Acids erroneously get a bad rap from sites trying to promote the alkalize for health myth. Acids are actually essential not only to our survival, but also our existence. These essential acids include hydrochloric acid, pyruvic acid, acetic acid, carbonic acid, hyaluronic acid, glucuronic acid, malic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, uric acid, fatty acids, amino acids, ascorbic acid, pantothenic acid, folic acid, etc.
Acids generated by the body for health include:
- Stomach acid for the digestion of proteins and to kill ingested pathogens.
- Lactic, acetic and other flora generated fatty are needed for proper mineral absorption.
- The same acids listed above also kill off pathogens.
- Hyaluronic acid helps to prevent the spread of pathogens, cancer cells and venoms.
- Hyaluronic acid also holds our cellular matrix together.
- Flora generated fatty acids keep Candida growth under control and to keep Candida from morphing in to its pathogenic fungal form.
- Glucuronic acid aids in detoxification of the body.
- As building blocks for all cells, hormones, neurotransmitters, antibodies, etc.
- Amino acids are needed the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which fuels the cells and helps them to function properly.
- Carbonic acid regulates blood pressure, is also required for the production of stomach acid and coverts highly toxic ammonia in to the antioxidant uric acid.
- Citric acid is produced by bone cells to maintain healthy bones through bone remodeling.
- Citric, malic and pyruvic acids are required form the formation of adenosine triphosphate that fuels our cells and helps them to function properly.
These are just some of the acids generated by the body to benefit the body.
The body also relies on external source of acids for health. For example, one of the most common antioxidants in plants is the polyphenol tannic acid. Chaparral contains nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), the strongest natural antioxidant known. Not only does NDGA work in both the lipid and water portions of cells unlike most antioxidants, NDGA has also been found to significantly inhibit cancer cells. Chlorogenic acid and betulinic acid are powerful anti-viral and anti-cancer compounds. Usinic acid is a strong antiseptic found in usnea lichen and kombucha tea. Benzoic acid is another strong antiseptic found in various plants. Amino acids not synthesized by the body must be obtained from external sources. Same with fatty acids that serve various functions from killing pathogens to building cell membranes. Various vitamins required by the body such as vitamin C and B5 are acids. Orthosilicic acid derived from external sources and created with the help of stomach acid forms various tissues in the body. These include bone, cartilage, skin, tendons, ligaments, teeth, etc. Salicylic acid is a common anti-inflammatory found in a number of plants.
Ironically, the alkalize or die supporters are big fans of diets high in fruits and vegetables for health. And what are some of the acids found in fruits and vegetables? Oxalic acid, malic acid, citric acid, chlorogenic acid, succinic acid, fumaric acid, lactic acid, oxalacetic acid, tartaric acid, quinic acid, benzoic acid, acetic acid, allantoic acid, sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid…………
Speaking of diet, the alkaline supporters rely heavily on what they refer to as alkalizing foods. Various lists of acid forming and alkaline forming foods can be found on the Internet, but they rarely match up. Not surprising since there is not any solid science behind the claims.
For instance, one website shows various soy products as being highly alkaline, while another site claims soy is an acid forming food. These same sites also disagree on white kidney beans with one site claiming they are acidic and the other alkaline. Several sites I found claim avocado is alkaline and one claims it is acidic. Looking at other sites I found one that claims honey is highly acidic and another site claiming honey is alkaline. One site claims all forms of rice are acidic and another site claiming japonica and wild rice are alkaline. Blueberries are considered acidic on some sites and alkaline on other sites. Depending on the site cow’s milk is considered alkaline, neutral or acidic regardless if raw or pasteurized. There are plenty more contradictions between the various sites.
I see a lot of the confusion being that there is no basis for the claims of acid or alkaline forming. Sugar is considered acid forming even though the fruits and vegetables considered either acid or alkaline all contain the same sugars. And fructose found in so many fruits that are considered alkaline is processed the same way as the fructose found in “junk foods” they consider acidic. Foods high in acids, such as lemon and kale are considered alkaline, while other acid sources such as pomegranates and cranberries are considered acidic.
There just does not seem to be any rational for the foods are either acidic or alkaline claims. Foods high in protein you would think are acidic due to the breakdown of proteins results in highly alkaline ammonia first, which then forms uric acid. Yet, spirulina which is nearly 4 times higher in protein than beef, which should be considered acidic is actually considered alkaline. Could it be based on fiber content? Can’t be. Jerusalem artichoke is considered acidic and sweet potatoes are considered alkaline despite both being high in fiber. Could it be the starch content? Again, not the case. Yams, which are considered alkaline are nearly twice as high in starch than lentils that are considered acidic. Maybe it is the simple sugar content. Yet grapes, which are loaded with sugar are considered alkaline while Brussel sprouts, which are lower in sugar are considered acidic. Maybe it is the mineral content. Since there are so many different minerals I will just focus on the three that would be considered the primary alkaline minerals potassium, calcium and magnesium. Blackberries, which are considered acidic are significantly higher in all three minerals than cantaloupe that is considered alkaline.
Milk regardless if raw or pasteurized still contains the same amount of protein, sugar and minerals. Yet some people claim that raw milk is alkaline while pasteurized milk is acidic as where other people claim all forms of cow’s milk are either acidic, neutral or alkaline.
Beef is considered acidic even though it is high in “alkaline minerals” such as potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium.
I have also seen lists claims that vinegar or kombucha tea are alkaline, even though there have been reports of people developing acidosis after consuming too much of these acid sources.
Lemon juice though, which also contains sugar and various acids is actually considered alkaline. The actual pH of lemon juice is actually acidic, but as with every food and drink we ingest it stimulates an alkaline effect in the body. How can this be? Simple. When we ingest foods or drinks the stomach acidity has to drop in pH to a certain level of acidity before the stomach can empty in to the intestines. Therefore, it does not really matter what proteins, minerals, sugars, etc. that are in the food or drink. They all leave the stomach at the same acidic pH range.
The stomach contents dumped in the intestines, known as chyme, is always acidic. The intestines cannot handle this kind of acidity though. Therefore, as soon as the chyme enters the first part of the intestine it is met with alkalizing sodium bicarbonate released by the pancreas. Interestingly, the alkaline sodium bicarbonate is formed from sodium chloride salt that the alkaline supporters consider acidic.
From there the byproducts of the food can be dealt with in different ways. Sugars for example are considered acid forming. So what is the acid byproduct of sugar metabolism? Carbon dioxide. Is carbonic acid acidifying or alkalizing though? Actually both.
Carbon dioxide combines with water to form carbonic acid. Carbonic acid serves several beneficial functions for the body such as regulating blood pressure.
If a person hyperventilates this will cause the person’s blood to become excessively alkaline. As a result the blood vessels constrict pushing blood away from the brain causing the person to pass out. When the person passes out they fall down, which helps in part to restore blood flow to the brain. Respiration also slows down or temporarily stops in part to increase carbonic acid levels back to normal. This allows the blood vessels to relax restoring blood flow to the brain.
Another function of carbon dioxide is the formation of sodium bicarbonate. The sodium is provided by sodium salt we ingest. This sodium bicarbonate functions to neutralize the acidity of chyme as it leaves the stomach to protect the intestines from the acidity.
As proteins are broken down the amino acids that make them up are released. Amino acids are based with ammonia, which is not only highly alkaline, but also highly poisonous to the body. Carbonic acid helps convert the highly toxic ammonia in to uric acid. Uric acid is one of the body’s primary antioxidants. Because an acid is being used to covert the toxic ammonia in to another acid there is no real gain in acidity.
Carbonic acid is also required for the formation of stomach acid, which among other functions helps with the absorption of minerals needed to build bone.
Excess carbon dioxide is eliminated so that the proper pH of the blood is maintained.
As we can see it does not matter what the food is the results are all the same. Food is first brought to an acidic pH then the acidity is neutralized as it leaves the stomach. The only way a food can alter the body’s pH to make it either acidic or alkaline is for that food to overwhelm the body’s natural pH buffers. This is extremely difficult to do unless consuming extremely large amounts of acid sources like vinegar or alkaline substances like calcium carbonate.
The only foods that do not have their pH altered by the stomach acid or the bicarbonate released on the chyme are fibers. Fibers are not really food for the body though, but rather the flora. The beneficial acid producing flora that inhabit various parts of our body enzymatically break down fibers, which are long chain sugar molecules, in to simple sugars to feed on. The bacterial fermentation of these sugars allow the bacteria to produce acids that control pathogen overgrowth and aid in mineral absorption.
Now we can see why the acid food and alkaline food claims contradict each other. They are not based on any real facts, but rather opinions.
Even if the blood starts to become acidic the primary means of pH for the body is respiration. Therefore, as blood acidity increases so does the respiratory rate to increase alkalinity by decreasing carbonic acid and hydrogen ions. On the other hand if someone goes in to alkalosis their respiratory rate will decrease or temporarily stop to allow the buildup of carbonic acid and hydrogen ions to restore the pH.
If the pH goes beyond the range that respiration alone can handle then the body can use other means to maintain it’s pH. Kidneys are second in line for maintaining pH. Kidneys do this primarily by retaining or excreting hydrogen ions and bicarbonate to raise or lower pH.
Respiration and kidney function account for virtually all the pH regulation in the body. Since neither contain “alkaline reserves” there is no depletion of “alkaline reserves” as is often claimed by the alkaline diet myth supporters.
Of course primary pH regulation is more involved, but I am trying to give a very basic expiation for people. If you want a more detailed explanation of respiratory pH regulation here is some suggested reading with a more involved but still simple to follow explanation:
Some people claim that acid foods deplete the bones of minerals because the bone minerals are used to buffer the acids. This is even more rare than acidosis itself since buffering of blood acids with bone minerals is the last resort used by the body to maintain pH. Again respiration is the body’s main means of pH regulation followed by hydrogen ion retention or elimination by the kidneys. These account for virtually all the pH regulation of blood. The body also uses protein buffers, such as albumin, and phosphate buffers to regulate blood pH long before using bone minerals. Therefore, acidosis would have to be extreme and long term before the acidosis would have any effect on the bones. In acidosis this extreme the worry would not be bone loss, but simply survival since severe acidosis can be deadly. Luckily acidosis this extreme is so rare that a person would likely have a better chance of being struck by lightening multiple times than to develop acidosis this severe.
There are some foods that are considered acidic such as beef, dairy and colas that can induce bone loss. This process though has NOTHING to do with acidity. These are all high phosphorus sources, which is what leads to the bone loss. Phosphorus is essential to an extent to maintain healthy bones, but in excess it leads to bone loss by triggering a process known as pseudohyperparathyroidism (PHPT). This is similar to another condition known as hyperparathyroidism (HPT). In both cases the parathyroid glands release a hormone known as parathyroid hormone (PTH), which breaks bone tissue down raising serum calcium levels. There are several causes of this. Parathyroid nodules, which are believed to be triggered by a lack of vitamin D can increase PTH output. PTH is also released in response to either actual serum calcium deficiencies, such as from insufficient vitamin D levels, or perceived low serum calcium levels. The release of PTH due to perceived low serum calcium is known as PHPT. When people consume foods high in phosphorus an imbalance can occur between calcium and phosphorus levels with a major increase in the phosphorus ratio. The parathyroid glands respond to this perceived drop in calcium by releasing PTH, which raises calcium levels to restore balance of the calcium-phosphorus ratio. Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with these foods being acidic.
Milk does contain a large amount of calcium, but it still induces PHPT for a simple reason. Protein in milk blocks calcium absorption, but not phosphorus absorption. Protein’s blocking action on calcium absorption is also evidenced by the myth that milk creates mucus, which I addressed in this video:
It is also evidenced by the fact that the two nations with the highest consumption of dairy in the world, the United States and Finland also have the highest rates of bone mineralization diseases in the world.
Another common misconception promoted heavily on alkaline promoting sites is that pH strips can be used to monitor blood pH by testing the pH of either the urine or the saliva. Salivary and urinary pH though do not reflect the actual pH. The pH of both can change for a number of reasons without changes in the blood pH.
Urinary pH for example can change depending on the amount of urine hydration there is or the amount of minerals being excreted through the urine. Some medications can also alter urinary pH. Bacterial infections can split urea to produce highly alkaline ammonia to protect themselves from acidity. In this process urinary pH rises (becomes alkaline) from the infection despite no changes to the blood pH.
Salivary pH increases as we sleep since saliva production shuts down. Saliva helps to alkalize the mouth and wash away acid forming bacteria in the mouth. Therefore, when we sleep the bacteria levels go up, also resulting in “morning breath”, causing a lower (acidic) pH in the mouth. As we wake up and become more active saliva helps to wash away some of the bacteria and brings the pH of the mouth back up. Dry mouth from methamphetamine use, certain medications like antihistamines or certain diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome can also lower the salivary pH. Other factors that can affect salivary pH include whether or not you just brushed your teeth or what you recently ate or drank. It has also been known for decades that something as simple as thinking about a certain food can alter salivary pH as the pH of the saliva adjusts in anticipation of the food.
This is why the only way you will know what your blood pH is would be through a blood test. And even that can change in an instant. For example, as I have pointed out a number of times respiration is the body’s primary method of pH control. Hyperventilating will alkalize the body quickly, but you will also pass out due to the induced alkalosis.
This is an example of why I encourage people to learn how the body really works instead of accepting all the hype out there on the internet or in books, magazines, etc. I recall when the book Alkalize or Die book came out. And of course many people simply accepted the claims as fact without bothering to check other sources to see if this author’s opinion were fact.
I know scare tactics help to sell books, but still we are talking about people’s health and people are profiting off this nonsense they promote while putting people’s health at risk. Just because something is in print this does not make it automatically true.