during a Teaching addressing how obsession and habitual
energy block health, the Wisdom Master said, “If you
keep your pH balanced, you will not get colds or flu.
Your health will be good.”
does pH balance have to do with flu and general
health?”, I thought. In all my pharmacy and medical
training, I was never taught there was unbalanced pH in
the general public. The Wisdom Master further
recommended testing the urine pH in the morning and
evening with a goal of 7.2, supplementing with potassium
gluconate as needed to keep an alkaline urine pH, and
maintaining a healthy vegetarian diet.
This sparked my interest and my research began.
What is unbalanced pH? The basic premise is
that our bodies function best with a
slightly alkaline pH. The pH scale of 0-14
measures how acid or alkaline
a substance is, with 7.0 being neutral.
Below 7.0 is acid, and above is alkaline.
Adding an alkaline substance
(referred to as a
to a solution will increase its pH; adding
acid to a solution will decrease the pH.
For example, if the urine had a pH of
6.0 (acid range), and we want a solution of
7.2 (alkaline range), we would add an
alkaline substance (a base) to the solution
to increase the pH.
Also, if the urine had a pH of 7.2
and later was checked and had a pH of 6.0 (a
decrease), then we would know an acid had
been added to lower the pH.
The pH of blood is optimally 7.35 to
7.45. Eating a food that is metabolized by
the body into an acid will
the optimal blood pH, meaning
the blood will have a lower pH. We refer to
this as metabolic acidosis.
However, the body has several systems
in place to neutralize the acid so this
doesn’t happen. To neutralize the acid means
that enough alkaline substance is available
to react with the acid so there is
change in the pH. Another word we use
for neutralizing an acid is
the acid. The systems in the
body used to do that are called
Initially, I remembered seeing some books on pH balance
in the bookstore. I had never taken the subject
seriously enough to buy the books. Mostly, I thought,
“What have they come up with
this time as a
everything?” But now, spurred on by the Wisdom
Master’s comments, I began to read some of those books
and research different internet sites.
Most of the books and internet sites asserted
that acidosis (decrease in blood pH) results from our
diet and went on to describe how to change the diet from
acid to alkaline, but scientific documentation was
lacking. I knew if pH balance was going to be accepted
as important by health professionals and patients, there
had to be data from studies, something beyond the
sensationalism and testimonials. (For details on
unbalanced pH, see panel
Home Osteoporosis Treatment
shifted my focus to research on pH balance and potassium
in the medical literature, and found an article by Susan
Brown, Ph.D., which presented information on
osteoporosis. In this article, Dr. Brown referenced data
on diet-induced acidosis that had been neutralized by
taking oral potassium bicarbonate (potassium with a
base, a negatively charged ion that neutralizes acid).
This caused a reversal of the acidosis, which was found
to prevent bone mineral loss.
I was astounded!
The Wisdom Master had stated one
could keep their pH balanced with potassium gluconate,
and here was the data to support it. (Gluconate is a
base metabolized by the liver to bicarbonate.) The
referenced data was from an article published in 1994 in
The New England Journal of Medicine. It discussed
the chronic metabolic acidosis induced by the modern
western diet and a study showing how the reversal of the
acidosis with potassium bicarbonate not only reversed
the acidosis but stopped the loss of calcium in the
urine. The fact that calcium stopped being lost in the
urine is evidence that if there is enough bicarbonate,
the second buffering system does not have to be
activated. A buffering system neutralizes acid.
Panel 2) The study showed that
acidosis can contribute to osteoporosis, and treatment
(potassium bicarbonate) reversed the calcium loss. This
article was published in 1994 by a group from the
University of California, San Francisco, a prestigious
medical research university. It is now 2008, and the use
of an alkaline diet
supplements to reverse acidosis to help prevent and
treat osteoporosis is still
not a part of the usual recommendation to patients.
and Buffering Systems
The body has three
major buffering systems:
the bicarbonate buffering system; the
base buffers mobilized from bone; and the
nitrogen base buffer from muscle breakdown. The
line of defense against acid decreasing pH is
the bicarbonate buffering system.
a negatively charged ion) is a
that will neutralize acid (H+, a
positively charged ion).
When this bicarbonate system is used up,
then other sources of base have to be found.
This is where the
second and third buffer
systems come into play. Base
substances are mobilized from the bone to
buffer acid. Each negatively charged ion (-) in
the body has to travel with a positively charged
So, when the negatively charged bases are
mobilized from the bone to neutralize the
positively charged acid, they travel out of the
bone with potassium (K+), magnesium
(Mg2+) and calcium (Ca2+),
positively charged ions.
After the bases leave the bone, they let
go of the Ca2+, Mg2+, K+
and join with the H+ (the acid), thus,
The remaining Ca2+, Mg2+,
and K+ are removed from the
body through the kidneys into the urine. The
essential thing to remember here is that as the
bases from bone are mobilized to buffer the acid
in the blood,
is losing potassium, magnesium and calcium in
the urine. This can contribute to
osteoporosis, which occurs when the mineral
deposits that make up bone are reduced, bone
architecture is weakened, and there is increased
risk of fractures. The body’s third system of
buffering acid is to breakdown muscle protein to
(NH3) so the kidney can add acid (H+)
to it and excrete it as ammonia (NH4+)
in the urine. The third system is activated with
the second system.
though this group was primarily studying calcium loss
and osteoporosis, what was important for my research was
that the data from their studies was
documentation that our diet is usually
acidotic. On a
daily basis, the bicarbonate buffer system is used up,
requiring the buffering system from the bone to be
mobilized to neutralize the acid created from the food
we eat. Even more exciting was the fact that giving the
study participants’ alkaline base, such as potassium
bicarbonate, reversed the acidosis of the diet enough
that breakdown of bone for bases stopped, and therefore,
calcium losses in the urine stopped.
The study group did
not have to
take extra calcium to reverse the calcium loss, which is
one of the treatments for osteoporosis; only the
acidosis needed to be treated with a supplemental base,
potassium bicarbonate. Approaches to reversing
osteoporosis have been limited so far, but few have
addressed the reversal of this chronic metabolic
acidosis in addition to the accepted treatment. If I had
osteoporosis or wanted to prevent it, I would not wait
even one more day without addressing the state of my pH
A Root Cause?
go through decades of chronic acidosis in our blood,
undoubtedly, the health consequences would not be
limited to our bones.
I was now quite excited as my research continued.
Could this chronic metabolic acidosis from the
contemporary Western diet be a root problem to body
If it is,
then diet changes and supplements to correct the
imbalance would be the
treatment, instead of waiting for the imbalances to
become disease! Fortunately, we can evaluate ourselves
for pH balance and institute changes in diet and
supplements to achieve balanced pH without prescription
many subsequent articles; all published in reputable
peer review journals by the group at the University of
California and others. However, it seemed the data was
being ignored. I attended 2 national nutrition courses
by reputable faculty in 2004 and 2005, and the state of
a chronic metabolic acidosis from diet and subsequent
use of an alkaline diet and its benefits were not
Since 1994, there have been several other articles
introducing data that link chronic metabolic acidosis to
the dysfunction of other body organs in addition to the
detrimental effects on the bones.
third buffering system (see
above right) involves muscle
protein breakdown for nitrogen (NH3) to be
used by the kidneys to excrete acid as ammonia (NH4+).
This daily breakdown of muscle to buffer our
acid diet causes weakness and fatigue. Since
many have lived decades with this chronic metabolic
acidosis, it is now considered to be a cause of the loss
of muscle mass that occurs with aging.
addition, I was taught in medical school that the loss
of kidney function is inevitable with aging, but now the
group at UCSF has data that this loss of kidney function
with ‘aging’ may in fact be due to decades of untreated
chronic metabolic acidosis caused by our diet. I always
wondered why a decrease in kidney function was
considered inevitable. I suspect there are other ideas
taught in medicine about the ‘inevitable’ which are not
Restore Growth Hormone
Even with Aging
effect of acidosis is decreased growth hormone.
Growth hormone is
secreted by the pituitary gland and regulates growth.
We know that in
children with a disease called renal tubular acidosis (a
genetic disorder that produces acidosis, decreasing
blood pH) there is growth retardation, because the
acidosis causes a decrease in growth hormone secretion.
One only has to treat the acidosis, and it
reverses the problem—growth hormone returns to normal
and growth normalizes.
No extra growth hormone has to be given. Many
researchers have correlated decreases in growth hormone
levels with aging.
The study groups at UCSF raise the question that
this may all be due to decades of the diet-induced
chronic metabolic acidosis.
Is it possible that the ‘inevitable’ decrease in
growth hormone is
not natural with aging, but due to diet? This could have huge
significance. It needs more study, but while those
studies are being done, it seems wise to address one’s
pH balance now.
Optimize Immune Function
Finally, there is data that show even a 0.1 change in pH
of the blood (that would be 7.45 to 7.35—the range
considered normal) can alter the function of certain
cells of the immune system, which is important for
prevention of infections and some cancers. In addition,
acidosis can cause damage to the mitochondria, the power
house of the cell, and this also results in decreased
Here at the HÜMÜH Monastery, those who maintain
pH balance do not get colds or flu, even though there
are many visitors and retreatants throughout the year.
Loss of bone minerals
Muscle protein breakdown
Kidney damages with ‘aging’
Growth hormone secretion decreased
Immune system suppression
Take Control of
does one check pH balance?
Checking the pH of blood requires a special blood
draw and lab equipment, and therefore is not practical
for frequent measurements. The alternatives are to check
the pH of urine or saliva. pH paper is readily available
in pharmacies and health food stores.
There is more data on checking urine pH, and it
may be more convenient since checking saliva pH requires
timing. Checking urine pH is not reflective of the
actual pH of blood, but it is reflective of how much
acid the body needs to excrete from diet and metabolism.
For example, if the urine pH is 6.0 or less, the urine
has significant acid. In the studies on oral potassium
bicarbonate at 3 different dose levels per day, urine pH
ranged from 6.9 to 7.2.
So supplementation allowed a urine pH to be about
neutral or slightly above. (See
above) Therefore, the
potassium bicarbonate supplement assisted in buffering
the acid from the diet, so the other buffering systems
did not have to be activated.
first way to assist with decreasing body acidity is to
decrease the acid input from diet by eating more
alkaline foods. There are many tables on the internet
and in books on acidic and alkaline foods, however, they
don’t always agree. The recommendation for 80% alkaline
food and 20% acidic is difficult to obtain for most
people, and also leaves out many whole foods that have
significant nutritional value for essential fatty acids,
antioxidants, and vitamins. An approach that is more
achievable for many people is to eat a balanced,
anti-inflammatory, whole-food diet, which increases the
amount of vegetables and fruit servings that we eat,
utilizes whole grains, and limits or eliminates both
animal protein and processed food. In addition, people
should drink 2-3 liters of water each day. Water that is
slightly alkaline is best. There are many web sites that
explain an anti-inflammatory diet; I’d recommend
starting with Dr. A Weil’s web site discussion. Read
about it and see how many of the changes to an
anti-inflammatory diet are also changes to an alkaline
diet and decide for yourself. If after diet changes are
made, the urine testing still shows acid, supplements
that increase the alkaline buffer for the blood can be
Choose a Supplement and
choices for supplements are many, but only a few have
been studied. One that has is potassium along with a
base such as bicarbonate, which is what was used in some
of the studies. The bases that are available with
potassium include bicarbonate, which can be used as a
buffer immediately, and others, such as gluconate and
citrate that are changed to bicarbonate by the
liver. It is important to note that supplementing with
potassium chloride (K+ Cl-) would
not be helpful because the chloride, even though
a negative ion, is not able to act as a
base to buffer
acid. Bicarbonate is also available with sodium, instead
of potassium, as baking soda, but is generally not
recommended because of the sodium content. Sodium salts
can cause fluid retention and elevate blood pressure,
and should not be used if you have high blood
pressure or cardiac disease. Additionally, sodium does
not replace the potassium that has been lost from the
bone breakdown. Therefore, starting with an
alkaline supplement that contains potassium is
the first choice. There are many products
only way to evaluate them is to look at the amount of
potassium. The base will be an equivalent amount.
It is more
difficult to compare products if you choose a
combination. There are many websites that advertise
their particular alkaline supplement, but whichever you
choose, check the urine pH 30-90 minutes after taking it
to measure its effectiveness. Also check it several
times during the day until the changes in diet, dose,
and frequency of the supplement are stable. Many
products limit the amount of potassium to 99 mg.
Depending on your diet, you may need to supplement with
many tablets a day for a balanced pH. Potassium
gluconate is also available as a powder that
can be mixed with water and taken in larger doses. There
will be individual variations; the only way to know what
is right for you is to measure the response. The goal is
to have a urine pH of 6.8 in the morning and 7.0-7.2
throughout the day.
one knows of this diet-induced chronic metabolic
acidosis, disease associations and treatment is looked
at in a different way.
Since the systems of the body work in concert
with each other, I suspect there are many other organ
effects of chronic metabolic acidosis that have not yet
been detailed. However, this is an aspect of your health
that you can address now. The Wisdom Master has said,
“Your body is a vehicle to live life and develop
It can only serve you as…you take care of it.
You are responsible for your health, take control
of your body.”
Comments and questions welcomed.
Disclaimer: This article contains information not
evaluated by the FDA. It is not meant to diagnose, treat
or prevent any specific disease, or substitute for the
advice and care of your health care practitioner.
Restore Health with pH Balance article
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