Before delving into the adverse effects of changes of pH in our body it’s important to understand what pH is. pH is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration or how acidic or alkaline a substance is on a scale ranging from 1 to 14. In fact the different parts of our body have varied optimal pH, arterial blood has a pH of 7.4, intracellular fluid a pH of 7.0 and venous blood and interstitial fluid have a pH of 7.35. Even minute imbalance of acidity and alkalinity can damage tissues and organs, and can compromise the immune system by allowing unhealthy organisms and pathogens to flourish. In fact research has proven that unless the body’s pH level is slightly alkaline, the body cannot heal itself and that disease thrives in alkaline environments rather than acidic ones. Several factors like disease or diet can cause imbalance between acid and base resulting in either acidosis (low pH in body fluids) or alkalosis (a rise in pH).
Our body has several important systems in place to maintain optimum pH of the body fluids. The kidneys control the release of electrolytes of calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, alkaline minerals that help to compensate acidity. If the body is exposed to high levels of acidity and the diet doesn’t contain enough minerals to combat it, the body is forced to take these minerals from the bodies bones, cells, organs and tissues. This results in deficiency of these minerals in these cells inhibiting disposal of waste, vitamin absorption and complete oxygenation.
Along with disrupting the functioning of cells due to lack of minerals, several other body cells are negatively affected during acidosis. The reduction of the pH of blood below 7.35 disrupts the ability of lymphocytes to fight pathogens and also causes immune cells like macrophages, to release inflammatory cytokines, leading to inflammation, thereby resulting in poor immune response. Additionally, drop in pH activates osteoclast cells that reabsorb calcium from bones. Unlike in normal bone remodelling where as osteoclasts reabsorb bone the osteoblast build new bone, acidosis inhibits the functioning of osteoblasts, leading to bone loss. A low pH also causes muscle loss and degradation, and causes hinderance to cardiac muscle cell contractions. Furthermore low pH inhibits entry of calcium into vascular smooth muscle cells and causes them to relax and vice versa with higher pH.
All these responses to acidosis will affect the body’s ability to absorb minerals, decrease the energy production in the cells, decrease its ability to repair damaged cells, decrease its ability to detoxify heavy metals, make tumor cells thrive, and make it more susceptible to fatigue and illness.
The red blood cells play an extremely important role in transferring oxygen to the body cells and to do so they must be able to flow easily and quickly even through the tinniest capillaries. Thus RBCs maintain a negative charge that causes them to repel each other, thereby avoiding clumping of RBCs and allowing smooth flow of blood. Acidosis wrecks this mechanism and inhibits smooth flow of the blood, thus the body cells receive lesser oxygen and nutrients leading to lower energy production. This leads to the destruction of more cells that in turn release more acid fuelling a destructive cycle.
Acute acidosis leads to lethargy and mental confusion caused by the brain cells being deprived of the required oxygen supply. Even the slightest change in pH in the spinal fluid and cerebral fluid reduces the affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen, thus hampering oxygen supply to brain cells. During alkalosis, blood vessels constrict, reducing the oxygen supply to brain cells resulting in confusion, seizures and loss of consciousness.
All these responses to pH imbalance will affect the body’s ability to absorb minerals, decrease the energy production in the cells, decrease its ability to repair damaged cells, decrease its ability to detoxify heavy metals, make tumor cells thrive, and make it more susceptible to fatigue and illness.
Before arriving at methods to achieve optimum pH it’s important to understand what causes this imbalance in the first place. The primary causes are acid forming diets, emotional stress, toxic overload, and/or immune reactions or any process that deprives the cells of oxygen and other nutrients. Thankfully we can easily eliminate stress by drinking more water, avoiding overeating and exercising well. Thus it’s safe to say that the best remedy is to follow an appropriate diet.
From eating on the go to fast foods, with modernisation, our diets have deteriorated. 70% of our meals are cooked and by cooking foods we are depleting alkalinising minerals, instead we must increase our intake of raw fruits and vegetables. Considering the fact that our main problem lies in the fact that we eat too less alkaline food rather than too much acidic food, we can regain the balance by increasing our consumption of fruits, mushrooms and vegetables (especially citrus, dates, raisins and spinach) that will create a natural buffer to acidity. At the same time it’s important to avoid processed food that contains high levels of NaCl which is responsible for creating acidity and constricting blood vessels.