, coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol are among the worst offenders – and is a major source of acid residues in the body. This residue, or “ash”, is left over after the body has extracted as many nutrients as it can from the food we eat. Acid ash builds up and produces a much stronger acid, which must then be eliminated by the kidneys. This acid is so strong that it would burn the urinary tract if it was eliminated “as is”. Consequently the body buffers it with alkaline minerals – calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. This converts the strong acid into a very weak acid that is excreted as urine.
However if a person’s alkaline mineral reserves are depleted, the body is forced to buffer the strong acid by “borrowing” minerals from whatever source it can find. This usually means that minerals are borrowed from bones and vital organs. Over time this weakens the organs, muscles, and bone structure.
Ultimately, the acidic wastes can build up beyond the elimination ability of the kidneys. The body is then forced to use another option to protect its pH integrity. This consists of directing the acids not towards the organs of elimination, which would discharge them, but into the tissues, which are able to withstand much greater fluctuations in pH than the blood or organs. For people with highly acidic diets and lifestyles, this process is constant, and forces acidic wastes deeper and deeper into the tissues over a period of time.
Some of the common health problems that result from this pattern of chronically high acidity include:
- Accelerated free radical damage
- Bladder and kidney problems
- Cardiovascular weakness
- Immune system weakness
- Lactic acid buildup in joints, resulting in joint pain
- Osteoporosis, resulting in brittle bones and hip fractures
- Low energy & weight gain
Stress, both physical and mental, also creates acid deposits in the body. Under tension, we burn more nutrients in less time, creating a lot of excess acid wastes that need to be disposed of. And unfortunately, stress can be a chronic condition that goes on for months, even years, contributing to an accelerated and constant formation of acid wastes in the body. In addition, although exercise is generally healthy, chronic over-exercise is a physical stress that produces an over-abundance of lactic acid.
Our bodies have an elegant system for getting rid of acidic waste products through the liver and kidneys, lungs and breath, and through a natural buffering system in the pancreas and blood. However, even a generally healthy lifestyle can generate a volume of waste products much greater than the body’s capacity to eliminate – and they start to accumulate. Poor diet, stress, mineral deficiencies and toxins make the acid build-up even greater, until problems associated with premature aging and chronic diseases begin to appear.
Who is susceptible to acidosis?
Just about everybody. It is possible that more than 90% of the population has an acidity problem. The process of acidification also explains why the so-called “adult-onset” diseases do not occur when you are young. They generally occur after the age of 40, when sufficient acid wastes have built up to cause disruption to the body’s normal processes. Significant health problems are the natural result. Acid wastes can be stored in the form of fat, cholesterol, gallstones, kidney stones, calcium deposits, arterial plaque, and others.
Whenever acidic deposits enter our blood-stream, the blood tries to maintain its narrow pH range (between 7.3 and 7.45) by storing these acids somewhere else. First, liquid acids are transformed into solid (fatty) acids – cholesterol and crystallized uric acid are examples of these solidified acids. As time goes on and these acidic deposits grow more voluminous, they are eventually stored around organs and tissues, which reduces the nutrient supply to these areas and ultimately results in cell damage.
What can all this lead to?
When the amount of acid entering the body exceeds the body’s ability to neutralize and eliminate it, acidification or “latent acidosis” begins. Latent acidosis is the first step on the road to many chronic diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and cancer. Here is how conditions of acidosis can affect you:
Lack of Energy
An acidic pH greatly affects the body’s metabolism by interfering with cellular communications and functions. Each cell has a “sodium-potassium pump” which regulates its energy reserves. In an acidic environment, less sodium is present, slowing down the intake and processing of nutrition within the cells. So the pump slows down, burning less fat for energy and making it difficult for the body to access its stored energy reserves – ultimately leaving us feeling lethargic.
Acidosis causes breakdowns that accelerate free radical damage within cell walls and the intracellular membrane structures, which then start to deteriorate. This is the first step in premature aging, leading to interference with eyesight and memory, along with wrinkling, age spots, dysfunctional hormonal systems, and a host of other age-related phenomena.
Acidosis also decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of hemoglobin in the blood. All biochemical functions in living tissues are severely compromised if oxygen supplies are decreased. An acidic pH decreases the amount of oxygen that is delivered to the tissues, with the result that normally healthy cells begin to shrivel, cease functioning, and die.
An overweight condition arises from the overeating of carbohydrates and fats. When their volume is greater than the body’s ability to burn them away, the blood must do something with the fatty acids so that its pH level is not dragged down. It first stores them under the skin, around the waist in men, around the hips, thighs, and breasts in women. Then it deposits wastes around organs and tissues, which chokes off the supply of nutrients and ultimately leads to cellular damage or death.
A habitually acid pH can cause immediate weight gain by triggering a condition known as “Insulin Sensitivity”, which causes an erratic and increased insulin production. When the body is flooded with insulin it diligently converts as many calories as possible into fat. These extra fats are then stored away from pH sensitive areas.
High Blood Pressure and Arteriosclerosis
Your blood is your body’s transport system. It carries nutrients and oxygen to the tissues, and carries waste products away from them. Acidification of the body starts in the blood. Researchers have found a high correlation between patients with high blood pressure and chronic acidosis.
Research has also shown that simply reducing the amount of cholesterol in the diet isn’t enough to reduce plaque formation. In an acidic environment there is a malfunction of the body’s sodium-potassium pump, resulting in a sodium/calcium buildup within the blood plasma. This excess is then available to bond with LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), forming plaque which lines the walls of the vascular network at an accelerated rate.
The cardiovascular system is designed to work normally with a blood plasma pH that is slightly alkaline, with a pH from 7.35 to 7.41. When blood plasma becomes chronically under-alkaline, with a pH constantly less than 7.35, it acts like a chemical irritant that slowly eats away at the inner walls of arteries, veins, and the heart itself. Like acid eating into marble, this acidity erodes the cell wall membranes of the heart, arteries and veins, weakening their structural composition and causing microscopic tearing of the heart tissue.
A sub-optimal pH in the blood is now thought to be a critical factor in the development of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), aneurysms (widening and ballooning of the artery walls), arrythmias (abnormal rhythms of the heart), heart attacks, and strokes. In addition, this structural weakening creates irregularities of blood pressure, further exacerbating these problems.
The activity of the body’s electrolytes is also compromised in an acidic environment, impairing the heart’s ability to pump efficiently and rhythmically, and increasing the possibility of a heart attack. Inhibition of electrolyte activity also affects the way we feel and behave, and is intimately tied to the energy levels we experience.
Cancerous cells thrive and grow in an acidic environment. If the blood becomes over-acid, the resulting acidic wastes are inevitably deposited around tissues and organs so that the blood can maintain an alkaline condition. If this unhealthy process continues year after year, areas around these deposits steadily increase in acidity, and their cells begin to die. However, other cells may adapt in this environment. In other words, instead of dying – as normal cells do in an acid environment – some cells survive by becoming abnormal cells. These abnormal cells do not respond to brain commands. They undergo a cellular division that is out of control. They grow indefinitely and without order. These are malignant cancer cells.
Almost 75 years ago Dr. Otto Warburg was awarded two Nobel prizes for his theory that cancer is caused by impaired cell respiration – a lack of oxygen at the cellular level. According to Dr. Warburg, damaged cell respiration leads to a process of fermentation that radically lowers cellular pH, destroying the ability of DNA and RNA to control cell division. He postulated that this hyper-acidity at the cellular level results in the formation of cancer cells, which begin to multiply unchecked.
In a healthy body, the pancreas produces insulin that manages the use of sugar and carbohydrates. With the adult disease diabetes, the output of insulin from the pancreas is too irregular for the body to carry out its management process properly.
Because a chronically acid environment can trigger erratic insulin production (Insulin Sensitivity), acidosis is thought to be an important precursor to Diabetes Mellitus. In fact, before the advent of synthetic insulin, diabetes was historically treated by buffering the system with alkaline powders. As the pressure to continually produce insulin increases, cellular communication degrades and the immune system begins to over-respond. Stress within the cells increases, making it difficult for them to perform adequately or even survive. In a very real sense, they simply burn out.
During the multi-year decline into an acidic environment, the body struggles to adjust. One way that the body compensates, and attempts to maintain optimum pH levels, is to extract the alkaline-forming mineral calcium from the bones and other parts of the body. This can lead to the pain associated with chronic back, leg, and joint problems, gum disease, and osteoporosis. The body’s skeletal structure is like a “calcium bank”. When the body become too acidic, it frequently makes compensating withdrawals of calcium from the bones, teeth, and joints in an attempt to normalize the pH.
Many different forms of arthritis and gout are the result of an accumulation of acid wastes in the joints. Ointments simply cover-up the symptoms. Aspirin and other pharmaceutical drugs, being acidic, offer temporary relief but can be detrimental over a longer period.
As the body consumes toxins, the kidneys become over-burdened with acid wastes. Nephritis, uremia poisoning, and bladder diseases are all acid related conditions. Kidney stones are a solid buildup of acidic salts.
Studies indicate that increased alkalinity can result in better immunity against contagious diseases. When the body is invaded by foreign bacteria or viruses, white blood cells declare war against the invaders. This war creates casualties on both sides. Those casualties are dead cells, which are acidic. A person with abundant alkaline minerals can dispose of these acidic wastes quickly and recover more rapidly. For example, a bout of the flu drains alkaline minerals, which is why physicians tell us to eat bananas to replace lost potassium.
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