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Updated December 30, 2020
Maintaining good health goes beyond merely what’s on your plate each day. The secret to a healthy body is a balanced body, which our internal organs and systems work to achieve daily through processes like homeostasis. But sometimes, our diet can throw our bodies out of whack, and we need a little extra help to get them back to where they need to be. One key indicator of our balance, or lack thereof, is our body’s pH levels.
If your pH levels are out of balance, you could experience a wide range of completely preventable conditions or symptoms. Here’s a quick guide on how to measure the pH levels in your body—and balance them out to promote good health.
What are pH levels?
You may have studied pH levels in high school science class. If you were paying attention back then, you might remember that pH levels measure the acidity levels of a solution. Acid is corrosive; the stronger the acid, the more easily it can break down other chemicals. Our stomachs, for example, have high levels of acid so they can break down our food and process it properly. On the other side of the spectrum are base substances like bleach or oven cleaner.
The pH levels of our blood and bodily fluids can have a major impact both on how we process food and on our overall health. Our pH levels typically depend on the amount of acidic and alkaline foods in our diet. More often than not, we gravitate toward a highly acidic diet, and thankfully, our body has the ability to break down most acids. Acidic foods move through the bloodstream and are processed through the kidneys like any other type of waste. But our kidneys can only work so hard to process acid. If too much acid is being ingested, then it backs up throughout the bloodstream and can cause corrosion in the body.
Carbon dioxide also affects pH levels in the lungs and the body. Excessive carbon dioxide levels decrease acidity levels even further and back acidic substances up throughout the body.
Signs that your body is too acidic
How do you know that you need to balance your pH levels? The signs of an acidic body range from fatigue to an increased heart rate. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may benefit from testing your pH levels:
- Chronic fatigue
- Headaches or a stiff neck
- Chronic pain, sinus pain or allergies
- Sore or sensitive gums
- Frequent yeast infections
These symptoms could be attributed to other dietary or health issues. If you think you might have mild acidosis, test the pH levels in your body to be sure.
Acidity and the alkaline diet
High levels of acidity in the body have been linked to serious medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity and cancer. If your body experiences high acidity levels that it can no longer control, you may be diagnosed with acidosis.
There are two types of acidosis, and they depend on where your body is being affected. Respiratory acidosis occurs when your lungs cannot process carbon dioxide fast enough to keep pH levels balanced. Metabolic acidosis is concentrated in the kidneys. Lactic acid buildup, diabetes and a loss of sodium bicarbonate all contribute to metabolic acidosis.
Basic foods (with high alkaline levels) can balance out damaging acids with nutrients. An alkaline diet typically has higher levels of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Benefits of an alkaline diet also include increased vitamin absorption, increased bone density and muscle mass, and a lowered risk of inflammatory conditions.
How to test your pH levels
You don’t need a doctor’s appointment to test your pH levels. Get a home kit and follow the directions to measure your body’s pH levels with saliva or urine. pH is measured on a scale from 1 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). A healthy pH is between 6.75 and 7.25; the “ideal” pH is 7.36. (The pH level of water is 7.)
The best time to test your pH levels is two hours before or after a meal. If your pH level is below 6.5, you should make some adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.
Quick tips to naturally balance your pH
Prevent acidosis with a mindful diet and commitment to health. Foods with higher acidity levels should be consumed in moderation. Some of these include:
- Meats and fish
- Dairy products
- Artificial sweeteners and processed foods
- Soda and beer
Balance pH levels by adding more alkaline foods to your diet. Some alkaline foods include:
- Vegetables and greens
- Alternative milks (coconut or almond milk)
- Water (alkaline water when available)
- Green tea
Stay hydrated and stay away from coffee and alcoholic beverages. Since water has a neutral pH, drinking more water will keep your body in balance. Alkaline water has a pH of 9 to 11.
Cigarettes also add to acidity levels in the body. The concentration of carbon dioxide in cigarette smoke is 200 times higher than the atmosphere. Consider quitting smoking if you want to reduce carbon dioxide and acidity levels in the body.
Remember, measuring and balancing your pH levels is a lifelong process. If you get your body back in balance once, it doesn’t mean that dietary changes won’t throw it off kilter again. Your best bet is to eat a healthy diet with a mix of both alkaline and acidic foods, followed by plenty of water.