How your body maintains pH balance

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Every minute of every day your body is constantly monitoring your acid to alkalinity balance, and making adjustments to keep your blood pH (potential for hydrogen) balance right in the human body sweet spot of 7.4. 

As you can see in the above chart, 7.4 leans slightly alkaline, or less acidic. Even a slight diversion from the norm can spell disaster for a human (like, death), so this, along with blood sugar, is very tightly controlled by the mechanisms of the body. In fact, all life on earth depends on tightly controlled acid balances. 

Controlling the balance

Your body uses three main mechanisms to keep your Acid-Base homeostasis in the correct range.

  • Breathing - this expels carbon dioxide out of your body. Your kidneys create bicarbonate ions that attach to acids in your blood, thus creating carbon dioxide that you exhale through your lungs. Pretty nifty trick nature! By the way, this is the main way your body excretes acid. Keep those lungs healthy!
  • Excreting - in other words, peeing and sweating.
  • Buffering - your kidneys will release minerals into your bloodstream (like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium) to neutralize acids.

Maintaining the correct balance

So is there anything a person can do to help maintain a balanced acid-base ratio? 

There are a lot of proponents of the "Alkaline Diet." This diet is based on the fact that when food is burned for food in the body, there is a residual ash that is left behind (just like is left behind when something burns in our environment). The ash that is left behind in our body after burning the food can be acidic, neutral, or alkaline. The Alkaline Diet claims that by consuming more of the foods that create an alkaline ash, rather than acidic ash, better human health can be achieved.

Unfortunately, there's no hard and fast proof of this. But, the foods that are typically consumed on an alkaline diet (lots of veggies and plant based foods) have been associated with better health in general.

Keep it balanced

The foods that are recommended on an alkaline diet are just smart to eat, since they contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and are typically lower in calories. But your body is a bad ass, and as long as it's functioning as it should, has the capability to neutralize and buffer out any excess amount of acid. It's not a bad idea to give it a helping hand though, and consume those foods that provide the elements that will eventually be needed to get this task done. 

Here's a link to a chart showing what foods digest into acidic ash and alkaline ash. You'll notice that a lot of healthy fruits end up on the acidic side of things. 

My final thought on this is to just keep it balanced. Eat alkaline foods with your acidic foods. If you have a treat, be sure to balance it out at some point with some alkaline veggies in your day. This will help ensure that you stay in that 7.4 sweet spot, and your body can keep humming along to the music of life.

References:

  • Healthline.com - The Alkaline Diet: An Evidence-Based Review
  • draxe.com - Alkaline Diet: The Key to Longevity and Fighting Chronic Disease?
  • Forbes.com - How Our Bodies Go To Extraordinary Lengths To Maintain Safe pH Levels

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