You may have heard about pH or the acid-alkaline balance in your wellness travels. I was oblivious to this concept when I began my health and wellness journey. But my overall well-being changed when I started to connect the dots between pH balance, inflammation, and what I was eating and drinking.
What the Heck is pH?
Remember high school science class? Well, if you don’t, here’s a little refresher course: The body maintains a delicate acid-alkaline balance. Everything from healthy cells to cancer cells to soil quality and ocean life is affected by pH.
The term pH stands for “potential hydrogen” which is the measure of hydrogen ions in a particular solution (don’t worry if you’re not science-savvy, I’ll make this easy to understand!). In our case, that “solution” refers to our body’s fluids and tissues.
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 and is meant to measure how acidic or alkaline a substance is. Seven is neutral. Below 7 becomes increasingly acidic, above 7 increasingly alkaline.
What Do Balanced pH Levels Look Like?
As with most health-related barometers, a healthy pH balance is everything. Proper pH balance varies throughout your body for many reasons. For example, your bowels, skin and vagina should be slightly acidic–this helps keep unfriendly bacteria away. Saliva is more alkaline, while your urine is normally more acidic, especially in the morning.
In addition, your body regularly deals with naturally occurring acids that are the by-products of respiration, metabolism, cellular breakdown and exercise. So clearly the goal is not to think of acid as “bad” and alkaline as “good.” Again, the body’s pH levels are a delicate balance.
By far the most important measurement is your blood. For optimal cellular health, your blood pH level must be slightly alkaline with a pH between 7.365 and 7.45. Our bodies are programmed to maintain this range no matter what, since even the slightest dip or rise in pH can have seriously dangerous consequences.
Can the Human Body Restore pH Balance on its Own?
Now here’s the possible problem: The Standard American Diet (SAD) is rife with acidic substances and foods—meat, dairy, highly processed food products and refined sugar. Environmental toxins can be acidic, too, and sadly, those are pretty dang hard to avoid.
Some research claims our bodies can self-correct in the presence of such acidic materials with no negative health impact—but other peer-reviewed studies suggest our bods have to work harder to neutralize the acidic load, resulting in a gradual decline in health.
The jury’s still out and further research is needed, but we do know that high acid diets are associated with gout, kidney stones, and other health conditions, so it seems likely there’s something to the whole pH and food connection. To that I say, why not tip the scales in the alkaline direction?
How to Measure pH Balance
You may be tempted to start testing your pH like a mad woman to make sure you’re on track, but it’s really not necessary. I tested my tinkle a lot when I first learned about pH, but these days I’m comfortable skipping the strips, knowing that I’m doing what I can to contribute to my pH balance with the three diet and lifestyle practices below.
But if you’re still curious, you can test your urine at home with litmus paper strips (available online for about $10). Keep in mind that the pH of urine always varies, depending on what you eat and when, and that you should test your second urine of the day for the best snapshot of what’s going on inside.
Testing your urine can show you how well your body is excreting acids and assimilating minerals. For optimum sparkle, the normal pH level in your urine should fall in the 6.8 to 7.5 pH range.
What Causes a pH Imbalance?
Think about the acidic standard American diet (SAD). Most folks are shovelin’ in the acid multiple times per day with tons of sugar, processed foods, factory-farmed animal products, etc. One of the biggest pitfalls of the SAD is the toll it takes on the body, especially the digestive system, liver, and kidneys. What else can wreak havoc on pH levels?
Constant stress leads to the secretion of stress hormones, which can lead to chronic inflammation and an acidic environment.
When you’re stressed, do you breathe quickly? Rapid and shallow breathing—taking in oxygen too quickly—can lead to acidity.
Exposure to environmental toxins (heavy metals, pollutants, hormones, chemicals in food and plastics, beauty products, unclean tap water, etc.) can wreak havoc on your pH balance.
Infections also lead to an acidic environment which impacts your immune system, increasing the likelihood of continued illness. Secondly, over-the-counter medications can alter your microbiome and allow bad bacteria to thrive, which can negatively impact pH levels.
If you have a medical condition (like diabetes) it may lead to a higher pH level. If you have a diagnosed medical condition, check with your doctor to help determine your next steps.
Symptoms of a pH Imbalance
These are just a few of the symptoms you might exhibit as acid levels (or alkaline levels) increase.
- Skin problems
- Bowel issues
- Vaginal infections
Vaginal pH Balance
Good bacteria work to keep your vaginal pH balanced. For example, Lactobacilli bacteria live in the vagina and secrete lactic acid (which is what makes your vagina acidic). When vaginal pH levels are out of whack, it can lead to numerous infections:
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
- Yeast infections
- Atrophic vaginitis
- Urinary tract infections
Unbalanced vaginal pH levels can allow harmful bacteria to kill good bacteria, leading to these common infections. Vaginal health is important to your overall health, and restoring ph balance should positively impact your lady parts, too!
Think you have a vaginal imbalance?
- Vaginal discharge that is a cottage cheese consistency could be a yeast infection
- A foul-smelling vaginal discharge that isn’t clear or off-white might indicate bacterial vaginosis
- If you’re experiencing burning or see blood in your pee, you might have a UTI.
Women’s health is important to me (obviously!) and a healthy vagina is important to overall wellness. See your doc if you’re experiencing any uncomfortable symptoms and they may prescribe something to help balance your ph levels.
ALKALINE VS. ACIDIC FOODS
How do we know if a food is alkaline or acidic, and by how much? The most common method is to incinerate a sample of the food and analyze the mineral content of the ash. Not something you can do with a chemistry set from Toys “R” Us.
At any rate, if the ash is high in alkaline minerals, the food will probably have an alkalizing effect. That’s the theory, anyway. Because lab results and experts often disagree, the many books and websites that give alkaline and acidic food charts also disagree. Usually, the disagreement is minor. In some cases, though, it’s much bigger.
Whether a food is mildly alkalizing or mildly acidifying doesn’t matter very much. There are definitely shades of gray. What’s far more important is to understand what’s highly acidic and thus also inflammatory to make better choices. I’ve added some resources to help you do just that.
We can potentially tilt the pH scale in the alkaline direction with a diet filled with mineral-rich plant foods. By eating a more alkaline diet (leafy greens, wheatgrass, veggies, sprouts, avocados, green juices and smoothies) as opposed to an acidic diet (high in animal products, processed carbs, refined sugar, energy drinks, etc), we flood our bodies with alkalinity, vitamins and other nutrients. Healthy food creates healthy cells. Conversely, junk goes in and junk comes out.
What Causes an Alkaline Imbalance?
Look at your plate, peek in your glass. What direction are you moving in? On the pH scale, Soda = 2. Coffee = 4. Cucumber = 7. Get the picture? Burgers, fries, diet sodas, muffins, and candy bars will lead to excess acid. Green drinks, salads, and sprouts are alkaline foods. Your goal is to make more energy deposits than withdrawals. Do you have to be perfect? NO.
And it’s not even possible to eat a 100 percent alkaline diet and maintain good health anyway. Foods like beans, grains and nuts are overall quite healthy and essential to a plant-powered diet—yet they also have a slightly higher acidic pH level.
It’s the highly acidic foods we need to be careful about (but no one’s saying don’t have cake on your birthday. Please do.). Again, your goal is to fill your well more than you deplete it. Our bodies forgive the detours and exploration, as long as they don’t take place 24-7.
Top 3 Ways To Restore and Support Your Body’s pH Balance
What can you do to balance your body’s pH level? Here are a few natural remedies to try:
Start Your Day with a Tall Glass of Lemon Water and Stay Hydrated
While lemons are acidic in their natural form, lemon water is alkaline-forming in the body. Drench your cells in alkalinity each morning with two cups of warm water with ¼ fresh-squeezed lemon. Yes, there are fancy (and expensive) water ionizers or bottled alkaline water out there, but you can also alkalize your water by simply adding lemon.
You might want to double-check the pH level of water that you drink. Distilled water can skew acidic, which means it absorbs carbon dioxide, making your body even more acidic. You’ll want to lean more toward alkaline water.
Eat More Raw Foods and Drink Green Juices and Smoothies
Organic green juice, green juice, green juice and green smoothies! The staples of a healthy diet are key: leafy greens, wheatgrass, veggies, sprouts, certain fresh fruits, nuts and seeds, certain grains and seaweeds flood our bodies with vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll and phytonutrients—and create an alkaline environment.
Unhealthy cells (like cancer cells) or viruses, bacteria and other nasty microorganisms hate oxygen. They prefer an acidic diet high in animal products, processed and refined foods, and synthetic chemicals.
Exercise, Manage Stress, Sleep Better and Avoid Nasty Chemicals
It’s not just diet that affects your pH. Lack of exercise and an overage of anger, drugs, cigarettes and stress can create inflammation and high acidity levels in the body. Stress isn’t a laughing matter or a badge of courage. The work-hard, play-hard, deal-with-it-later approach is a big pH no-no.
Emotional stress releases acid-forming hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that flood your system and muck up your soil. Whether it’s through more yoga, cat naps, meditation, deep breathing exercises, strolls in the woods, or stress management counseling, reducing the negativity in your day-to-day is a powerful way to improve your cellular health.
Consider Taking a Probiotic Supplement
A healthy diet full of high-fiber foods should keep your system’s levels of probiotics balanced. You can consider adding in more fermented foods (kombucha, miso, pickles, etc.) or taking a probiotic supplement.
More Resources About Balancing pH Levels
Ready for some further reading? Here are some great resources you can check out:
- The Ultimate pH Solution by Michelle Schoffro-Cook
- The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health by Christopher Vasey
- Crazy Sexy Diet by moi
Just to name a few! You can also find many charts online.
Peace & peppy pH,
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Like your article, I balance my diet with high pH ionic alkaline water. One such water I was lucky to find was alkapower.
The research I did found that by way of eating and drinking foods that were alkaline I had to eat large amounts and most alkaline waters were inactive minerals.
This alkapower is calcium infused with active minerals and a pH of nearly 10 which helped with my super greens in the morning because this drinks minerals are bio available.
I’m very passionate about this hence giving you some feedback.
All the best
Some people talk about measuring the pH of the blood, lymph, saliva or urine to try to determine whether the pH of the cells is high enough. It won’t work:
“Another interesting book is; Alkalize or Die, by Dr. Theodore A. Baroody. In Chapter one, he describes the difficulty of getting an accurate pH reading of the body by measuring the pH of urine, saliva, or other body fluids. He also describes how a healthy regimen can cause these ph measurements to indicate acid, as the healing process removes the acid causing materials from the body.http://www.healthrecipes.com/ph_cancer.htm
This is one of the quotes in the Baroody book that supports that statement:
“At present no tests can accurately gauge how acid you are because current diagnostic methods reveal only that acid wastes are present in body fluids (blood, lymph, urine, mucous, and saliva). Such tests never give a reliable indicator of how much acid waste is actually in the system, because the fluids are always running through the tissues attempting to remove these excess tissue acid wastes. Therefore, although it is possible to measure body fluid as being alkaline or acid, it is impossible to evaluate the state of body tissues (skin, organs, glands, muscles, ligaments, arteries and vessels) based solely on blood, urine, or saliva tests.
Unfortunately, waste acids that are not eliminated when they should be are reabsorbed from the colon into the liver and put back into general circulation. They then deposit in the tissues. It is these tissue residues that determine sickness or health!
Alkalize or Die, by Dr. Theodore A. Baroody, N.D, D.C, Ph.D., page 15
He states that the only real way to tell if your tissue is acidic or alkaline is to analyze your diet.
Also the water you drink & the emotional stress you go through.
If alkaline foods has been discussed above, a good option for CLEAN,HEALTH,ALKALINE , ANTIoxidant water is ionized water from a QUALITY water ionizer:
My naturopathic dr. has me downing 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar before each meal. Is that to help PH balance? I have been suffering from hives.
I suffered from severe mouth ulcers & skin blisters for 6 years & used prednisone a lot to alleviate them…bad choice! It has tremendous negative side effects & causes new diseases as a side effect. 6 months ago I learned about the acid/alkaline balance. I was very acidic so in addition to incorporating greens with every meal I starting drinking organic apple cider morning & evening. Braggs is the brand I use. I dilute 2 tbsp in a cup of filtered water morning & evening. It has been life changing!!!! No more sores & my PH is balanced! Sounds Crazy but I must say my illness was for my spiritual growth so I wouldn’t take back the pain & suffering cuz as a result I’m an enlightened, appreciative, mindful, aware being who needed a devastating illness to WAKE UP & truly start living. Thank you universe. Love you Kris!
I want to clarify something very important: I drink Organic Apple Cider VINEGAR twice a day, diluted with water!
Apple cider vinegar is alkalizing, although doctors often recommend it for patients who are combatting depression and/or want to lose weight despite the fact that there’s very little research proving those claims. Apple cider vinegar does have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties when used topically, and it may help to boost your immune system with its alkalizing effects. xo, Kris
i was taking 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinger after dinner, my yeast went crazy,am coming out of a bad allergie attack from it,so i believe i need to bring my alkaline down to normal,right and i’m not understanding how to do this.
I was wondering what on earth was kicking my butt causing among other things ,very sore and sensitive tongue and gums, I had recently started taking two tablespoons of acv with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda , twice per day.
Have a history of chronic acidity all my life from massive ODs of pennicillin as a kid.
Like 5 & 6 large syringes every day for 5 months into a 4 &5 year old.
Thought I had it reasonably under control but had to change from the mixed vinegar tabs as could no longer get them, so started Heel Multi Mag with Zinc and Heel utimag, again thinking it should be under control, only to find my PH reads 5.6 and the cva seems to make it worse.
Some people have claimed ACV has cured them from cancer. Google it you’ll be amazed at some of the stories.. I want to start taking it for my sinuses 🙂
ACV is great for sinuses! I had what felt like a sinus infection, the internet suggested ACV in warm water, chug it down. That made the feeling that a truck was trying to exit my face go away completely.
I really enjoyed reading you article, we all make excuses for not eating well. If we just took some time to do the correct things then we could be healthier. I did a post on prebiotic-and-proiotic.
Cheers and thank you
My body has become very alkaline vs acidic after adopting a vegan diet nine years ago this coming September. I chose diet rather than traditional treatments for aggressive cancer that was diagnosed on September 15, 2005. My 73-year-old body is completely free of any pain(s). The only medication that I take is drops for eye pressure.
My wife had lupus for 15 years; she was diagnosed lupus free after becoming vegan.
We do deviate from the vegan diet when away from home.
Hi Larry I was wondering when you said “you deviate from the vegan diet when away from home”, do you mean you eat beef, chicken, fish, breads, dessert etc…? How often does this happen… weekly, monthly, rarely? Just curious 🙂 I do pretty well with staying alkaline but I have a hard time giving up my grass fed beef weekly. I love beef and grass fed butter.
Thank You!! and congratulations on staying alive and healthy!
Great overview Kris, so clear that you’ve been walking the path for a long time. I especially appreciate how break down difficult topics and make them accessible without oversimplifying. Thank you!
I have been taking baby steps into a more alkaline life since I started following you. You are an inspiration!
You advise putting lemon juice in warm water. In my experience, the organic lemons available in my area are green and very sour. I place them in a paper bag, but they don’t ripen much:( My question is could I use lemon essential oil (or lemongrass)? And what would the pH of the EO be? Love&Light♡ Sandy
What about organic lemon juice in a bottle? Also, I was under the impression that essential oils aren’t to be ingested. Is that correct?
If you have a high grade essential oil like Young Living or DoTerra they can be ingested. Other oils can have fillers and/or pesticides and other junk. I think lemon essential oil is an excellent alternative to out-of-season lemons. I agree, they are expensive and nasty out of season (as is most produce). So I’m waiting for the Texas lemons this winter! So excited!
Just a note, I would be very careful about ingesting oils. My Aunt who is a distributer for Young Living was ingesting the oils because she was told they are safe. She started having issues with her throat (she was swollowing them in capsules). Her doctor said she has to have a particular water, she is now being told to eat gluten free and some other things. It caused issues with her lining in her throat. Not sure if it was too potent or overuse, who knows, just be careful 🙂
Oregano oil can be destructive to the throat lining, according to the formulator of the oils I use (it may hold of all of the hot oils as well), .but usually, if a drop of oregano is included in a veggie cap w/Carrier oil, such coconut or olive, it is safe to swallow. I wouldn’t do it often though, but only for a serious health issue, & after researching a lot first.
It says right on the bottle to dilute with water.
Essential oil of lemon, which is usually made by pressing the peel (rather than the pulp as is the case with lemon juice) also has an alkalizing effect on the body. Lemongrass may also have an alkalizing effect, although it’s hard to determine specifically which would be best and what the pH would be. If fresh lemons aren’t the best option, a few drops of the essential oil in a glass of water or consuming lemongrass may be great habits for keeping your system alkaline. xo, kc
Luv u Kris..Muaaaaaahhhhg :-*
Thanks for the refresher! It’s been a while since I’ve read CrazySexyDiet!
Hi Kris…what is your opinion on the Seven point 2 system? I have read all of your books and am a cancer survivor. Just trying to decide whether to try some of their products. Any input? Thanks!
Thanks, Kris! I’ve been drinking filtered water with a lemon sliced up in it and a cucumber. All day long! Just add more filtered water as I pour myself more refrigerated lemon/cuke water. My skin looks great!
PS: How are Buddy and Lola? Hope all is well!
Hi, love this article! Very informative but I have a question. I’ve heard about the lemon water before but I’m violently allergic to lemon of any kind. I’m on a very tight budget right now and this special water sounds out of my grasp. Any suggestions on something I could substitute that won’t break the bank? Any ideas would be appreciated. Thank you!
Lime can work well in water, and even just focusing on lots of alkalizing plant foods and drinking plain filtered water may be beneficial enough. xo, kc
Clear and concise article explaining what can sometimes be a daunting subject. Personally I loved finding out about this stuff and for the last 3 years have been living as alkaline as possible and noticed significant results (not that I was ill or anything before – just normal really). So much so, that I love to share with others this information. Let’s sort out people’s health, energy and vitality once and for all! 🙂
What about the skinny dipping in the hot tub?
Yea….nice hook and line, but no worm.
I was wondering the same thing??
Thank you so much for illuminating an “under-discussed” topic! I’ve been on and off the wellness journey and your articles are informative and motivating. Best, Anne
Kriss, what I don’t understand is everything goes through the stomach and the ph emptying from the stomach is extremely acidic no matter whether you’ve eaten a high acid or alkaline food.
The acid in your stomach is needed to break down proteins properly, which is a separate issue from the acidity or alkalinity of a food. Many foods are acidic in their natural state, but the acidity/alkalinity of a food is the effect that food has on the pH of the body. Absorption of all foods happens in the intestinal tract and that absorption is what can affect the pH of your blood and tissues. xo, kc
That question baffled me for a long time too; I now know that eating & drinking, as Kris has laid out, while optimal, sadly isn’t happening a whole lot in our society, except for those who are really into health (which thankfully is increasing!), but millions still seem clueless due to lack of education or ‘ignorance is bliss’ attitudes. It is also still challenging when one has to travel, work outside the home, endless holidays, vacations, etc. I was very grateful indeed to learn that taking a superior quality vitamin/mineral//herbal supplement daily will provide the body with those essential minerals & nutrients the body needs to maintain that fine pH line, so it doesn’t’ have to rob the bones, etc. to maintain the blood/cell pH. I highly recommend looking into that as an important part of an optimal health regimen. All the Best in Health! 🙂
I got to hear a doctor who treats with diet more then drugs talk about health issues and he described what exactly happens when we digest food. The little sphincters at the top of the stomach is not working right and it lets acid seep up into the throat, acid reflux. When the one at the bottom doesn’t work right then it lets acid into the intestines.
Neither are good. I can’t remember the reasons he gave for their dysfunction but I believe it’s when the stomach has to much acid. but I do know that the SAD (standard American diet) had way to much acid producing foods. We have the highest rates of diabetes, heart disease and acid reflux and cancer. If you ever watch tv and see all those drug commercials listen to what they are for.
The best balance is eating mostly alkaline foods with some acidic foods but not at the same meal.
HeeMeeSheeMee!!! (my word for all things serendipitous) Sitting hear drinking my warm lemon water (just starting up that practice again) when I read your post.
Thanks Universe (and Kris) for the great reminder this morning!
All the best from my zesty lemon Creative Oasis morning to yours,
Thanks Kris! What a great reminder & topic. I completely agree and try to make conscious decisions in life that will help keep me in ph balance. I even find myself sometimes playing catch up when I’ve indulged on vacation or a holiday by o.d.ing on greens & zen. Its a fine science, but somebody’s got to do it :)!
I found you through Marie Forleo, and I am so blessed to find another dynamic, passionate and heat driven woman. I love the way you write, and this post especially. As a skin care professional, I am constantly nagging (lovingly of course..wink) my clients about PH in their bodies, and in their skincare products. Knowing about PH is critical if someone wants to live a healthy life and have gorgeous skin. You have wonderful tips that I will forward to my clients. Thank you again for living passionately and sharing valuable and truthful information with me and others. YOU ROCK!!!! .
Loved your book, love your blog. My partner is a presence facilitator and she helps people listen to their bodies for healing power. My family has high blood pressure and I’ve lowered mine!
We bought a water ionizer – WE LOVE IT!!! I can’t imagine never having one. Helps keep our PH balances in check – AND it preserves our vegetables from the farmers’ mkt like no one’s business.
I just wrote a book and wondering if you’d be interested in endorsing it. It’s about Mindful Leadership. Many leaders I coach ask if what they east affects their ability to be present – when I start discussing health and diet, they get it very quickly.
All the best. Warmly, Abby
really cool site
Thank you for refreshing our memories on the ying and yang of acidic and alkaline! I am one of your many followers that feel blessed to have you devoting your life to making the world a healthier, happier and sexier place to be! I reap the benefits of your studious knowledge and witty explanations! Keep up your amazing, inspirational work!