The human body is pretty fantastic at maintaining the status quo, including keeping blood pH at a desirable level. This process of homeostasis can, however, be disrupted by many of the things we take for granted in modern life, such as our daily cup of coffee, a full English breakfast, and avoidance of bitter-tasting foods that no longer suit our sugar-seeking palates. Throw in medications like antacids for indigestion and the routine use of antibiotics and the body begins to struggle to keep the blood at the right pH.
How does blood pH affect the rest of the body?
Overly acidic blood can cause the body to start pulling calcium from the bones in order to buffer the blood's pH. Over time this leads to a loss of bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis, fractures, and bone pain. It also means that other challenges facing the body cannot be met as effectively as they could if that handy reservoir of calcium still remained in the bones. For women, a lack of calcium in the bones can increase the severity of symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (which is often connected to calcium homeostasis and parathyroid hormone issues). Muscle function can also be impaired by poor calcium status, as can skin health and even cognitive function.
Balancing blood pH
Restoring proper blood pH can also help the body fight off infections more effectively and, as blood alkalinity is closely linked to acidity in the digestion system it is often the case that taking steps to improve digestive function also often helps restore our blood pH balance. One of the key ways to help the body restore its proper acid-alkaline balance is to reduce the consumption of red meat and other animal-derived foods. This is because these foods tend to be high in sulfur-containing amino acids and can push out other foods from the diet that are high in potassium organic anions, such as fresh fruits and vegetables (Zerwekh et al., 2009). This acidogenic diet can severely deplete skeletal calcium stores over time and once lost these are generally impossible to restore.
Natural Help with Acid-Alkaline Balance
Natural supplements to help restore the pH balance have become popular in recent years and research has found that supplementing with potassium citrate can help attenuate the negative effects of high animal-protein diets on bone turnover and calcium status (Zerwekh et al., 2009). Potassium is typically found in white vegetables, such as potatoes, but it is also present in herbs like dandelion and even in sea vegetables, which also have benefits for detoxification and overall health. Improving digestive function often relies on supporting healthy levels of bile acid production, a process which also actively removes cholesterol from the blood. Artichoke, dandelion, and seaweed extracts support digestive health and bile acid flow, allowing for better metabolism of these sulfur-containing amino acids. Of course, it's still recommended to decrease the consumption of animal-derived foods as they not only affect blood pH and bone health but also the risk of heart disease, chronic inflammatory disease, and various types of cancer including colorectal cancer.
Balancing pH levels with nutrients
Balancing overly acidic blood can take some commitment but natural products are available to help. Vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients all work together to support healthy gastrointestinal function and optimal blood pH. In two studies a greenfood powder containing barley grass and wheatgrass and a mineral-based alkalising supplement containing magnesium, calcium and potassium helped increase urinary pH and support blood acid/alkaline balance (Anton et al., 2013, König et al., 2009). Facilitating healthy liver and kidney function means that toxins are eliminated more safely and quickly and that desirable nutrients are recycled. For example, improved kidney function can mean that calcium leached out of the bones and into the blood is no longer simply excreted, it can be retained by the kidneys and enter back into circulation to be used in the creation of new bone and for muscle health and skin health. Alkalising diets and supplements are not a fad, but a symptom of typical Western diets and their negative effects on health. Restoring blood pH can be a great first step to limiting the damage done by acidogenic diets and medications, whilst working towards healthier food choices long-term.
Anton, S.D., et al., (2013). Effect of a novel dietary supplement on pH levels of healthy volunteers: a pilot study. J Integr Med, Nov;11(6):384-8. König, D. et al., (2009). Effect of a supplement rich in alkaline minerals on acid-base balance in humans. Nutr J, Jun 10;8:23. Zerwekh, J.E., (2009). Biochemical and histological assessment of alkali therapy during high animal protein intake in the rat. Bone, Nov;45(5):1004-9.