Acidity and Alkalinity, & Acidosis
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What is Acidosis?
Medicinal use of Sodium Bicarbonate
Alkaline and Ionised Water
Measuring bodily pH
What is Acidosis?
Acidosis is a condition whereby the blood and tissues of the body become slightly more acidic and slightly less alkaline, usually through excessive dietary intake of acidic drinks and acid producing foods, but can also be through insufficient oxygen intake and excessive carbon dioxide build up in the body. This can affect the outer cell membranes of cells and their electrical charge. Acidic conditions are often associated with many pathogenic conditions. Please note that this is not the same as acidic conditions in the colon, which is meant to be acidic, on account of the ability to suppress harmful bacteria and also as a result of the fermentation of dietary fibre by probiotic bacteria, producing short chain fatty acids such as Butyrate.
An overly acidic bodily pH attributed to dietary reasons can be corrected by adopting an 'alkaline diet'. This is largely vegan-based but some animal products may be pH raising, e.g. stocks. Please note that some acidic foods are alkaline producing, i.e. have an alkalising effect on the body, when digested and metabolised.
Acidic conditions in the blood and tissues (i.e. acidosis) can render a body much more susceptible to fungus, parasite and bad bacteria overgrowth, immune system dysfunction and general ill-health (and other more severe diseases). In general terms, the more acidic the body is, the more unhealthy it is. The acidic balance of the body is largely determined by the type of foods, drinks and drugs we consume. Excesses of carbonated drinks, baked goods, dairy products and fried red meats, for example, can over time alter the pH balance of the body and render it acidic.
Acidosis is said to occur when the aterial blood plasma pH falls below 7.35 pH units. The term Acidemia describes the state of low blood pH, while acidosis is used to describe the processes leading to these states. Nevertheless, physicians sometimes use the terms interchangeably. Blood pH should be 7.365 in a healthy person. Spinal fluid pH should be 7.4 in a healthy person.
The extracellular fluids surrounding the body's cells must be alkaline (pH 7.4) in order to maintain the negative electrical charge on the outside of one's cells. Too low a fluid/plasma pH and depletion in electrical charge can result in biochemical inefficiency and Electromagnetic Deficiencies. There are of course other influences on one's EM deficiency besides pH.
Clearly the term acidosis is relative. A person with acidosis does not have strongly acidic blood 'like Alien', or he would most certainly be dead. It is meant in a relative context.
Respiratory Acidosis results from a build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood (hypercapnia) due to hypoventilation (inadequate ventilation). Carbon dioxide, when dissolved in water or blood, partially ionises (in equilibrium) to form carbonic acid. Poor cell membrane fluidity (e.g. Fatty Acid Imbalances) can result in poor gas exchange in the blood and tissues.
Respiratory acidosis and alkalosis are examined in detail on the Tissue Oxygenation and CFS page.
Metabolic acidosis is an increased production of metabolic acids, usually resulting from disturbances in the ability to excrete acid via the kidneys. Renal acidosis is associated with an accumulation of urea and creatinine as well as metabolic acid residues of protein catabolism. It can also arise from excessive cannibalisation of the body's proteins, in the event of insufficient dietary intake of protein and/or calories, or a severe amino acid imbalance (even if enough calories and protein are ingested). This is often accompanied by muscle loss and high Phosphorus levels, as Phosphorus is a key component of many proteins.
Metabolic acidosis can also result from the production and build up of other acids in the body (e.g. lactic acid in the tissues (e.g. D-Lactate acidemia), produced by anaerobic respiration and insufficient aerobic respiration. e.g. in CFS sufferers, where there is mitochondrial inefficiency, there is more anaerobic respiration and less aerobic respiration than there should be. Low oxygen levels and higher CO2 levels, poor circulation, low blood pressure and poor cell membrane permeability may also exaccerbate the problem. High levels of toxins in the body may also result in compensatory metabolic acidosis.
Please see the Glutamic Acid section on the Nutritional Deficiencies page for more information pertaining to metabolic acidosis.
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A list of those foods which are acidic in nature and those which are alkaline in nature can be found on the following web sites. As a general rule, vegan food, especially vegetables and greens, tend to be alkaline in nature, whereas meat and dairy products, and also oils/fats (of both plant and animal origin) tend to be acidic in nature (when digested). Most fruit is alkaline producing, although a small minority is acid producing (e.g. cranberries, blueberries, plums etc. All dried fruits are classified as acid producing, and also sweet for food combining. If you eat a snack of dried fruit instead of fresh fruit, you will be amazed at how much lower your urine pH is for the rest of the day. Grains and beans are also in general acid producing, although Millet is considered Alkaline producing. Foods containing protein are broken down into amino acids, which are of course acidic, so the more protein sources one ingests, the more acidic one's diet will be. Sprouted grains and beans are less acid producing than their unsprouted forms. Oils are of course acids by their chemical nature, be they essentil fatty acids or saturated fats. Fermented foods (e.g. raw Tempeh, Miso or fermented vegetables) are also considered alkaline producing, even though they are actually acidic (lactic acid produced during probiotic fermentation). Eating more algae/green superfoods, vegetable juicing and eating more vegetables and raw foods may indeed help to raise the body's pH, but one must also take into consideration what types of food one can tolerate and in what quantities, and also the fact that alkaline foods, especially when raw, have a large 'cold energy' component and may be more difficult to digest and may imbalance the body and contribute to ill health in some individuals, as strange as it sounds.
Quoted from above link:
'"Cayce diet": Major dietary recommendations include the avoidance of red meat (esp. pork), alcohol (except red wine), white bread, and fried foods; a preference for fruits and (above-ground, leafy) vegetables over starches; and a high ratio (80:20%) of alkaline foods over acidic. One meal per day should consist entirely of raw vegetables. Under strict circumstances, Cayce advocated both coffee and pure tobacco cigarettes to be non-harmful to health. 'Food combining' was also a central idea in the Cayce diet. According to Cayce, several food combinations that are contraindicated are coffee with milk or sugar, citrus fruit with starchy foods and high protein foods with starches. Cayce himself followed very few of the dietary recommendations that were suggested by the readings.'
Edgar Cayce was proposing these ideas on diet in the 1920s and 1930s. His ideas about Coffee and Tobacco perhaps seem a little unscientific however.
There are many variants on food combining classifications, and if you search on the web, you can find many different classifications. For example, some classify Buckwheat as mildly alkaline producing, and others as mildly acid producing.
There are 'quick and dirty' methods of raising the blood and urine pH, in the short term, which may include taking the following alkaline compounds in solution (best on an empty stomach so as to not lower stomach pH when eating a meal and interfere with digestion):
- Sodium Bicarbonate (1 teaspoon in a glass of water - very high in Sodium - 25% by weight) - may cause diarrhea by released CO2 pressing on walls of intestine
- Potassium Bicarbonate (1/2 teaspoon in a glass of water - equivalent to 1000mg of Potassium) - may cause diarrhea by released CO2 pressing on walls of intestine
- Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) (up to 1 tablespoon in a glass of water
- Chelated mineral supplements such as Magnesium or Potassium Citrate - will cause loose stools at high dosages
- Algae such as Spirulina or Chlorella or Greens Powders (e.g. Wheatgrass) - 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon in a glass of water
Let's pick on soft drinks consumption for a moment. pH is a scale measuring the concentration of Hydrogen ions (protons) in a given solution. It ranges from 0.00 to 14.99, where the former value is extremely acidic and the latter value is extremely alkaline. pH 7 is neutral. Soft drinks have an average pH of 2.5 - 3.4, which is extremely acidic. The body's natural pH is around 7.36, which is slightly alkaline. pH is a logarithmic scale. A pH of 6 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 7. Therefore the average soft drink is 10,000 times more acidic than the rest of the body! One can therefore see that drinking additional fluids will not dilute down this acidity very much!
So not only are soft drinks a source of chemical toxicity (including Caffeine and numerous additives), they are also very damaging to your body's pH balance. Please think of this next time you think of buying your children large bottles of Coca Cola. There is even evidence to suggest that consuming soft drinks from cans stored in very hot conditions (e.g. in Kuwaiti desert in Operation Desert Storm) is a significant factor in Gulf War Syndrome, on account of aspartame degradation etc. And it is not surprising.
Below is an informative link giving 10 reasons as to why you should avoid drinking soft drinks.
Coffee has a pH just above 5 and is quite acidic. Many people drink coffee or Cola during the day, and little water. Wine, at just above 3, is very acidic, 100 times more acidic than coffee. Soft drinks are up to 10 times more acidic than wine and are in some cases more acidic than even one's stomach acid!
Cocoa beans, cocoa powder and chocolate are also acidic, with a pH between 5 and 6, except for chocolate types found in baked goods that are pH adjusted so as not to interfere with the leavening process. Chocolate and drinking chocolate or cocoa (even if made with stevia) are therefore acidic and regular consumption can lower one's internal pH. This is not considering the effect of refined sugar added to such products on the digestive system's floral balance.
'Cocoa pH is a consideration in some baked goods, like brownies, where cocoa levels can be as high as 7%. The acidity of natural cocoa potentially interferes with the leavening system. Dutchman Coenraad Johannes van Houten developed a process, called "Dutching" in 1828, which alkalized cocoa's natural pH of 5 to 6 to a pH of 6 to 8. Dutching has been adapted to processing nibs, liquor or cocoa press cake. The majority of cocoa purchased is alkalized; however, natural cocoa is typically used for adjusting formulations where acidity contributes to a balanced, well-rounded flavor -- required in chocolate syrups or compound coatings.'
It should be noted that most tap water is not neutral in pH. My local tap water is between 6.25 and 6.50, i.e. slightly acidic, on account of the chlorine that is added to it. Chlorine is an anti-microbial agent that kills off bacteria and other microbes that might cause illness and infection otherwise. It achieves this because it is an oxidising agent. When Chlorine gas dissolves in water, it produces hydrochloric acid and hydrochlorous acid (the oxidising agent). This oxidising power is taken into the body and can add to the free radical burden of the body as well as lowering one's pH. Pure water has a pH of 7. Some water authorities also add Fluoride to water, to 'help with tooth decay'. This is explored on the Toxins page. It is possible to remove Fluoride and Chlorine from tap water as well as other potential contaminants and heavy metals, using a sophisticated water purification and ionisation system. This can elevate the pH to slightly above 7 to actually produce slightly alkaline water.
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Excess consumption of acidic foods may raise slightly lower the pH of the blood and tissues in the body. This may in turn weaken the negative electrical charge around red blood cells, and cause clumping of red blood cells, and a lowering of the amount of oxygen that can be absorbed by these cells. This in turn leads to a lower level of oxygen in the blood and tissues. Low body oxygen levels, over time, much like excess relative acidity, sets up conditions for the proliferation of disease and ill health. Low blood and body oxygen levels are also frequently associated with excessive fat, insufficient cardiovascular exercise, fatty acid imbalances and/or poor cell membrane permeability. Low body oxygen levels in many cases have been associated with a variety of environmental illnesses, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. Excess acidity in the body, in particular, lactic acid, results in increased aches and pains.
Lactic acid is generally burnt off aerobically, which is why in general light aerobic exercise after weight training helps to reduce the next day 'ache' in the trained muscle groups. The gentle aerobic exercise helps to boost circulation and increase aerobic respiration and oxygen levels in the tissues. CFS sufferers may for the above reasons have more lactic acid in the tissues than 'normal' people, and the inefficiency of mitochondria to produce the energy required and the smaller 'window' for lactic acid build up prior to muscle fatigue may result in early onset of muscle ache and easy draining of one's energy during very light daily physical activities.
Lactic acid build up, and acidosis in general, can be offset slightly by proper and deep diaphragm breathing (getting enough O2 into the tissues and the CO2 out - technical divers and medical personnel may have access to large amounts of pure O2 which if breathing for short periods every day is an excellent if leftfield solution!), improving your circulation (e.g. building up your cardiovascular fitness gradually with regular light exercise), a less acidic diet, alkaline supplements (which neutralise your stomach acid so ideally not to be eaten with meals (taking extra Betaine HCl cancels out the whole pH altering effect and indeed may add to the problem!) - including chelated Magnesium, chelated Potassium, algae and green superfoods, raw vegetables and salad, pacing oneself, and working improving mitochondrial function, cell membrane fluidity and circulation in general through the treatment of CFS basically. These areas will improve over the course of your treatment programme (assuming you don't abuse yourself too much by overdoing things regularly!)
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Medicinal Use of Sodium Bicarbonate:
Dr Tullio Simoncini has conduced research into the parallels between systematic candida overgrowth and cancer cell growth. He has established the similarities between the two, in terms of growth occurring in anaerobic, acidic conditions, where candida and cancer cells ferment simple sugars for energy and are killed off in an alkaline environment. He postulates that candida and cancer are one and the same thing. Whilst I am not totally convinced of this theory, there are many parallels and much common ground. His book on the subject can be read at the link below. His main web site is listed at the second link.
Scientists have proven that baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) helps to increase performance in athletes, but increasing the body's pH (to what it should be).
An article regarding the use of baking soda to treat cancerous tumours and candida can be found in the Candida section of the Bacterial Overgrowth page.
Please note that whilst sodium bicarbonate may indeed be a quick and dirty method of raising alkalinity levels and reducing acidity, it reacts with stomach acid to produce carbon dioxide, and so introduces large volumes of CO2 into your stomach and digestive tract, which can result in excessive burping and wind. In extreme cases, and it is highly unlikely, it is technically possible for your stomach to explode on account of the gas pressure, although this has yet to be demonstrated outside of the laboratory in an actual living person!
Sodium Bicarbonate is 25% Sodium and so one teaspoon of baking soda weighing 4.8g provides around 1.2g of Sodium. The US RDA for Sodium is less than 2.4g whereas in the UK the upper limit is 1.6g.
One could use Potassium Bicarbonate instead, as Potassium intake limits are higher than Sodium, and Potassium levels are often low in patients with Multi-System Illnesses. Suggested maximum dosage is 1/2 teaspoon equating to 1000mg or 1g of elemental Potassium.
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Alkalosis is the opposite of acidosis. It is where the blood pH is too high, usually a result of either hyperventilation (excessive loss of carbon dioxide from the blood), dehydration, excessive vomitting (i.e. loss of stomach acid) or regular and excessive consumption of extremely alkaline foods, drinks or substances. Compensatory mechanisms by the body to losing too much CO2 include 'increased dissociation of the carbonic acid buffering intermediate into hydrogen ions, and the related consumption of bicarbonate, both of which would lower blood pH.'
Metabolic alkalosis can result in hypokalemia or low potassium levels in the blood, which will have a knock on effect in terms of adrenal function and mitochondrial function etc.
Clearly it is much less common than acidosis, but having said that, those people who 'go mad' on alkaline food sources wanting to have the optimum internal pH may end up with alkalosis. There is also the issue of low stomach acid levels, i.e. a deficiency of acid in the digestive tract, which could potentially be offset by a deficiency in alkaline metals like magnesium, calcium and potassium (inability to absorb them on account of poor digestive function), so the overall net effect is not necessarily clear cut in pH terms - whether one is too acidic or too basic. This is why it is good practice to measure one's urine and saliva pH on a regular basis if engaging in a health recuperation programme or when experiencing health problems in general.
Paul Cheney claims that CFS patients tend to have intracellular acidosis and extracellular alkalosis, althought this view is not universally held. The issue is examined more on the Cardiac Insufficiency page and Tissue Oxygenation and CFS page.
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Alkaline and Ionised Water:
According to some sources, alkaline water should not be used in stainless steel, aluminium or copper utensils or particularly pots and pans (when heated). Ceramic or pyrex pots and pans can be used instead for such applications.
Water ionisers were first commercially built and tested in the 1950s in Japan. Since then, they have been approved as medical devices in Japan and South Korea. The market for water ionisers only really took off in the 1990s.
Some limited research has highlighted potential health risks associated with drinking alkaline ionised water (AKW), typically having a pH of around 9.5 (medium strength alkali). Test data is based upon dosing rats with AKW, with results showing a degradation of myocardiac myosin and creatine kinase, and an increase in necrosis and fibrosis of the myocardium (heart muscle). Whether this is a direct result of the alkaline ionised water, an excessive volume consumed, and/or the effect of the food intake (being also alkaline?) is something I am not certain about.
Such patterns have not been observed in human testing, and some commentators have claimed that the above experiment involved the use of a faulty water ioniser. Cardiac problems and CFS is discussed in more detail on the Cardiac Insufficiency page. Some doctors, e.g. Dr Paul Cheney believes that its consumption may decrease cardiac efficiency in the short term.
Do I recommend alkaline ionised water? Well, I am not fully convinced either way. I am quite happy with my I-Water/I-H2O device and would possibly recommend this (in conjunction with a filtration/non-ionising purification system) to anyone interested in this area. I-Water and water ionisers are discussed on the Electromagnetic deficiencies page.
There is considerable debate over whether distilled or reverse osmosis produced water is actually healthy or not. This is pure water with no mineral content whatsoever. However, pure water (pH 7) very readily absorbs nutrients from anything it comes into contact with, and of course carbon dioxide dissolves and makes it acidic (sometimes bringing the pH down to around 5.5). This is why it is used on soft drinks manufacturing, so it can absorb as much CO2 as possible, and thus be 'fizzier' and have a longer shelf life in plastic bottles (which the CO2 permeates through over time). This is also why many health commentators state that reverse osmosis or distilled water is excellent to use for making teas etc. where you want to extract as many of the nutrients from the herbs as possible, but definitely not for actually drinking straight (i.e. on its own).
Water that is produced by reverse osmosis systems tends to be slightly on the acidic side. Reverse osmosis systems do not use a filter but use a membranes with electrodes that draw all the electrolytes to the other side of the membrane. Most water ionisation systems use sophisticated filtration cartridges and well as electrodes to ionise the water. The raised pH of alkaline or ionised water generally comes from the Magnesium and Calcium ion content. Some reverse osmosis water purification systems actually remineralise the water after the reverse osmosis step, in order to raise the pH and put in beneficial mineral salts.
Some arguments against reverse osmosis water purification systems can be found at the links below. These tend to focus on the fact that although pure water can be beneficial when consumed for short periods of time, in the long term it draws minerals out of the tissues, resulting in demineralisation or mineral deficiencies.
Some arguments for reverse osmosis water purification systems can be found at the links below. These tend to focus on the fact that one does not rely on one's drinking water for one's mineral requirements, and that the reverse is true - that drinking deionised water actually helps the body absorb minerals more easily from one's food etc. However this is a double-edged argument. As drunk without food, it may presumably have the reverse effect. The arguments also tend to focus on the unwanted minerals in typical water samples that can result in kidney stones etc. Thus it is considered sensible to only take in the minerals in one's water that one actually wishes or needs to absorb for nutritional purposes. Of course kidney stones can be dissolved with certain herbs. This is presumably an argument for using distilled/reverse osmosis water and adding certain minerals to it, rather than drinking it on its own.
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Measuring bodily pH:
Urine pH should be between 6.75 and 7.25 pH units, on account of acid excretion. A low urine pH suggests an abnormally high level of acid excretion, indicating an unhealthy body and too low a blood pH (i.e. acidosis). Urine pH is commonly around the 6 mark, which is probably not ideal. It can also be as high as 8 in some individuals.
According to TriMedica, manufacturers of AlkaMAX pH Test Strips, urine pH should ideally vary from approximately pH 5.0 in the morning to 7.5 at night during each 24 hour period. Of course, the exact recommended healthy pH range varies depending on who you talk to.
'By testing the degree of acidity of the urine, you can determine whether your body is eliminating a normal quantity of acids. If the acid excretion rate is higher than normal, the urinary pH will be more acidic. This low urinary pH is also an indication that the body is saturated and therefore in an acid state.'
According to pHion, Saliva pH should be 7.4 in a healthy person:
'Another indicator of the overall pH balance in your body is the pH of your saliva. When your body has the mineral reserves that it should, the abundance of minerals will show up in a saliva ph test as a pH reading of 7.0 to 7.50. A low saliva pH reading indicates that the mineral reserves in your body are low, and are being used to buffer acids elsewhere in the body.'
Saliva pH at the lower end of this scale or even below 7.0 may indicate varying degrees of mineral depletion and ill health (acidosis).
According to TriMedica, saliva pH should be between 6.4 and 7.2, being below 6.4 being too acidic and above 7.2 being too alkaline.
Saliva is made up of mucus and serous fluid. Serous fluid is the general terms for bodily fluids that are yellow and of a transparent nature. They should be slightly alkaline.
pH test strips can be used to determine the urine and saliva pH at home (as seen at the link above) - these are inexpensive. It is best to use Test Strips with as great a sensitivity as possible (on the provided visual scale/comparator) between approximately 6 and 8 pH units. The test strips described below have 2 colour comparators, as opposed to litmus that is only one colour.
- pHion Diagnostic pH Test Strips have increments of 0.25 pH units (single colour version does not work so well and I believe is discontinued/superceded).
- Hydrion Vivid 5.5 to 8.0 has increments of 0.2 pH units. Comes on a tear off roll.
- pH Health pH Test Strips have increments of 0.25 pH units
- iGen pH Test Strips have increments of 0.25 pH units.
- TriMedica AlkaMAX pH Test Strips have increments of 0.5 pH units
- VAXA International pH Test Strips have increments of 0.5 pH units.
Test Strips with increments of 1 pH units are not sensitive enough. Sometimes with bicolour test strips, the two colours formed on the strip do not match up with a value on the comparator, in which case one has to ignore the colour which is way off at the bottom of the scale. It does not seem to be a function of the interference of the urine colour.
Of course, blood serum pH can be determined by laboratory tests and is usually conducted as part of other blood tests (e.g. mineral levels etc.).
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