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WHY PH? Indeed, WHY PH? Part 2

WHY PH? Indeed, WHY PH? Part 2

PH and Health

And we’re back.  I know in my first blog I said this would be a 2 part series but as I've researched this topic and discovered the sheer volume of information on pH in water or pH in overall health I’ve come to the realization that I'm going to need three parts. . Before I begin, let me say, I know that some readers will disagree with me or suggest alternative sources of information and that’s fine. Just please understand that everything I have written or the information I’ve chosen to share and the sources I have selected represent as closely as possible, the nature of conversations I’ve had in the store. This is the kind of stuff customers ask about and it’s sometimes difficult to put into simple concise answers.  PH in water and its implications in overall health is a very large subject.  With that in mind let’s continue: why pH?, part 2.

So, previously we were looking at pH and its relevance to the elemental makeup of water.  I chose several examples in my brief treatise, out of thousands, and again I focused on areas that I thought were closely representative of the types of conversations that happen here in the store. I hope that’s helped.  If it didn’t or you’re still confused please don’t be concerned.  PH in water is a vast subject and discussions on it seem to move from science to heresy in a heartbeat.  Speculation notwithstanding, suffice it to say that the higher the pH rating in water the lower the hydrogen ion potential it has.  Higher pH is considered basic, lower pH is considered acidic, and that dear reader, is about all she wrote. 

Okay, so here in part 2 I’ll briefly review some health issues related to pH balance and then in part 3 move on to explain some of the steps, we take to remediate water pH values to achieve our various client’s goals. Before I begin though let me reiterate that I am not a doctor. Nor am I in any way a medical professional, or medically qualified to give anyone health advice, and anything I write or that is published in my blog is done so under the clear understanding that it is just an exchange of opinions or information.  Not one word of my writing is intended to be or is qualified as medical advice, and equally, it is never intended to substitute in any way for medical advice. So, please if you have questions or concerns of any kind: use your noodle and consult a professional.  You’ll know a professional is indeed a professional because it will say something like "Doctor, or Nutritional Consultant etc,"  on their business card. Make sense?  We're good?  Okay, let’s continue. 

PH in Water and Its Effect on Health

The human body is designed to function with a blood pH level in a tight but varying zone between 7.35 to 7.45, with some minor fluctuation therein. The efficiency of lung and kidney or renal function is a crucial factor in the variation and level of pH throughout the body.  If for any reason the functional capacity of either is hindered the pH can become imbalanced through a disruption in the acid to base equilibrium and this can result in medical conditions known as acidosis and alkalosis. Both conditions require treatment from a medical professional, as opposed to making simple dietary or lifestyle changes. Additionally, the human body also regulates the pH levels of other areas and organs: including the digestive tract, reproductive system, and skin to ensure that they function efficiently. As you can imagine, this is a very complex multifaceted process. If however, you remain healthy, and follow a good diet and a regimen of regular physical activity, for the most part, you shouldn’t be too concerned.  

So acidosis and alkalosis: the first refers to blood that’s too acidic, or a pH of less than 7.35, while the latter refers to blood that’s too basic, or a blood pH greater than 7.45.  A very simple but important calculation. 

Let’s start with acidosis and the two main types: respiratory and metabolic.  Respiratory is caused by an inhibition of lung function and the resulting inability to fully exhale carbon dioxide and typically results in an overall feeling of fatigue and sleepiness.  Metabolic, is generally sub-divided into 2 categories anion gap metabolic acidosis and non-anion gap metabolic acidosis. This is the result of several causes such as an increase of sodium bicarbonate, ketones or lactic acid in the blood. 

Alkalosis too breaks down into 2 basic (no pun intended) conditions, once again Metabolic and Respiratory. Respiratory alkalosis results when carbon dioxide is overly reduced in the blood and is generally caused by simple hyperventilation, aspirin overdose, or high fever. Respiratory alkalosis also occurs when there is a significant reduction of carbon dioxide in the blood.  Interestingly enough though low carbon dioxide occurring during times of stress for example can often be alleviated merely by taking a few deep breaths through a paper bag.  

Metabolic alkalosis results when bicarbonate levels in the blood become elevated and can be brought on by severe vomiting, prolonged use of diuretics, perhaps when dieting or an overactive adrenal gland.  And another condition of concern is hypokalemic alkalosis which results when kidney function is generally abnormal, through a potassium deficiency in the blood, which causes the kidneys to significantly decrease hydrogen in the blood. If you encounter or suspect you may be suffering from any of these go now, and consult a medical professional.

Additionally, a pH imbalance can affect the body on a cellular level. A variation in pH levels in spinal fluid and cerebral fluid resulting from acidosis causes a reduction in oxygen supply to brain cells and if acute can engender lethargy and mental confusion. Alkalosis, or high pH, can also cause a constriction in blood vessels and oxygen to brain cells. Alkalosis can result in confusion, seizures and loss of consciousness. So either condition can through different processes cause similar health issues typically resulting in tiredness and lethargy.

In terms of hindering immune defense, acidosis or low pH has been proven to inhibit the function of immune cells, such as macrophages, causing the release of inflammatory cytokines, which cause inflammation. Acidosis can equally decrease the action of lymphocytes, resulting in a debilitating process that inhibits the elimination of pathogens, depleting the immune response.  Acidosis also has a destructive effect on bone cells and muscle cells, including the heart.

Once again I repeat, a good diet and regular physical activity will go a long way toward keeping pH levels exactly where they should be, but if you suspect any of this is going and your health may be at risk, go and seek advice from a medical professional.  All of this is eminently treatable and is unlikely to get better on its own.  

Will food or diet truly affect pH in the body?  UC San Diego Health has a really good article on food and pH levels. In their article titled: “pHear pHactor: Debunking the Alkaline Diet” the author: Melanie Peters has written a very good review of the legitimacy or effectiveness of the popular Alkaline diet.  Now before going too much deeper into this please understand I am largely impartial. While I have personally witnessed what could only be described as a medical miracle through strict adherence to alkaline water, I’m not truly ready to endorse or decry it. If it works for you, then great, go for it. As someone-way brighter than I once said: “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it” and if you’re curious, go ahead and give it a try.  Just know, there’s a lot, and I mean a lot of nonsense printed about water, so use your noodle, think it through before you commit. And start with what I call a healthy skepticism. 

So as far as food and pH are concerned here is a paraphrase in reference to the article. Based on the hotly debated idea that cancers grow in an acidic environment, the impression is that eating a diet that is high in alkaline-based foods will create an internal environment that discourages the development of cancer. I find it very difficult to consider accurate or even factually definitive.

Everyone who focuses’ their diet on fresh fruits and vegetables with controlled or carefully measured quantities of healthily cooked lean protein will benefit: in lots and lots of ways. Remember, the efficiency of your lungs and kidneys control the pH of your blood, between an optimal range 7.3 and 7.4. The pH in other parts of the body can and will vary but the blood should remain constant.  The thinking behind the alkaline diet is that the types of foods we eat, our body, and particularly the kidneys will benefit from wise dietary choices and have an easier job maintaining the ideal pH.  

Now the actual pH in food doesn’t determine its effect on the body, it’s actually the effect that food has on kidney function. This is called the: potential renal acid load or PRAL and that is what qualifies any specific food as acid or basic. So, the less renal acid load a food creates the more alkaline it becomes.  Now with that in mind, we can ask does eating food with a lower PRAL rating support health or change the pH value in the body? Not surprisingly, the data on this is mixed and there is no consensus. Back to my previous assertion: the long and short of it is, that if you focus your diet on lots of fresh fruit and vegetables with limited quantities of healthily cooked protein your concerns largely become moot.  

Eating strictly alkaline foods at face value should create a low acid, basically healthy system but there are inherent nutritional deficiencies.  Likewise a diet focused wholly on acidic foods will entails nutritional compromise and results in the depletion of alkaline buffers. No clear-cut winner: just good nutrition and balance.

If you look at the alkaline diet you’ll see it focus’s mostly on fruits and vegetables, which is a pattern of eating recommended for preventing cancer. But look at bit more closely because these recommendations aren’t solely based on the PRAL value of  foods but are more concerned with the fact that these foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. Once again confirming that a diet as close to ideal as possible is based on a variety of foods: plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Although I for one am not a big grains guy I can clearly see the nutritional value of consuming whole grain breads and cereals.

Anyway does food affect pH in the body?  If so can it be measured, or has it been measured?  Exactly how much pH food should one eat?  Should a person restrict their diet to strictly alkaline foods or water and if they did would they be healthier? Okay, let me answer that: I have no idea  And equally I have no hard science to support and opinion either way. 

To quote Melanie Peters and her excellent article: “pHear pHactor”  food and health are intimately tied together, and rightly so, but it’s also important to remember that our overall health isn’t just dependent on what or how we eat. Optimal health includes maintaining a healthy body weight, regular physical activity, quality sleep, stress reduction and social connections. Just as there is no singular dietary hero or villain, no particular eating pattern can make or break our health singularly. We often put a lot of pressure on our dietary choices to take responsibility for our overall health. Because of this, we tend to either over-complicate one of our most basic health needs, or over-simplify food into “good” and “bad” categories. To risk over-quoting one of my favourite dietary authors, Michael Pollan, "the best nutritional advice can still be distilled down to these three things: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  And for my part don’t sweat the small stuff: like pH in water. Ultimately its a rock-solid "maybe". 

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