Follow me back to high school chemistry class, when you compared and contrasted the pH of substances like Windex, bleach, lemonade, and your weird theater friend’s saliva. pH isn’t just for science labs anymore–it’s surprisingly important for your daily well-being. As you may recall–if you listened in class at all–your body has its own pH, and when that gets out of whack, everything gets out of whack.
What is pH, anyway?
pH (power of hydrogen) is a measurement of the hydrogen ion concentration in the body. The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14; 7 is basically neutral, less than 7 is acidic, and more than 7 is alkaline. The body’s ideal pH is 7.30 to 7.45–slightly alkaline.
Why does it matter?
A pH that’s too low or too high can adversely affect your health, creating an environment for sickness and inflammation to thrive. Many natural health care practitioners believe that we’re all too acidic, due to the infamous US diet of white bread, red meat, and dairy (all acidic foods). Please be aware that like many natural health issues, pH balance has become pretty trendy–resulting in a lot of misinformation and “quick fix” promises. This article, written by an OB/GYN, really gets into the science of it all.
How do I test it?
Wondering what your pH level is? You can test it by peeing on a pH test strip. Keep in mind that the body’s pH naturally fluctuates depending on what’s being digested–and skin, intestines, and blood all have different pH levels–so to get an accurate portrait of what’s going on in your body, track your pH over the course of a week. A body that’s too acidic might be systematically inflamed, which is the problem behind so many chronic diseases like heart disease, osteoporosis, and obesity.
How do I change it?
Eating a bowl of kale won’t alkalize your pH forever, but it’s a good place to start. There are graphs of foods on the pH spectrum all over the internet (here’s one), so use them as your guide to eating more alkaline. Choose dark leafy greens, slow-roasted root vegetables, and “green food” supplements; avoid animal proteins and refined carbohydrates. And as you can probably guess, soda = bad, green tea = good.
The idea of acid vs. alkaline foods can be a little confusing, since foods that we think of as very acidic–say, lemons–are actually on the far end of the alkaline spectrum. Think of foods as acid-forming or alkaline-forming, instead; lemons form alkaline compounds in the body when they’re eaten, and red meat requires these alkaline compounds to be digested, making it acidic. Now go forth and alkalize!