pH balancing is a great way to get started when it comes to thinking about health in terms of balancing the body rather than fighting disease.
Which do you think would be a better breeding ground for mosquitos; a bubbling mountain brook or a pool of stagnant swamp water? We all recognize that stagnant water is a better breeding ground for mosquitos than a fast moving mountain stream. Similarly, we know that habitat or terrain is a factor in the growth of all living creatures.
The same thing holds true for our bodies. Our bodies have an internal environment which herbalists refer to as our biological terrain. Our biological terrain is based on the composition and quality of the fluids our cells live in and depend on, including blood, lymph, gastric juices, etc. When these fluids are in proper balance, our cells prosper. When they are out of balance, our cells not only fail to thrive, they create an environment conducive to the growth of unhealthy things such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, parasites or cancer cells.
Biological terrain is not a new concept, but it is one that is largely overlooked in our “germ” focused society. We tend to believe that avoiding or killing microorganisms is the only way to prevent disease. We fail to realize that before disease organisms can get a foothold, the body must provide an environment that is favorable to their growth. If the biological terrain is healthy, then disease “germs” cannot proliferate. This is a major factor in a body's resistance to any illness.
One of the most fundamental factors in the health of our biological terrain is pH, the acid/alkaline balance of our body's tissues and fluids. When one's pH is balanced, it works to maintain the health of the entire system. When pH becomes imbalanced, it contributes to the development of many types of disease, including infections of all kinds, cancer, bone and joint deterioration, nervous disorders, digestive disturbances, parasites and much, much more.
The term pH is short for “the potential of hydrogen.” Without getting overly technical, it refers to the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. The pH scale goes from 1—14 with 1 being purely acidic and 14 being purely alkaline. Water (H20) has a neutral pH of 7. Anything below 7 is acidic; anything above 7 is alkaline.
In our bodies, mildly acid compounds provide structural integrity and keep tissues firm and toned. Too much acid, however, causes our tissues to become overly rigid and dry. Excess acid in the body contributes to conditions like hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, arthritis, gout, muscle stiffness and pain, tension, anxiety, osteoporosis, kidney stones, insomnia and increased risk of cancer and infection. Excess acid is the most common pH imbalance people experience.
In contrast, a mildly alkaline state contributes to fluidity and relaxation in the body. To understand what excess alkalinity does we can look at symptoms of poisoning from highly alkaline plants. Ingestion of many alkaloid poisons results in nausea, vomiting, tissue breakdown (loss of structural tone) and hallucinations. So, generally speaking, excess alkalinity in the body contributes to excess laxity of tissues, lethargy and mental instability.
The key, of course, is to keep your body's pH in balance. Different organs or tissues require different pH values for optimal function. The skin has a slightly acidic coating which protects the body from infection and holds the skin together tightly.
The pH of the saliva should range between 6.0—7.0, as the enzymes in saliva only operate within that pH range.
Our urinary pH can fluctuate between 4.5—8.0.
The gastric juices in our stomach need to be between 1.0—3.5 to facilitate protein digestion.
Our blood has a pH of about 7.3—7.4.
How to Test Your pH
pH testing is done by using pH paper to check the level of acidity or alkalinity in urine and saliva. Since pH values vary throughout the day, best results are obtained by taking several readings per day over the course of a week and averaging the results. The best times to check your pH are first thing in the morning before breakfast, shortly before lunch or dinner, and right before bedtime.
MY URINE AND SALIVA pH RECORDS
TIME OF THE DAY
[WHAT I ATE]
(What I feel like )
These readings are taken by obtaining samples of urine and saliva (these can be collected in a paper cup or other container) and dipping a pH test strip into the sample. You then compare the color of the strip with a color key on the package. This tells you the pH value of the sample. If you prefer, you can hold the pH strip directly under the flow of urine. When checking your saliva, however, don't put the pH strip in your mouth—just spit on the strip. Be sure to do the saliva test prior to taking any food or drink and before brushing your teeth.
Record your pH readings on a piece of paper, and take several readings a day for about a week. Then average your findings. If your body's pH values are in balance, you should find that your saliva averages between 6.0—7.0 with 6.4—6.6 being the optimal average range.
The pH of your urine should fluctuate between about 5.0—7.5, with the optimal average range again being about 6.4—6.6.
If your body is not operating within these parameters, then you probably need to take action to balance your body's biochemistry. This article will help you learn how to do this.
Now that you've taken your pH values, you'll want to know what they mean. If your average pH values fall in the range of 6.0—7.0 for both urine and saliva, congratulations—you're doing pretty well in the pH category—especially if you're close to 6.5. If you aren't, then you probably need to do some things to bring better balance to your biological terrain.
Let's start with the saliva pH, because it is the most critical reading. Saliva is formed out of the lymphatic fluid that bathes every cell in the body. Hence, the pH of your saliva gives an idea of the pH of your internal “lymphatic ocean.”
If the pH of your saliva is consistently over acid
you are either creating too many acids in your body or not eliminating acids properly. Digestive and eliminative functions (particularly the kidneys and lymphatics) may need support.
Take digestive enzymes and use Kidney Drainage and Lymphatic Drainage.Mix one teaspoon of each of these formulas into a quart of water and sip throughout the day to enhance elimination of waste acids.
If the pH of your saliva is consistently over alkaline
This can indicate that you may also have a problem with acid reflux from the stomach. If you have acid indigestion and are taking antacids, stop. You are driving the pH of your tissues toward further acidity by neutralizing digestive secretions.
To control acid indigestion take bitter herbs before meals like Digestive Bitters, eat smaller meals and take digestive enzymes with meals.
If the pH of your saliva is acid and your urinary pH is more alkaline than your saliva
This indicates problems with your kidneys.
You need kidney tonics to help flush acid waste through your kidneys.
Herbs that help with this include nettles, cleavers, goldenrod and morinda (noni) root. The Chinese formula KB-C is really helpful in these cases.
If the pH of your saliva is very alkaline
This may indicate that your digestive functions (including enzyme production, pancreas secretions, and eliminative functions—especially the liver and lymphatics) require help. It may also indicate a high concentration of waste acid in the tissues, because the body is retaining alkaline buffers in the lymph to counteract this acid.
In this case, you will probably need to take Cellular Energy to increase the activity of your cells.
You may also need to use the Kidney Drainage and Lymphatic Drainage. Mix one teaspoon of each of these formulas into a quart of water and sip throughout the day to enhance elimination of waste acids.
Now, let's look at the kidney readings. Remember that it isn't a bad thing for your urine to have wide fluctuations in pH. The job of the kidneys is to eliminate from the blood any waste products or excess materials. Hence, when there is too much acid waste, the kidneys will dump acid; too much alkaline and they will dump alkaline wastes. What is important here is the average reading over a period of time.
If you are consistently dumping too much acid in your urine, then your body is having to deal with too many waste acids. This is even more critical if your urine and saliva readings are both consistently acidic.
If the pH of your saliva and urine are both consistently acidic
You can take steps to reduce the amount of waste acids in your body by improving digestive function, reducing stress, increasing oxygenation to the tissues, and consuming foods and supplements that contain alkalizing minerals.
Take Coral Calcium or Alfalfa.
If the pH of your saliva and urine are both consistently alkaline
If your readings are consistently alkaline, averaging 7.0—7.5 or higher, there are a couple of things that could be wrong.
1. First, you may have a urinary tract infection. If this is the case, then work on the infection.
2. If not, then the kidneys are no longer able to filter acid waste from the blood.
The body may be producing ammonia to buffer the acids.
This often occurs in the early stages of degenerative disease.
When this is the case, the kidneys need major nutritional support.
KB-C and the herbs indicated above to help flush waste acids from the system are very helpful.
Since most people in Western society tend to run overacid (except vegans, who tend to run overalkaline) let's focus on what causes excess acidity. There are four main causes of an over acid system. Here is a description of each of them and what can be done to correct them.
It takes oxygen to burn the nutrients we eat to create energy for our bodies. When the blood isn't carrying enough oxygen to the tissues, this contributes to the creation of more acid waste. Deep breathing therefore, can help to alkalize the body.
Supplements which increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood will also help. Liquid Chlorophyll is one of the best supplements for increasing the oxygen supply in the blood. It appears to work by decreasing agglutination (where the red blood cells clump together, decreasing their oxygen-carrying surface). Agglutination can also be decreased by following the principles of the books Live Right For Your Type and Eat Right For Your Type by Peter D'Adamo and by taking digestive enzymes when you eat, particularly protease enzymes.
The formula Chinese Lung Support from Nature's Sunshine Products is very helpful for nourishing the lungs and balancing pH. My consulting business partner, Kimberly Balas, who uses blood chemistry analysis in her practice, claims that the first layer of pH buffering in the body is regulated by the lungs and highly recommends this formula as a general tonic to help balance pH levels.
Deep breathing will also oxygenate and alkalize your system—very rapidly in fact.
2. Poor Digestion
With the high percentage of cooked and processed foods in our diet almost everyone needs to take plant enzyme supplements. I really like Nature's Sunshine Products Proactazyme and Protease Plus. I determine which enzyme supplement is best for a given individual through muscle response testing, but I find that most people benefit from just about any enzyme supplement.
Oddly enough, a lack of hydrochloric acid in the stomach also contributes to acid pH. So, Protein Digestive Aid (PDA) from Nature's Sunshine Products is another supplement that may help here. It supplies hydrochloric acid, which may be needed in addition to the plant enzyme supplements.
Hydrochloric acid production may also be stimulated with liquid bitter herbs taken orally about 15 minutes before meals.
A hiatal hernia will also interfere with hydrochloric acid and enzyme production in the stomach, which will also block deep breathing. This will create a “double whammy” that drives your system toward acidity. Since it is often related to the next item on our list, stress, it is probably a sign of a “triple whammy” that is throwing your biochemical balance out of whack.
We have two branches in our nervous system, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is associated with stress because it becomes very active under the influence of the adrenal glands when we are scared or upset. The sympathetic nervous system drives an acid reaction in the body that increases both tension and activity.
In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system drives a more alkaline nervous system reaction, which relaxes us. Hence, one's pH can be overacid from stress alone.
Deep breathing and relaxation exercises can help to reduce stress, but who has time for that? (That's the point, of course. We need to make time for relaxation or we'll never find it). We can also take supplements that help reduce stress. Adaptogens are particularly useful at reducing stress responses in the body. My favorite adaptogens are Eleuthero root (formerly known as Siberian ginseng), Chinese Mineral Chi Tonic, and Nervous Fatigue Formula from Nature's Sunshine.
Nervine herbs can also be helpful for reducing stress. Here I have two favorite products—Nutri-Calm from Nature's Sunshine, I also like Kava Kava as a single herb for this purpose.
4. Diet and Nutrition
Many people get confused about what foods are acid-forming and what foods are alkaline-forming in the body. First, let's make it clear that the pH of the food itself does not determine whether a food will make the body more acid or more alkaline. For example, lemons are very acidic, but they have an alkalizing effect on the body. Meat, on the other hand, is very alkaline, but it has an acidifying effect on the body.
There is some subjectivity in the acid and alkaline lists because of the differences in the way individuals are able to metabolize nutrients. Remember that any food you can't digest or metabolize very well, or that causes your body stress, is going to contribute to acid overload. Determining whether a food is going to be acid-forming or alkaline-forming for the majority of people is based on two major factors 1) its mineral content, and 2) its ease of digestion.
There are seven minerals that act as electrolytes and help buffer acids and alkalines in the body.
Four of these are alkalizing.
They are sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
When there is too much acid in the body, these minerals can be used to buffer the acids and maintain stable pH levels in the blood. Hence, foods that are high in these minerals tend to have an alkalizing effect on the body.
The three mineral electrolytes that are acid-forming are sulphur, phosphorus and chlorine.
Foods high in these minerals tend to add to the acid load in the body.
These acidic and alkaline minerals form 12 mineral salts, or electrolytes. They help to balance and regulate energy production and fluid metabolism in the body. These twelve salts are:
Without going into tiresome and boring details, it essentially boils down to this—most fruits and vegetables tend to be alkalizing because they are easy to digest and high in alkaline minerals, while most grains, legumes, nuts and protein foods (dairy, eggs, meat, fish, etc.) tend to be acidifying because they are more difficult to digest and higher in acidic minerals.
Green veggies like celery, dandelion greens, Swiss chard, collards, kale, etc. tend to be very high in potassium salts, magnesium and calcium, which are great alkalizers for the body.
Grains and meat tend to be high in phosphates that form more acid, but this acid is important in winter as these foods tend to help keep the body warm. So, acid-forming foods are not necessarily bad; balance is the key!