Naturopathic Doctors Arizona | Understanding Acid / Alkaline Balance
Much has been written about the importance of keeping the body in a more alkaline state through diet and supplementation. It is proposed to help increase energy, prevent cancer, and heart disease, but is there any evidence to support these claims. Your naturopathic doctors arizona review the evidence and science to support such claims.
Naturopathic doctors Arizona explain the impact of PH balance.
Since the preferred PH of the body is slightly alkaline at 7.4, the goal of an alkaline diet is to maintain or promote alkalinity in the body. The advocates for eating a more alkaline diet propose that eating acidic and acid producing foods (animal products, refined, carbohydrates and sugars), create disease by changing the PH in the body. The opponents of this suggest there is be no evidence to support that changes in diet significantly change blood ph. While this is true, there is some evidence to suggest that the peripheral tissues and overall acid buffering systems are effected. To understand the difference, we will need to give a little background.
Unlike urine, blood PH levels is one of the most tightly regulated things in our body. The body uses buffering systems to regulate PH, using acids to buffer overly alkaline states and bases to buffer overly acidic states. Only when these buffering systems fall short will the blood PH actually change. However the result of the buffering can and likely does change the PH in the tissues where the buffers comes from. The full implications and relevance of this are not currently known, but there are a few aspects of your health we know are effected. First let's look at how tissue PH can be measured.
How do you know what your tissue PH is?
Your body's PH can be estimated by the food you consume based on the food's ability to produce acid, known as the Net Endogenous Acid Excretion. The amount of acid produced by any given diet is closely correlated with the amount of acid that is excreted by the kidneys through the urine. As mentioned above when a food creates acid the body uses buffers to counter balance the acid. The buffers come from inside the tissue spaces and changes what is excrete in the urine. This correlation allows us to measure the urine PH to estimate the acidity inside of your tissues. The urine PH strips that can be purchased over the counter are a good tool to help you identify the impact of your diet on your PH. However, a spot check (especially in the AM) is not an accurate measurement. For the best measurement you should collect a 24 urine and test the PH of that.
Does an alkaline diet improve your health?
For the most part an alkaline based diet is very healthy as it consists of high amounts of vegetables and fruits and low animal products. This is traditionally viewed as a healthy diet to reduce the most common causes of health problems, cancer and cardiovascular disease. The reasons that this type of diet is good likely have more to do with the phytochemicals than it's effect on PH. Still there is little evidence to support or refute using a more alkaline diet for major health conditions. There are a few conditions where eating a more acid producing diet, as measured by net endogenous acid excretion, produced some negative health trends. These were detailed by Pizzorno in the British Journal of Nutrition 2009 and include:
- more bone loss
- increased kidney stones
- decreased exercise tolerance
- increased age related muscle wasting
It would make sense that by doing the reverse (eating a more alkaline diet), we would get an improvement in bone, muscle, and kidney function. As Pizzorno points out, with regard to kidneys, it seems that an alkaline diet does help reduce stone formation. However it is not clear that such a diet will have a favorable outcome on bone and muscle tissues. While there are some preliminary outcomes suggesting benefit, more research is need to understand how improving PH can help with pathological process in the bone, muscles, and other tissues. To be clear, we do know that correcting the PH using potassium bicarbonate, magnesium, or a more alkaline diet will decrease the urine PH (net endogenous acid excretion). We don't know if this change in urine PH helps our health outside of the above mentioned.
The evidence to support tracking and keeping your body in a more alkalized state is limited. At this point in time, it does not seem to be worth while unless you have a predisposition for kidney stones. It may also be helpful for promoting bone and muscle health. In the case of kidney stones or other health issues, actually checking the PH is not really necessary. We already know which foods cause a change in PH and we could achieve the desired outcome by following the alkaline list. Other uses of alkaline diets are helpful in as much as shifting your diet to plant based foods do seem to improve most health measures. The changes in PH are not likely the cause for these improvements but we really don't know one way or another. Hopefully, future studies will show more clearly the utility of this practice for health promotion.
To learn more about optimizing bone health, preventing kidney stones, or other health tips, click on the link below for a free consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors arizona.