How To Balance Your Body pH

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Our body uses  several complex processes for it to perform at its peak. One such function is the pH balance in our blood. Almost every bodily function, including the circulatory and  immune systems; muscles, joints, and digestive system, depends on a proper pH balance. Maintaining your pH balance and taking action to improve it when necessary is crucial as  having an unbalanced pH system can result in a variety of health issues.

This article focuses on explaining pH balance, pH imbalance types, signs of pH imbalance and what you can do to maintain and improve your body pH. 

What is pH balance?

The body’s pH balance also known as acid-base balance refers to the acidity or alkalinity of the body's fluids and tissues. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral, less than 7 being acidic and greater than 7 being alkaline (basic). The pH of the blood should be tightly regulated within a narrow range of 7.35 to 7.45, which is considered to be slightly alkaline.1 

The body has several mechanisms in place to maintain this pH balance, including the respiratory and urinary systems which help to regulate the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) and bicarbonate  ions in the blood. A pH imbalance can occur if these mechanisms are disrupted, leading to conditions such as acidosis (low pH) or alkalosis (high pH), which can have serious health consequences if left untreated.1,2

What are the types of pH imbalance?

When your pH level is either too acidic or too basic, it becomes imbalanced. The pH balance in our body is maintained by our lungs, liver and kidneys.2 By regulating the amount  of carbon dioxide that leaves your body, the lungs help to keep the pH level in check. 

Healthy kidneys remove acid from the body by forming urine, this keeps the right amount of bicarbonate in the bloodstream. The liver also plays an important role in controlling the Acid-Base Equilibrium (ABE) a critical factor in regulating  lactic acid metabolism, urea synthesis, and protein synthesis. The kidneys release the necessary quantity of alkaline bicarbonate ions into your blood, whilst the lungs exhale carbon dioxide to regulate the body's pH levels. 

There are two main types of pH imbalances: Acidosis  and Alkalosis.

Acidosis   is a condition where the pH level of the body's fluids, particularly the blood, where the pH becomes too low (acidic) due to an accumulation of acid or a decrease in the level of bicarbonate ions (base).2 The types of acidosis are:

  • Respiratory acidosis: Respiratory acidosis3 is caused when excess carbon dioxide is not removed from the body. The automatic response is for our kidneys to increase the bicarbonate in our blood to neutralise it, but it is not always the case. Respiratory acidosis is  primarily caused by  hypoventilation, a common symptom seen is chronic obstructive lung disease; opiate (narcotic) abuse, or overdose; and/or severe obesity. Respiratory acidosis  can also be a side effect of certain sleep medications, traumatic brain injury and nervous system disorders
  • Metabolic acidosis: Metabolic acidosis4 is caused by an accumulation of acid in the body or a loss of bicarbonate ions from the bloodstream. It is a primary acid-base disorder where the blood becomes very acidic,  caused when our kidneys fail to produce alkaline substances to neutralise the blood. Metabolic acidosis  is seen in certain medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease or kidney stones, and cancer and can be  caused by medication

Alkalosis is a condition where the pH level of the body's fluids, particularly the blood, where the pH becomes too high (alkaline) due to an accumulation of base or a decrease in the level of acid. The types of alkalosis are:

  • Respiratory alkalosis: Respiratory alkalosis5 is caused when the lungs remove too much carbon dioxide from the body. The blood becomes very alkaline when extra carbon dioxide is exhaled because less carbonic acid is produced. The correct physiological response is to  reduce  the amount of bicarbonate produced by the kidney, but sometimes it can fail to do so. A few causes of respiratory alkalosis are pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, and panic attacks with hyperventilation
  • Metabolic alkalosis: Metabolic alkalosis6 is caused by a loss of acid from the body or an increase in the level of bicarbonate ions in the bloodstream. This can be caused due to prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea, consuming a lot of baking soda, taking diuretics excessively, or adrenal glands overactivity

Each type of pH imbalance is linked to the malfunctioning of an organ in our body. Hence it is important to recognise the type of pH imbalance to get the appropriate treatment to correct the pH level as well as the underlying condition. 

What happens when your pH is imbalanced?

When the body's pH is imbalanced, it can cause a range of health issues. For instance, acidosis can lead to symptoms such as confusion, drowsiness, shortness of breath, and a rapid heartbeat. It can also cause damage to the kidneys and other organs if left untreated.3,4 Whereas alkalosis can lead to symptoms such as muscle twitching, spasms, and cramps, and can cause confusion, nausea, and tingling sensations in the face, hands, and feet.5,6

The signs of pH imbalance can also vary depending on the type of acidosis or alkalosis. A more serious health issue can occasionally bring on the pH imbalance, but it can also be brought on by taking too much aspirin or other medication in certain cases.

Some common signs that your pH is imbalanced:

  • Fatigue, low energy levels
  • Headaches
  • Muscle weakness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Digestive issues
  • Weak immune system/increased infections
  • Skin blemishes and pimples
  • Pain in joints and muscles 
  • Tingling sensation in face, hands, and feet
  • Irritability

A pH imbalance can cause cardiovascular illness and unconsciousness, and sometimes even fatal if left untreated.1 The sooner you manage your pH imbalance, the sooner these symptoms can be prevented. It is important to note that some of these signs can also be caused by other medical conditions, so it's important to consult your GP if you suspect that you have a pH imbalance. 

How can you maintain the pH balance?

Our body naturally has mechanisms in place to maintain our body pH levels. However, there are several actions you can take to maintain a proper pH balance. Avoid drinking alcohol excessively, and use aspirin and other drugs only as directed. Additionally, you should limit your consumption of baking soda and steer clear of processed food with excessive preservatives. Maintaining a pH balance in the body can be achieved by eating a nutritious diet rich in whole foods.

Researching which foods are acidic and which ones are alkaline if you plan to use your diet to assist manage pH levels is advised. Generally speaking, you should aim to consume 70% alkaline foods and 30% acidic items for a pH-balanced diet 

What can you do to improve pH balance?

If your pH levels become imbalanced, it's important to speak with a doctor to determine the best course of treatment. Treatment options may include medications, supplements, or therapies to raise or lower the acidity of the blood to a healthy level. For example, if you have acidosis, your doctor may recommend taking sodium citrate or sodium bicarbonate to raise the pH level in your blood, as well as receiving intravenous fluids or insulin. For alkalosis, treatment may be as simple as slowing your breathing or drinking fluids to restore electrolytes.2

Some ways to improve your pH balance:4,5,6

  • Diet: Maintaining a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and other alkaline-forming foods can help maintain a healthy pH balance. Avoiding acid-forming  foods such as processed foods, sugar, and dairy can also help to maintain a pH balance. Try including some green tea in your diet as well - it's a delicious beverage that is high in antioxidants. If your body is more alkaline, add acidic foods like citrus fruits rich in vitamin C
  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is important for maintaining pH balance. Water helps to flush out toxins and neutralize acidity in the body. If you experience acidosis, alkaline water with a pH of around 9-11 can be prescribed to you. Alkalinity can be increased by adding baking soda or pH drops to your water but seek advice from a healthcare specialist before self-medicating
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can help to maintain pH balance by improving circulation and oxygenation, which, in turn, helps to remove toxins from the body
  • Stress management: Stress can lead to acidity in the body, so it's important to manage stress through activities such as laughing, physical activity, meditation, and deep breathing
  • Supplements: Certain supplements such as magnesium and potassium can help to alkalize the body and maintain pH balance. Make sure to consult a doctor before taking any supplements
  • Lifestyle: Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Consider trying an alkaline diet: It's a diet that emphasizes eating foods that are alkaline-forming, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and avoiding acid-forming foods including meat, dairy, and processed foods

It's important to note that maintaining pH balance is a continuous process and it's important to make these lifestyle changes a part of your routine. Additionally, it's also important to consult a doctor for personalized advice and guidance as pH balance can be affected by various medical conditions as well.

Summary

Our body requires a balanced pH to function properly. The acidity or alkalinity of the body's fluids and tissues is referred to as the acid-base balance. The blood's pH is strictly controlled to stay within a certain range of 7.35 to 7.45, which is regarded as somewhat alkaline. However, some circumstances like illness and malnutrition can lead to a pH imbalance, making the body either too acidic or too alkaline.1,2 pH abnormalities are classified as either acidotic or alkalotic. respiratory or metabolic issues may be the cause.3,6 An untreated pH imbalance can result in a variety of symptoms, including dizziness, sleepiness, shortness of breath, and an accelerated heartbeat.

Depending on the type of imbalance, acidosis and alkalosis can be  treated with medicine and nutrition. The pH balance could be a result of a variety of medical issues, therefore it's equally crucial to seek the advice of a GP to find out if you have a pH imbalance before trying any diets or supplements.

References

  1. Hopkins E, Sanvictores T, Sharma S. Physiology, acid base balance. InStatPearls [Internet] 2021 Sep 14. StatPearls Publishing.
  2. Hamm LL, Nakhoul N, Hering-Smith KS. Acid-base homeostasis. Clinical journal of the American Society of Nephrology: CJASN. 2015 Dec 12;10(12):2232.
  3. Johnson RA. A quick reference on respiratory acidosis. Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice. 2017 Mar 1;47(2):185-9.
  4. Lim S. Metabolic acidosis. Acta Med Indones. 2007 Jul 1;39(3):145-50. 
  5. Johnson RA. A Quick Reference on Respiratory Alkalosis. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice. 2017 Mar;47(2):181-4.
  6. Emmett M. Metabolic alkalosis: A brief pathophysiologic review. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: CJASN. 2020 Dec 12;15(12):1848.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Jeffy Joseph Vinohar

MSc. Oncology, University of Nottingham, England

Jeffy is an aspiring academic scientist with a bachelors in Biomedical sciences, Biotechnology with a keen interest in cancer studies. During her masters she aimed to learn more about making healthcare accessible and solutions to reduce healthcare inequalities in the field of oncology.
She currently interested in paediatric neuro-oncology and developing less invasive therapeutics for it by obtaining a PhD in coming years, while being involved with simplifying scientific research into health awareness articles.

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