There is a lot of confusion about pH, how to test pH levels in the body, and what raising your pH actually means. This article will help clarify these commonly misunderstood topics.
What is pH?
pH is a measure of how acidic a solution is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. pH values below 7 are acidic and pH values above 7 are alkaline (basic).
Acids are created in the body as the metabolic waste by-products of many life processes. In addition, certain foods we eat can also contribute acids to the system. These acids must be buffered (neutralized), otherwise they can build up and lead to a condition called acidosis.
The body has 3 major buffering systems in place to prevent these dietary and metabolic acids from shifting the pH homeostasis of important systems outside of the narrow range needed for optimum function. The kidneys are your body’s most important buffer (acid neutralizer). The kidneys are able to remove and flush out excess acids from the body through the urine.
How Can I Raise My pH?
You can’t just “raise” your pH. That’s a bit of a misconception. Why? The reason is that your body is made up of multiple systems, each one operating within its own specific pH range. For example, the pH of the blood must be maintained in the 7.35 to 7.45 range in order for the cells in the body to function properly. A pH balancing act is continuously going on to maintain this narrow threshold, a process known as acid-base homeostasis.
One thing is for certain – you cannot raise the pH of your entire body to one specific pH value because there is no one single pH level for the entire body.
What you really are trying to do is to “alkalize”. The goal of alkalizing is to remove excess dietary acids and increase the body’s alkaline reserves, which are used to neutralize excess metabolic acids. Excess acids can build up in the body, putting a strain on overworked systems, and leading to a range of side-effects.
So How Do I Alkalize?
The only true way to alkalize is through the diet, by eating alkaline-forming foods. But why are some foods like lemons, which are very obviously acidic, actually good for alkalizing? This often leads to even more confusion.
This is because the actual pH of a food itself, before digestion, has no bearing on the acid-forming or alkaline-forming properties of that same food after digestion. All foods contain both acid-forming minerals and alkaline-forming minerals. After the food has been metabolized (digested), the acidity or alkalinity it contributes to the body will depend on which remaining minerals are most dominant. Alkaline-forming foods are foods that contain the minerals the body uses to buffer (neutralize) excess acid wastes.
Will Alkaline Water Change My pH?
It is a common myth that drinking alkaline water is the best way to alkalize. This is another misconception. Everything that enters your stomach is mixed with extremely acidic hydrochloric acid gastric juices, which helps to begin the process of digestion. After passing through your stomach, your pancreas releases alkalizing bicarbonate to neutralize the stomach acid. No matter what you eat, your body is constantly working to adjust for optimal pH. You cannot drink something alkaline enough to shift this balancing process without causing harm.
The reason your body uses a strong acid to aid in digestion is to destroy bacteria, fungi and other pathogens found in the foods you eat. If you alter the acidity of the stomach, you encourage infection further along in your system. Also, your stomach secretes protein-digesting enzymes that work best in an acidic environment. Poorly-digested proteins can lead to inflammatory responses and allergic reactions. Many digestive problems can actually be relieved by increasing the acid levels in the stomach with supplements such as apple cider vinegar.
So drinking alkaline water probably won’t do you any serious harm, unless you are immune compromised, but it also won’t be helping you in the way that you expect.
How Can I Change my pH with Diet?
Studies have shown that the amount of excess acid excreted by the kidneys can be reliably determined from the composition of the foods in the diet. Based on just four nutrients – protein, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium – the metabolic acid load for any food can be determined. What this means is that we can reliably measure the amount of alkaline-forming minerals a certain food contributes to the body.
By far, vegetables are the foods that contribute the most alkalinity to the body. For best results, eat a ratio of 70/30 or 80/20 alkaline foods to acidic foods in the diet. Just because a food is acid-forming after digestion doesn’t mean it is unhealthy. It is all about balance.
Why Do People Want to Raise pH Levels?
There can be many reasons that people want to alkalize and test their pH to measure the results, but two of the main reason are cancer and weight loss.
Alkalizing for Cancer
An alkaline diet is sometimes called a cancer diet. All cancer cells have certain key characteristics in common. What are those characteristics? Unlike healthy cells which have a very efficient aerobic (with oxygen) metabolism, cancer cells use anaerobic (without oxygen) metabolism. Anaerobic metabolism relies on the fermentation of glucose (sugar) for fuel, which is a very inefficient process that not only creates an energy drain on the body, but also creates an excess of acidic lactic acid as a waste product. Low oxygen = anaerobic metabolism = glucose fermentation = acidic waste = low pH. An alkaline diet addresses all of these common cancer characteristics.
Furthermore, a famous study was written by Dr. A. Keith Brewer that linked increasing alkalinity within cancer cells with cancer cell death. He called this High pH Therapy. The concept behind Dr. Brewer’s research is fascinating, but there has been a lot of misinformation about pH that has come from the interpretation of that study. The main misconception is that you can raise the pH of your entire body to 8.0 or higher to kill cancer. This is not only impossible, but deadly. Your body must maintain the pH balance of many different systems, each with its own pH requirements. There is no one single pH level for the whole body. What he was actually trying to say was that he discovered that cancer could not survive within an individual cell whose internal pH had raised above this threshold. But there is no way to test the internal pH of an individual cell.
Alkalizing to Lose Weight
Can you lose weight on an alkaline diet? Yes all without counting calories or carbs! Alkaline foods make your body burn fat. In addition, by avoiding food categories typically high in sugar, fat, and calories, weight loss comes naturally.
How Do I Test My pH Levels?
Using pH paper test strips is helpful when following an alkaline diet. Keep in mind that saliva and urine pH values do not give you the pH of your whole body. These values are merely used as diagnostic tools to help you understand how your body is reacting to your diet.
How to Test Saliva pH Levels
Test your saliva’s pH value at least one hour before you eat and 10 minutes after you eat. You will be comparing these two values. When the body is healthy, the pH value taken after you eat will be much higher (more alkaline) than it was before you eat. The exact number isn’t important – you are looking for values to trend upward after eating.
Tear off about 1/2″ of the pH test paper. Work up saliva in your mouth and build it up on your tongue. Make sure you do not have any food particles remaining in your mouth before doing the test. Touch the paper to the saliva on your tongue, then compare the color produced on the pH paper strip to the chart that comes with the paper. A pH value of 7 is neutral. The lower the number, the more acidic. The higher the number, the more alkaline. To get an average, do this test at every meal for two to three days in a row.
The pH number should go up considerably after you eat. If the pH value stays the same after you eat, then you have a slight pH imbalance in your body. In people dealing with some ailments, including cancer, the pH value taken after they eat will drop (acidity is increasing). This is an indication that something abnormal is going on in the body or that something you just ate or drank is highly acidic or acid-forming, such as coffee, soda, sugary foods, or alcohol.
It may take some time to see results. When your pH values start going up after every meal, the pH before you eat will also start going up.
How to Test Urine pH Levels
Urine pH is not a very accurate indicator as urine is a waste product, and tends to be acidic, especially when following an alkaline diet or using the high pH therapy protocol. But if you want to test your urine pH, do it first thing in the morning, when you haven’t eaten or drunk anything for at least for eight hours. Empty your bladder only halfway, then take a reading with the paper. You will be using about 2-3″ of pH test paper for this test. Compare the strip against the chart on the pH paper package.
pH for Health
While the phrase “raising your pH” might be a bit of a misconception, increasing your intake of alkaline-forming foods and reducing acid-forming foods in your diet can go a long way towards improving your health. Testing your saliva pH will give you a good indication of how your body is processing the foods that you eat. Give it a try today!
This information is not medical advice and is certainly not intended to replace the advice or attention of your personal physician or other healthcare professional. Therefore, consult your doctor or healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or starting a supplement program.
We here at Essense of Life focus on educating our customers about the value of diet and nutrition so that they are better able to take the responsibility for their health into their own hands. Our Essential Health blog and store sites provide a wide range of informative articles and research related to a variety of natural health topics that we are sure you will find very valuable in your own health quest.