Are you on Acid?

Our bodies have a buffering system that works through our blood, kidneys and lungs.

This system of checks and balances tightly regulates our pH (or acid-base) levels through feedback loops.

The various systems within the body operate within specific pH ranges. For instance, blood pH is 7.35-7.45, urine pH is 4.5-8.0 and gastric juice pH is 1.2-3.0.

In general, pH is disrupted due to chronic diseases that overwhelm the body’s ability to maintain optimum acid-base balance.

Disturbances in acid-base (also called “acid-alkaline”)balance may upset cell functioning.

The body regulates the balance at the cellular level via chemical reactions that generate or consume H+; in the blood with bicarbonate, amino acids, albumin, globulin and hemoglobin; and through the release of carbon dioxide from lungs and hydrogen ions from the kidney.

Large shifts in blood pH levels (to excessive alkalinity or excessive acidity) are not common, but when it happens, acidosis (low pH) can lead to lethargy, stupor, and coma, while alkalosis (high pH) can lead to cramps, muscle spasms, irritability and hyperexcitability.

What about small shift in pH? Can these adversely affect your health?

A number of popular nutritional trends have focused on high protein diets.

Some studies have shown that high protein diets with limited fruits and vegetables are associated with an increased net dietary acid load, whereas diets high in fruits and vegetables are associated with a greater degree of alkalinity.

Acid-load foods

·         Cheese

·         Meat

·         Fish

·         Grains

Alkaline-forming foods

·         Fruits

·         Vegetables


Over time, ingestion of high dietary acid load foods may lead to chronic low-grade levels of metabolic acidosis.

This places stress on the body’s alkaline reserves and can lead to numerous health problems, such as osteoporosis, kidney disease and muscle wasting.

 In addition, inadequate intake of bicarbonate precursor buffers (from vegetables and fruits), can lead to bone demineralization due to neutralization of excess diet-derived acid (from meat, cheese and grains).

Excess acid also leads to urinary calcium, which also increases bone demineralization and increases the risk of calcium-containing kidney stones.

Studies show that consuming a diet in alkali-rich fruits and vegetables improves preservation of bone mineral density by increasing calcium and phosphate retention and reducing bone resorption markers.

How can you tell if your dietary acid load is high?

·         A  dietary review for 3 to 7 days to measure protein, fruit and vegetable intake

·         Urine pH (fasting)

The naturopathic medical community traditionally uses acid-alkaline balance as a theoretic model whereas allopathic medicine uses pH modulation in kidneys to control stone formation and elimination of toxins.

Detoxification is another role of acid-alkaline balance.  

In conventional medicine, alkalinization via bicarbonate administration is well documented.

From a naturopathic perspective, following a plant based diet could result in small quantities of toxins being removed continually, thereby supporting ongoing detoxification.

Many people turn to health food stores for “detoxification” products. Generally, these contain herbal diuretics and laxatives and a low dose of vitamins and minerals.

A better approach to detoxification is through progressive alkalinization through an elimination diet that is high in fruits (not fruit juices) and cruciferous vegetables, and low in animal protein.

These plants contain phytochemicals, such as indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, which facilitate toxin biotransformation.  They are also good sources of potassium.

Potassium is an alkalizing nutrient that can help maintain lower blood pressure levels, decrease the risk of bone loss and support detoxification.

Are you on ACID?

An increased dietary acid load from the Standard American Diet (SAD) as well as from some of the fad diets can lead to small but significant shifts in acid-alkaline homeostasis throughout the body and eventually result in chronic diseases.

Using a predominantly plant based diet can shift the body to becoming more alkaline, resulting in disease prevention, ongoing detoxification, weight management and optimum health.

This is not to say that one should avoid animal products, however, balancing your plate (see below) and sourcing your meat and fish from local, sustainable and organic vendors is the healthiest way to go.

Avoiding high glycemic carbohydrates, e.g. refined grains and sugar, is an effective way to balance your pH.



(Image from Cedar Ridge Cross Fit)

About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin