Tuesday, May 13, 2008

pH - “p” who?? by Crazy Sexy Beth MD

Ok, Campers, here we go… really, this is one of the foundations upon which the Crazy Sexy Life is built. Because not only does what you put into your body influence your pH, but so do your thoughts and emotions. Which is why Kris’ blog “Marianne Monday” is such an important reminder that we must nurture all the components of the lifestyle – because absolutely everything we expose ourselves to impacts our internal environment, meaning our pH. We talk about this a lot, but what’s the big deal already?? Well, let’s see what we can learn.

pH is a measure of the hydrogen ion concentration, [H+] in solution. Neutral is 7.0. A pH lower than 7.0 is acidic, anything higher than 7.0 is basic or alkaline. The body ideally likes a slightly basic environment at a pH of 7.365. Our bodies are designed around the concept of homeostasis – that neutral, groovy set point where everything is a-okay. The body keeps things at this “zen” space by intricate interactions of charged molecules, balancing one another out for optimum function. Every bodily function, from breathing to pooping, is regulated this way. The body will wreck havoc trying to maintain or regain homeostasis – in this case, a pH of 7.365.

So what affects the pH of my body, you may ask?? Well, everything! Foods like meat, dairy, highly refined or processed products (you remember our chat on sugar, right?) all drive your pH down… recall our definition: a drop in pH means an increase in acidity. Negative emotions and stress result in hormonal cascades that indirectly raise acidity. Lack of exercise, depleted enzyme stores, and environmental stressors all have a deleterious impact as well. Throw in a few cocktails and any prescription medication you are on and we are talking acid cesspool.

Big deal? Why is acidity such a buzzkill for our bodies?? Well, in part, we saw a hint of the explanation from our friend Otto Warburg. His discoveries on the anaerobic metabolism of cancer cells (acidic environment) – which are increasingly the direction medical cancer research is headed in – gave us our first initial peek at the impact of pH.

Basically, healthy cells like a nice oxygen-rich environment. This allows the body to maintain that gorgeous, slightly alkaline pH of 7.365. Cell functions are not impaired in any way by compromises in structure, enzyme activity, mucus sludge, hormone function or toxin build up.

Now take that same environment and drop the pH below 7.0 – make it acidic. This alters the metabolic functioning of all cells. Remember the delicate balance we talked about, if you tip the scale even a little bit in one direction, the body will scramble to try to get back to its zen state of pH 7.365. And considering, in blood, it takes 20 times as much base to neutralize acid, we are talking an enormous amount of stress and chaos for the body. The focus shifts away from normal metabolic functions to trying to procure enough base to bind up acid. It is much easier for the body to maintain a proper pH than to restore it.

The body uses various minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium respectively to bind to acids to create a neutral substance that can be excreted. If your diet is not replenishing these mineral stores, the body starts mining them from other sources, like bone, muscle, and organ tissues. The body will steal these minerals from anywhere and everywhere it has to in order to balance the pH. Can you see where this is going?? LACK. DEFICIENCY. NOT ENOUGH.

Eventually, if YOU don’t break the cycle somewhere, your body won’t be able to keep up with the demand for substances to neutralize acid. If acid builds up too high, in order to survive, the body will start dumping acid out of the bloodstream into tissues. The cleaning system of the body, the lymphatic system, will then try to neutralize the acidity and dispose of the waste. Well, the lymph system’s mechanism for cleaning – oy vey! – is shuttling substances BACK into the blood circulation.

If your head is spinning, it’s because your body is going around this psycho killer carousel trying to regulate pH.

But what does all this really mean for you?? Well, when that delicate pH balance is tipped in the acidic direction, the wide-sweeping effects it has on metabolism may manifest in a variety of ways: infection, inflammation, constitutional symptoms, allergies etc. etc. etc. Not to mention the fact that bugs – bacteria, yeast, fungi – LOVE acidic environments. They thrive in the acid bath. An alkaline environment, on the other hand, is not so conducive for them to run amok. Are you aware that many common infections are caused by bugs that are part of our normal flora? What?? Yup, we carry them with us, some actually help us maintain that zen homeostasis. So if we aren’t “catching” these bugs from the outside, why do we get sick??

Many who believe in the power of raw, green foods, the benefits of exercise, meditation and creativity, myself included, will tell you illness is because the internal environment was somehow disrupted. This disruption allowed an increased acidity, which creates a toxic shift in the behavior of these microorganisms. We don’t “catch” all illnesses (some, yes, of course). Through our lifestyle choices, we have the power to create or destroy an internal milieu that either keeps everyone coexisting beautifully or allows potential problem makers to prosper.

The gorgeous part of all this, we can affect change on that internal environment. We can, through our choices, allow our bodies to remain at that fantastic, zen, homeostatic set point of alkalinity, pH 7.365. It’s all about the Crazy Sexy Lifestyle, Baby! You can use pH strips to get an idea of your internal pH – urine is the closest idea of what is going on in your blood. Saliva is too variable. Remember, delicate balance, 7.365 is where it’s at! There are areas of the body that need a bit more acidity to function properly. However, unfortunately for us, disruption in our systems tends to veer towards the acidic side. It is very difficult to become too alkaline through nutrition. So guzzle your green juices, eat your veggies and don’t worry about going overboard.

I am willing to bet that as you start clearing out the stress, finding your daily spiritual practice, keep shakin’ that ass, start drinking green juice, 80% of your plate is green veggies, use whole food supplements… and track your pH, you will have all the proof in the nondairy nut-based pudding you need. You will likely correlate times of sickness or feeling poorly with your pH testing. Keep a journal, track it, and please, let us know the results!!!

Big, BASIC (alkaline) hugs,

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