Among the more fascinating claims made by certain practitioners of alternative medicine is the idea that what you eat can throw your body's pH balance so far off that it will make you ill. All foods, according to Dr. David Mirkin, are acid in your stomach and alkaline in your intestines. No amount of food can make your stomach less acidic or stop your intestines from neutralizing acid.
Autotoxicity is the belief that your insides are festering with all kinds of toxins, bacteria and other things that will poison you if given the chance. Proponents of the acid/alkaline imbalance theory believe that these toxins cause conditions from general fatigue and malaise to cancer and that these conditions can be caused by eating the wrong kinds of food and cured by eating the right kinds of food. The toxins in your body are efficiently processed and removed by your liver, kidneys and excretory system. The only way they can make you sick is if the walls of your intestinal tract are breached.
Manufacturers are now offering water filtration systems that claim to increase the alkaline content of your drinking water in order to help you maintain the proper balance of acid and base in your body. These filtration systems can cost as much as $1,000. Preliminary studies suggest that alkaline water may help combat bone loss in menopausal women, but many more studies are needed.
The idea that you can monitor your body’s pH by measuring the pH of your saliva or urine is often touted by adherents of the acid/alkaline imbalance theory as proof of their claims. It is certainly possible to measure the acid or alkaline profile of your urine or saliva, and eating acid-causing foods or alkaline foods will show a measurable difference. But urine and saliva do not reflect the overall pH balance of your body any more than a sudden blushing cheek represents the entire core temperature of your body. Proof of this is that you can get a pH balance of 6 or lower from urine or saliva, but if your body’s pH was that low, you would be dead.
Your body’s pH is very tightly controlled by your kidneys and lungs. Normal pH -- or balance between acid and alkaline -- is between 7.35 and 7.45. Your lungs control and maintain the proper amount of carbon dioxide in your blood. When your pH level sinks below 7.35, that is called acidosis and it means that there is too much hydrogen in your blood. This can be caused by hyperventilation, among other things. Your kidneys regulate the bicarbonate levels in your blood. If your pH is above 7.45, you don’t have enough hydrogen in your blood and this is called alkalosis.
A diet high in acid-causing foods can cause your body to leach calcium from your bones, weakening them and possibly contributing to osteoporosis, especially if you are a menopausal woman. But if you can’t afford an expensive water filtration system, take heart. Acid-causing foods include dairy, flour, meat and refined sugar. Choosing a lean diet based around leafy green vegetables, fresh fruit, fish, whole grains and essential fatty acids should be enough to keep your pH levels in healthy balance.