You may have heard about pH in chemistry class, but did you know there are significant ways pH affects your health? Just in case you need a quick refresher, the pH scale is used to measure acidity and alkalinity. It goes from 0 to 14, with 0 to 6.9 being acidic and 7.1 to 14 being alkaline. A measurement of 7 is considered neutral. Because there are specific ways pH affects your health, all of these numbers have meaning when it comes to feeling your best. Each body system has its own pH in which optimal health occurs, and there are things you can do to help these systems stay within their optimal pH.
Have you ever seen advertisements for pH balanced soap? In the past, I thought this was just a marketing ploy. However, pH is very important for skin health. Your skin is slightly acidic, with a pH of 5.5. This helps it fight environmental factors like bacteria and toxins. If you use skincare products that are too acidic or too alkaline you can cause skin problems such as dryness and irritation. Examples of ingredients that you should be careful with when it comes to your skin are retinoids and sodium laureth sulfate. Although retinoids fight wrinkles, they are very acidic and can cause extreme sensitivity if not used properly. Sodium laureth sulfate, on the other hand, is very alkaline and not useful for anything. Avoiding it can do wonders for irritated skin. To keep your skin looking its best, choose mild cleansers and moisturizers; coconut oil is a favorite of mine. Now that you know how pH affects your skin health, I am sure you are wondering about the others ways pH affects your health.
As you know, your stomach is a very acidic environment. The gastric juices in your stomach actually range in acidity from 1.5 to 2. This very acidic environment is needed to break down proteins and kill microorganisms that could cause illnesses. To keep your gastric juices at the optimal pH, avoid antacids which raise pH and make digestion difficult. Also, anti-inflammatory medication can make the stomach too acidic, resulting in ulcers. The stomach is not the only part of the digestive system that needs an optimal pH. Your saliva has pH of 6.5 to 7, which helps break down carbohydrates, and your small intestines have a pH of 7.5, which is the best pH for nutrient absorption. When all of these pH levels are optimal, your digestive system functions very well, and you should have very few, if any, digestive complaints.
3. Reproductive System
To prevent infections and remain healthy, the vagina needs to have pH of 3.5 to 4.5. It also needs lactobacilli bacteria, which keep the pH low and prevent yeast or bacteria overgrowth. There are many things that can alter the pH of the vagina. During your period, the pH increases because blood has an average pH of 7.4. Douching and sex can also increase the pH. Even hormone fluctuations can change the pH. While you can’t avoid most of these things, you can take oral probiotic supplements or eat yogurt to make sure you have plenty of healthy bacteria in your vagina, which results in an optimal pH.
As I just mentioned, your blood has an average pH of 7.4, with the range being 7.35 to 7.45. Any deviations from these levels can cause serious health problems. When blood goes below 7.35 acidosis occurs. Acidosis causes nervous system problems, coma, and even death. The opposite of acidosis, alkalosis, is just as serious, causing hypersensitive nerves, muscle spasms, convulsions, and even death. Fortunately, the body regulates blood pH very well, so these problems rarely occur. However, because the body uses calcium to buffer acidity in the blood, bone problems can occur if your body is constantly trying to combat acidity. A very high protein diet is generally the culprit, although, some medications are problematic as well.
As I just mentioned, when the blood becomes too acidic the body pulls calcium out of bones. This is very detrimental for bone health, as it can result in decreased bone density. To prevent this from happening, it is recommended that you eat alkaline rich foods like leafy green vegetables and cut back on highly acid forming foods like animal protein. Also, making sure your body has a steady supply of calcium will help ensure that your body doesn’t start pulling calcium from your bones.
Have you ever experienced sore muscles after an intense workout? That is a result of lactic acid. At rest, your muscles have a pH of 7.15, but when you exercise lactic acid is released. This results in your muscle pH changing to an acidic 6.6. At this pH you will feel muscle soreness, often the day after you exercise. Since exercise is healthy, you shouldn’t avoid working out to limit muscle soreness. Instead, drink plenty of water and have an Epsom salt bath after a workout. This will help your body flush out the lactic acid that causes the soreness.
Normal urine pH has a wide range of 4.6 to 8. While this range is very wide, deviations outside of this pH range can happen and do cause problems. When the pH of your urine becomes too high you could get a urinary tract infection, which is very unpleasant. A high urine pH can also be an indicator of kidney failure. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a low pH is often caused by diarrhea or diabetic ketoacidosis. Certain medications can alter the pH of your urine, so it is important to be aware if your medicines do have effects on the bladder or urine.
The body is a very complex system. It amazes me how each body system has a specific pH in which it operates best, and the body is capable of regulating each different pH. Sometimes, we can inadvertently do things that affect pH, like using certain skincare products or taking medications. Avoiding things that will alter pH as much as you can will help your body function properly. Were you aware of the significant role pH plays in health?