Momentum in the Mountains 2024



author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023


Common health myths and trends all seem to prey on peoples’ misunderstandings of complicated concepts regarding the human body. Trends oversimplify, polarize, and mislead. Today, I’m taking to task the myth of body pH. I hear more and more about alkaline water, special filters, and the belief that all ailments can be fixed by alkalinizing the body. And all of this is complete nonsense!

What is pH?

Put as simply as possible, pH is the scale that measures acid and alkaline. The scale goes from 1- most acid, to 14-most alkaline, with 7 in the center being pH neutral, neither acid nor alkaline at all (a substance like distilled water). Every point on the scale represents a power of one hundred, so the difference between acids at 2 and 1 on the scale is enormous.

What is the ideal pH for the body?

There is no single pH that applies to the whole body. Every single body fluid has a pH measurement that is specific to that fluid only. If there’s one pH level that is the most important to the health of the body, and which the body will go to the greatest lengths to control, it is the pH of the blood. Blood should be slightly alkaline, and the proper pH range of the blood is very narrow. It should fall between 7.34 and 7.45.

But then, you have fluids like stomach acid, which should clock in between 1 and 3 on the pH scale, and less acidic fluids like sweat and urine; on the alkaline end, you have pancreatic fluid, and the fluid around your brain. There is no need to raise the pH of your whole body, because everything is right where it should be. What you need is to keep your body healthy so it keeps all of its fluids at the right pH, but that isn’t as punchy as the alkaline sales pitch, is it?

Can certain foods and drinks alkalinize the body?

Yes, and some can acidify the body, but it isn’t as straightforward as you think. For example, a glass of orange juice is acidic. Drinking it, however, will not acidify your body; it actually ends up increasing alkalinity. Similarly, alkaline water won’t magically raise your pH, and even if it did, that wouldn’t be a good thing. Alkaline water does have side effects and you should avoid drinking it.

I do recommend using apple cider vinegar or carbonated water like Pellegrino as a remedy if I know that a patient is in fact too alkaline. In general, however, you should avoid trying to adjust your body’s pH. If you’re suffering from symptoms associated with acidity or alkalinity, you aren’t going to get anywhere by adjusting your pH; your pH is off because something else is going wrong. Symptoms are clues, and unless you use them to find the root of the problem, you won’t be helping yourself.

Can the body be too acid?

Yes, blood absolutely can dip too low on the pH scale, just as much as it can be too alkaline. Some symptoms of excessive acidity include:

  • A dry cough

  • Irregular heartbeat or increased heart rate

  • Muscle weakness

  • Nausea

  • Feeling tired but also “wired” and unable to wind down

  • Sighing frequently, as if you can’t get enough air or take a full, deep breath

  • Anxiety

  • Inability to hold your breath (This suggests your blood isn’t holding oxygen effectively.)

An excessively acid state can be caused by several dietary factors. If you’re following a very low carbohydrate, very high protein diet, you could put yourself into a state of ketosis. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it can break down fat and protein in the body to a harmful extent. If your urine contains ketones, you’re on the wrong end of ketosis, and may be too acid.

Low blood sugar can also be an indicator. If you’re a “hangry” person, i.e., you tend to get irritable and grumpy when you’re hungry, high acidity may accompany your low blood sugar.

Eating too much junk food and refined carbohydrates can also cause you to be too acid, on top of a whole host of other problems.

Can the body be too alkaline?

Yes. Symptoms include:

  • Craving sweets- this means you are low on potassium and not storing sugar effectively.

  • Cramps, especially in the calves

  • Heart arrhythmia

  • Hyperventilation

  • Calcium deposits in the soft tissue (which may cause twitching of the left eyelid)

  • Bone spurs

  • Cataracts

  • Tendonitis or bursitis

  • Kidney or gall stones

  • Arthritis

  • Low immune and/or thyroid function

  • Allergies

A too alkaline body can be caused by stress. This one surprises a lot of people, because the alkaline myth goes that stress causes acidity. Stress does provoke an acid response, but you end up losing your healthy acids- in addition to potassium and electrolytes- through urine when you are stressed.

It is generally the elimination of acids that cause your body to become too alkaline. This can happen from drinking too much water and flushing out electrolytes, taking diuretic medication, or even vomiting, which can cause you to lose some of the acid-producing bacteria in your gut. Your stomach acid also weakens as you age, which can cause you to be prone to an alkaline state.

So please, don’t buy into the alkaline myth, and don’t make an effort to alkalinize your body. As in many cases, the truth is more multi-faceted than the sales pitch. If you have a pH problem, trying to alkalinize your whole body isn’t going to fix it.

Learn more about Body Conditions from Dr. Berg Video Blog.

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