Acid vs. Alkaline: The Science Behind Balancing Your pH

The human body is made up of 70% water, comprised of a wide range of solutions, which are either acid or alkaline. Your pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of these solutions – the ratio between positively charged ions (acid-forming) and negatively charged ions (alkaline-forming.) The pH of any solution is the measure of its hydrogen-ion concentration. The higher the pH reading, the more alkaline and oxygen-rich the fluid is.  The lower the pH reading, the more acidic and oxygen-deprived the fluid is. The pH range is from 0 to 14, with 7.0 being neutral.  Anything above 7.0 is alkaline, anything below 7.0 is considered acidic. The pH of human blood should be slightly alkaline (7.35 – 7.45). Too acidic or too alkaline can result in symptoms of disease. If blood pH moves below 6.8 or above 7.8, cells stop functioning and the body dies. Therefore, the body continually strives to balance its pH.  Diet is the easiest way to assist the body in this balance.

An imbalanced diet high in acidic-producing foods such as animal proteins, pasteurized dairy products, white sugar, caffeine, and processed foods puts pressure on the body’s regulating systems to maintain pH neutrality. The extra buffering (neutralizing) required to process these foods can deplete the body of alkaline minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, making the person prone to chronic and degenerative disease. Minerals are in turn borrowed from vital organs and bones to buffer the acid and safely remove it from the body. Prolonged acidosis will decrease the body’s ability to absorb minerals and nutrients, decrease the energy production in the cells and inhibit the ability to repair damaged cells, and limit it’s ability to detoxify heavy metals.  Because of this strain, an acidic body can suffer prolonged damage and degeneration resulting in disease.

Research shows that unless the body’s pH level is slightly alkaline, the body cannot heal itself.  If your body’s pH is not balanced, you cannot effectively assimilate vitamins, minerals and food supplements. Eating a diet rich in alkaline foods helps the body maintain the slightly alkaline balance it needs. An alkaline-forming diet also boosts the oxygen levels in the blood, making it impossible for bacteria, viruses, yeasts and other pathogens to survive and thrive.

To maintain health, it is recommend that a regular diet should consist of about 70% alkaline-forming foods and 30% acid-forming foods.  If you are healing, whether you’re battling a cold or a long-term disease, a restorative diet of 80% alkaline-forming foods to 20% acidic-forming foods should be followed.  Let’s take a look at a basic acid/alkaline food chart to see where certain foods lie on the scale:

It’s clear that the staples of the Standard American Diet (wheat, corn, white rice, pasta, beef, pork, homogenized dairy products, coffee, alcohol) are all highly acidic.  You can also see blueberries, cranberries, prunes and chocolate on that far left column of acidic foods.  It’s not that all things acidic are bad.  Again, it comes back to balancing out with the alkaline foods of dark, mineral-rich leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, cleansing fruits, healthy oils, and teas.  This is why a plant-based diet, and more specifically, juicing is effective.  Because when we are juicing, we’re infusing our bodies with easily assimilate nutrients from high-alkaline fruits and vegetables.

What about lemons and limes, how is citric acid considered alkaline?
The answer is when we digest certain foods, it produces alkaline residue. In general, when we digest food it is chemically oxidized (‘burned’) to form water, carbon dioxide and an inorganic compound. The alkaline or acidic nature of the inorganic compound formed determines whether the food is alkaline or acid-producing. If it contains more sodium, potassium or calcium, it is classed as an alkaline food. If it contains more sulphur, phosphate or chloride, it’s an acid food.  So when lemon and lime is digested, the citric acid is turned into an alkaline food in the body.

Here are my top tips to boosting your body alkalinity to create a healing environment:

Tip No. 01: When you first wake up in the morning, add a squeeze of lemon or lime to a glass of warm water.  Drink up! This simple tonic helps neutralize your acidic body after a long night of metabolizing.

Tip No. 02: Follow your morning tonic with a big green juice or (and!) green smoothie for breakfast. By skipping in the acidic coffee and bagel, you’re nourishing yourself first thing with alkaline-boosting foods that will set you up for more sustained energy throughout the day.

Tip No. 03: Get green….super green.  I’m talking lake algaes and concentrated plants/ grass powders, like spirulina, chlorella, blue/green algae, liquid chlorophyll, wheatgrass and barley grass.  All these highly concentrated greens powders are the most alkalizing form of quick nutrition you can get to your body. Not only do they provide clean protein, they also act as natural chelating agents, binders that assist our cells to help draw out heavy metal toxins from our system. I eat and drink these religiously in my daily juices and smoothies.

Tip No. 04: Filter and alkalize your water. Filtering removes heavy metals and chemicals from your water.  Alkalizing takes the pH out of the acidic range usually found in treated tap water and many plastic bottled waters.  You can purchase alkaline water, but for sustained use, the simplest way is purchase an alkalizing stick you can place inside your water filter pitcher or invest in a built-in home filtration system.

Tip No. 05: BREATHE! The food and water we drink is just as important as how we breathe. With each breath, your blood is actually alkalizing as you inhale oxygen and exhale out carbon dioxide.  Use your neti pot daily to clean your sinuses, then with each breath you take focus on using your diaphragm to inhale deeply and exhale slowly with control. Long, slow exhales also shift your body out of the cortisol-producing sympathetic nervous system and into the parasympathetic nervous system, where our bodies rest, digest and heal.


If you’re interested in reading more about the science behind balancing pH, there are a few books I recommend reading:

  • “The pH Miracle” by Shelley Redford Young
  • “The Ultimate pH Solution” by Michelle Schoffro Cook
  • “Healing Waters” by Ben Johnson