The billions of cells that make up the human body require amongst other things, a stable body temperature and pH or acid/alkaline balance. Individual organs and tissues of the body require different pH levels for optimal function. For example the stomach requires a very acidic environment of pH 1-3 to effectively break down food and protect the gastrointestinal system from infection. However the blood has a very narrow, optimal pH window of 7.35-7.45 and if the pH falls above or below this pH reference range, it can become life threatening. Urinary pH sits between 5-8. 

To some degree acidity in the body naturally increases with age and ongoing metabolic acidity is linked to chronic disease and poor health. A predominantly acid forming diet can also contribute to an ongoing acidic environment in the body and research is looking into the result of chronic, mild metabolic acidosis or latent acidosis. It appears an ongoing acidic environment can contribute to health problems associated with bone loss, muscle mass loss, energy metabolism as well as poor liver and kidney function. 

Things that may contribute to chronic acidosis in the body include a typical western diet high in animal proteins and cereals, certain diets and fasting resulting keto acidosis, lack of exercise, stress, chronic disease such as diabetes, gout and kidney disease. 

Meat, fish, cereals and dairy products contain sulphurous amino acids which means they are more acidic after they are metabolised via the body and therefore have a more negative effect on the acid/alkaline state of the body.  An acid forming food is not necessarily a bad food, as many excellent protein sources are naturally acidic, so it’s about balancing the meal with an abundance of alkaline forming foods which include most vegetables, salads and fruits. These foods are high in mineral citrates which are responsible for the alkaline effect.  It’s important to be aware that the pH of the food prior to consumption can be different to the pH value after digestion. For example citrus fruits are acidic prior to digestion but after they are metabolised they result in slight alkalising action. 

The body requires both acid and alkaline forming foods for optimal health and because the acid load of acid forming foods is approximately 4 times higher than the alkaline value of alkalising foods, we can focus on the 80/20 rule at meal times. 80% of the meal should be vegetables or salad and 20% should be protein.

Typical weight loss dieting can result in the break down of fat as well as the production of keto acids which can contribute to an acidic metabolic state and further burden the ability of the body to breakdown fat, so maintaining a less acidic environment is important when eating to reduce body fat.

Many studies have shown the negative impact of acidosis on bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis. This can occur as the body draws calcium and magnesium from the bones to alkalise the blood if its too acidic which promotes demineralisation of the bones. Bone cells are also impacted by chronic acidosis as bone forming osteoblast cells are inactivated and bone-resorbing osteoclasts are more activated in an acidic state.   

Regular exercise contributes to a longer life and it’s also important for simply strengthening the body and increasing circulation throughout the body. Exercise supports acid excretion via the kidneys and increased exhalation of carbon dioxide via the lungs which both positively support the acid/alkaline balance of the body.    

The kidneys are the main organ to process acidity so those with suboptimal kidney health are especially advised to maintain a low acid forming diet. Reduced kidney function results in a reduction in excretion of acid from the body leading to a further burden on organs. Often as people age, they don’t have the appetite or motivation to eat a balanced diet rich in a selection of vegetables and fruit, as often it’s a more simple eating plan of protein and grains. This is sometimes accompanied by low water intake which can reduce the excretion capacity of the kidneys. 

One way of measuring how acidic the body is can be done via testing the urine and an ideal result is a pH 6.8-7. Urine is affected by diet, medications, disease and even the time of day, so for the most accurate results collecting several measurements at the same time every day is important. Due to our food intake impacting our acidity, it’s best to measure directly before each main meal. Menstrual blood in the urine can also affect results so it’s best to measure urine acidity at least 4 days away from the menstrual cycle. Urinary pH strips can be bought from chemists.

Things you can do to reduce the acidity in the body include eating a predominantly alkalising diet rich in vegetables, salad and fruit, as well as taking a supplement high in alkalising mineral citrates. Your nutritional health professional can prescribe a practitioner range supplement that is excipient, additive and sweetener free as well as taking into account any current health issues and medications that need to be considered prior to dietary and supplement changes. 

Acid forming foodAlkaline forming food
RiceHard cheese and camembertCorned beefSalami and sausageGamePrawnsEgg yolkSpinach, Kale, RocketGingerDatesAvocadoParsley, Cumin, DillCarrot, celeryZucchini, Broccoli  

Further information can be found via the Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL) information developed by the US Department of Agriculture. 

For further information or to make an appointment please contact Diana Arundell at Avoca Naturopath on 0410 465 900.