Balancing Act: Why pH is Crucial to Health

June 21, 2017

Balancing Act - Dr.AxeMost of us never consider the acid/alkaline balance of our blood, but a proper pH is a crucial aspect to health. Many doctors stress the importance of pH because a balanced pH protects us from the inside out. Disease and disorder, they say, cannot take root in a body whose pH is in balance.

Why pH is Crucial to Health?

It is an imbalance of acidity and alkalinity that allows unhealthy organisms to flourish, damages tissues and organs and compromises the immune system.

So what is proper pH?

What we call pH is short for the potential of hydrogen. It is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of our body’s fluids and tissues. It is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. The more acidic a solution is, the lower its pH. The more alkaline, the higher the number is.

A pH of 7 is perfectly neutral. The healthiest pH is one that is slightly alkaline. Optimally, we want a pH of 7.365. This number will fluctuate throughout the day, but the normal range is between 6 and 7.5.

What affects pH?

Normally, the kidneys maintain our electrolyte levels, those of calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. When we are exposed to acidic substances, these electrolytes are used to combat acidity. High degrees of acidity force our bodies to rob minerals from the bones, cells, organs and tissues. Cells end up lacking enough minerals to properly dispose of waste or oxygenate completely. Vitamin absorption is compromised by mineral loss. Toxins and pathogens accumulate in the body and the immune system becomes suppressed.

What causes acidity in your body?

  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Antibiotic overuse
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Chronic stress
  • Declining nutrient levels in foods due to industrial farming
  • Low levels of fiber in the diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excess animal meats in the diet (from non-grass fed sources)
  • Excess hormones from foods, health and beauty products and plastics
  • Exposure to chemicals and radiation from household cleansers, building materials, computers, cell phones and microwaves
  • Food coloring and preservatives
  • Over-exercise
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Pollution
  • Poor chewing and eating habits
  • Processed and refined foods
  • Shallow breathing

What are the effects of acidity on health?

  • Allergies, asthma and congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent colds
  • Headaches
  • Inflammation
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Skin problems
  • Ulcers
  • Weight gain

Over the long term, acidosis can lead to:

How Can You Achieve a Proper pH?

Even though there are many sources of acidity and toxicity in our environments, the biggest contributor to unbalanced pH is our diet.

Fruits and vegetables contain potassium, a natural buffer to acidity. The western diet contains little in the way of fresh and raw fruits and vegetables.

Processed foods contain tons of sodium chloride–table salt–which constricts blood vessels and creates acidity.

Eating too much animal protein causes sulfuric acid to build up in the blood as amino acids are broken down.

All grains, whole or not, create acidity in the body. Americans ingest most of their plant food quota in the form of processed corn or wheat.

Our problem is more a matter of not taking in enough alkaline-promoting foods rather than taking in too much acid.

Calcium-rich dairy products cause some of the highest rates of osteoporosis. That’s because they create acidity in the body! When your blood stream becomes too acidic, it will steal calcium (a more alkaline substance) from the bones to try to balance out the pH level. So the best way to prevent osteoporosis is to eat lots of alkaline green leafy veggies!

Acid-Forming Foods

  • Cold cuts
  • Corn flakes
  • Eggs
  • Lentils
  • Oats
  • Conventional Meats: beef, chicken and pork
  • Milk
  • Pasta
  • Peanuts and walnuts
  • Rice
  • White bread
  • Whole wheat

Certain foods on this list, like eggs and walnuts, might be acidic in your body, but don’t let that scare you away from eating them. They contain a host of health benefits like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. A healthy balance is what we are shooting for where pH is concerned–it is possible to become too alkaline.

Alkaline Foods

Fruits, mushrooms and vegetables (especially citrus, dates, raisins and spinach) promote an alkaline pH.

Strangely enough, acidic fruits such as grapefruit and tomatoes don’t create acidity in the body. They do just the opposite and contribute to an alkaline environment.

Raw foods

Uncooked fruits and vegetables are said to be biogenic or “life-giving.” Cooking foods depletes alkalinizing minerals. Increase your intake of raw foods, and try juicing or lightly steaming fruits and vegetables.

Alkaline Water

Alkaline water has a pH of 9 to 11. Distilled water is just fine to drink. Water filtered with a Reverse Osmosis filter is slightly acidic, but it’s still a far better option than tap water or purified bottled water. Adding pH drops, lemon or lime, or baking soda to your water boosts alkalinity.

Green Drinks

Drinks made from green vegetables and grasses in powder form are loaded with alkaline-forming foods and chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is structurally similar to our own blood and alkalizes the blood.

How to test your own pH

You can test your pH by purchasing strips at your local health foods store or pharmacy. You can measure your pH with saliva or urine. Your second urination of the morning will give you the best results. You compare the colors on your test strip to a chart that comes with your test strip kit.

During the day, the best time to test your pH is one hour before a meal and two hours after a meal.

If you test with your saliva, you want to try to stay between 6.8 and 7.2.


From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.

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51 Comments

  1. Christa on

    <p>Can you clarify about the optimum pH level? At the beginning, you said, &quot;Optimally, we want a pH of 7.365,&quot; but at the end of the article you said, &quot;You want to try to stay between 6.8 and 7.2.&quot;</p><p>Thanks!</p>

    Reply
  2. Dr. Axe on

    <p>Your blood pH should be at 7.365, but when testing the pH of your saliva it should be inbetween 6.8 and 7.2. Thank you for your question, we should have made that more clear.</p>

    Reply
  3. Dr. Axe on

    <p>Over exercise can cause increased levels of cortisol, which interfere with the body’s ability to process sugar in the blood stream. This in turn affects insulin sensitivity. Too much sugar in the blood stream can lead to acidity. <br/>Weight lifting and Burst training typically won’t cause cortisol levels to raise as much as long distance cardiovascular activities will.</p>

    Reply
  4. Jessica on

    <p>I’ve been working on rebalancing my Ph levels for the past two weeks or so. I’ve noticed a slight change so far, but I’m still testing at 6.0-6.5 (saliva) pretty consistently. I assume it will take some time, but is there a rule of thumb for how long it should take to see a difference?</p>

    Reply
  5. Dr. Axe on

    <p>Rebalancing your pH levels can take anywhere from weeks to years. Usually you can see a major difference in about 3 months. So keep making those healthy changes and you should continue to see a steady improvement in your pH levels.</p>

    Reply
    • Johnnie Fleming on

      Tell me more about apple vinegar and the amount of baking soda to add to the water as well as how many drops of lemon juice or lime juice to add to the water as well as the amount of water for the mixtures?

      Reply
  6. JD on

    <p>How much Baking Soda should be added to water in order to help balance pH levels. Also, I heard from a friend that bicyclers will sometimes add Baking Soda to water prior to biking to cycling to reduce the burn in the leg muscles. Any truth to this?</p>

    Reply
  7. Dr. Axe on

    <p>Allen,<br/>Great question. First, the pH of the blood is very different than saliva or urine, so it would be much much more rare for the pH of the blood to drop that low unless someone was severely ill. The principal cause of acidosis is the excessive consumption of protein, which is metabolized “acidically” because it’s sulfur content and a lack of alkaline minerals. &quot;Clinical research by Dr M T Morter (Arkansas, USA) has shown that if the anabolic urinary and salivary pH (measured immediately upon awakening) is below 6.8, we can be relatively certain that digestive support must be provided. Controlled clinical studies by Dr Paul Yanick (Pasadena, USA) have confirmed Dr Morter’s findings and recorded that intracellular assimilation of nutrients is significantly decreased when the anabolic pH is below 6.8. However as both these researchers have shown, supplementing the diet with appropriate alkalizing agents was highly beneficial in elevating the systemic pH by replenishing the alkaline mineral and enzyme reserves.&quot; – Dr. Peter Bartlett, Using pH as a Measure of Digestive Physiology. <br/>Magnesium, Calcium, and Potassium are all Alkaline minerals, so if the pH of the saliva is below 6.8 it could indicate a need for foods that are more nutrient dense like vegetables and fruits.</p>

    Reply
  8. Christa on

    <p>Is there any other place I can get some more detailed information about this? I can’t seem to get my pH over 6.75 whether I am testing my urine or my saliva. I eat really healthly, including fruits and vegetables and even a greens drink every morning. Are there other factors that can affect it. I am menstrating right now and checked it this morning and it was below 6!</p>

    Reply
  9. Dr. Axe on

    <p>Hi Christa,</p><p>To learn more about alkalizing your body read:</p><p>Eat to Live – Dr. Joseph Fuhrman<br/>The Alkaline/Acid Food Guide – Susan Brown<br/>Beating Cancer with Nutrition – Patrick Quillian<br/>pH Miracle – Robert Young</p>

    Reply
  10. Dr. Axe on

    <p>Daniel, I think the best way to boost your pH is eating a diet loaded with raw vegetables, fruits and other green foods like algaes and grasses.</p>

    Reply
  11. Dr. Axe on

    <p>Fermented drinks are drinks that contain good bacteria to help support a health digestive system. Your body must have this good bacteria, also known as probiotics, for proper digestion, immune system function, and fighting off infection. Kombucha tea, Kefir, and Apple Cider Vinegar are some examples of fermented drinks.</p>

    Reply
  12. JC on

    <p>Dr. Axe, I have a theory about over exercising, and was wondering if you agree. Because vegetarian marathon runners occasionally drop dead from heart attacks, I think that having complete nutrition is crucial for athletes. Heavy exercise forces your body to increase the rate of teardown/rebuild that goes on continuously. Last year I was overexercising a bit, and found that I looked noticeably older!</p>

    Reply
  13. Ronnie Collins on

    If I am reading your article correctly, you say the levels of ph in blood should be 7.365, in saliva between 6.8-7.2, but I don’t see what is the best level for urine. Can you advise? And is it best to test urine in the morning before or after breakfast?

    Reply
  14. Shauna on

    We have changed our diet significantly and for the most part are following the maker’s diet. However, we have just started looking into water filtration systems. I noticed you are in favor of alkaline water. What are your thoughts on the Enagic or other brands of water ionizers? I believe there could be many health benefits from drinking it but am concerned that there might be some unseen harmful effects to it as well given the means by which the water is “processed”. My ultimate concern is for the safety and health of my 2 year old son. Please share whatever knowledge you may have on the subject.

    Reply
  15. mary lee on

    OMG! In my quest to eat a decent diet of fruits veggies meats and GOOD dairy products, I did the test strip in the bathroom of the natural food store and it was all the way acid!!! Evidently the Lord is taking me in a different direction. It’s a good thing I love dark leafy greens. I love fish, hummus and generally everything on my diet was, even though I prepared almost everything from scratch, killing me. Thank you for providing a list of foods and an explanation of their importance. sincerely….

    Reply
  16. KC on

    What if you have a clean diet, I drink 32oz of green juice daily, and don’t eat SAD diet. I eat mostly fruits salads and some grains. I’ve tested my PH for the week first morning urine and PH is low, 5.75

    I don’t feel sick or have any issues that I’m aware of. So what’s up with my low PH levels, when my diet is very healthy.

    Reply
    • Dr. Josh Axe on

      There are many factors that go into determining your body’s individual pH levels. Also your body may take longer to adjust its pH even though you are eating healthy. Keep up the good work!

      Reply
  17. JIM on

    It is my understanding that BLOOD PH stays around 7.3 and maintains that level by itself UNLESS your sick
    BODY PH IS DIFFERENT AS IT CAN VARY LOW & HIGH 6 to 8.5 and anything over 7 is in an alkaline state and below 7 is acidic . It is said that cancer doesn’t grow in an alkaline body
    SO if I use baking soda in my drinking water I CAN REGULATE MY body PH TO KEEP IT at a 7 or higher alkaline level just by the amount of BAKING SODA I use and check it with PH PAPER
    Is this a true fact DR. AXE ???

    Reply
  18. Melissa on

    You mention how to counteract an overly acidic pH balance, but what if you’re overly alkaline? I had blood work done recently and my pH level was 9.0 — the doctor said everything looked fine and emailed me my overall results – the only reason I found that level out – but isn’t that unhealthy on the opposite spectrum? I eat about 80% vegan and whole foods but occasionally eat eggs, cheese, and fried foods. I know I could add meat to my diet but I really don’t want to (have been a vegetarian for 21 years now – 2/3s of my life!).

    Reply
      • Melissa on

        Hmm, that’s what my results stated. Blood ph balance was 9, urine was 8.5. You didn’t answer my question though – what are the issues that may arise if these are my levels? I’m very healthy in general – 55 bpm resting heart rate marathon running vegan-ish person. I weigh 135 and I’m 5’5 so I’m not underweight or anything and I don’t believe I have any Alkalosis symptoms. Anyway…just curious. Suppose I should reach out to my doc. Thanks for your time.

  19. Penny Cara on

    I have had mouth ulcers for years, they have gotten real bad in the last couple months. My stomach has a burning sensation most of the time. Over the past few years I have mentioned the problem to several kinds of Drs, I have had an endoscopy and still no answers. I’ve checked my PH and it’s 6. I don’t know where to get help.

    Reply
  20. patti on

    is it normal that the urine ph and saliva ph are different? My saliva is always spot on but my urine is acidic. Could that be from my supplements? Thanks for your help!

    Reply
  21. Danielle on

    My saliva Ph is around 6 and my urine is around 7. I suppose thats not normal as its the opposite to the person above. Why is mine different in this way? Are my kidneys not functioning? Thanks so much for your help.

    Reply
  22. Robin on

    I’ve just started testing my PH for urine and for saliva. My urine yesterday and today was 5.5 so this morning I also tested my saliva which was 7.2. Is this really unusual? It seems my urine is way too acidic.

    Reply
  23. Karen on

    Hi. Thanks for the great info. I have a question about losing bone. Being a 33 year vegetarian, eating lots of greens, you would think I would not be losing bone. Into Osteopenia but close to Osteoporosis. Don’t want to go there! Taking Calcium, Vit. D, need K2 and boron. Any other recommendations? Potassium?
    Any advice would be great. I’m doing all i can. Don’t want to go onto bioidenticals. Your thoughts please!

    Reply
  24. Luke on

    I am a 57 year old woman – my bone density test showed 15% loss in my hip and 10% loss in my spine when compared to my former 3 year ago (BDT). I consider myself healthy fit -aware of proper nutrition however my acidity levels are 6-I refuse to take Boniva etc. Could I possibly build bone my getting minerals, gut ,diet straight- Could Natto and bone broth soup really pack a punch?

    Reply
  25. Sue on

    Hi Dr axe
    My ph test in the morning without any food and water is 6 but during the day is 7 to 7.4
    For urine in the early morning is 5.5 to 6
    During the day 6 to 7 .eating so healthy .
    Is that OK .
    Please help
    Sue

    Reply
  26. Donald Trump on

    This guy is just another quack chiropractor acting like he’s a real doctor. This pH diet/acid-alkaline stuff was proven to be total bullshit a long time ago. Start with the article by Gabe Mirkin MD and available at the site QUACKWATC! Don’t be a sucker and waste your money on the nonsense that these so-called “alternative” con artists sell.

    Reply
  27. Diane Ranck on

    Hi Dr. Axe,
    From reading all the above I understand that if your saliva PH is alkaline, your urine PH can be acidic. Is this correct?

    Reply
  28. LW on

    I do not see desirable urine pH in your article. Please share good urine pH. You have said 2nd morning urine catch. I was told 1st morning catch. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Gemstone Retreat House on

      Contact the Gemstone Retreat House for information on PH Testing. Facebook “The Gemstone Retreat House”. Send us a message. We regularly test our PH levels. As of August 13th 2016 our PH score 7.4.
      -Don’t concern yourself about what if’s, just take the test and start from that moment forward. Remember, what goes in comes out. So a balanced PH going in will allow the same to exit the body.

      Gosh

      Reply
  29. gc on

    7.4-7.8 is healthy body saliva pH. Anything below 7.4 is technically an acidic level for the body. (Cancer cells die it 8.4 pH, discovered by the Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Warbug)

    Body pH can be adjusted to a healthy alkaline body pH in days when wrong drinks & foods are omitted and alkaline friendly foods & drinks are consumed.

    Reply

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