Acid and Alkaline Balance: The Key to Healthy Bones?

Did you know your bones are responsible for maintaining your body's delicate pH balance, which impacts your overall health and may even play a role in longevity?

What is pH balance?
pH is a chemistry term that stands for "potential for hydrogen." In simpler terms, pH indicates how acid or alkaline a solution is on a scale of 1 to 14. A neutral pH is 7.  Anything less than 7 is acid; greater than 7 is alkaline (sometimes called basic). The human body operates best when the pH level of the blood is balanced within a very narrow range: between 7.35 and 7.45. Other body fluids have different pH ranges.  For example, stomach acid has a pH of around 1. Urine is about 6. 

Our kidneys provide the fine-tuning mechanism that keeps our pH level within optimal range. They do this by pulling minerals out of our bones to balance the acidity or alkalinity of our blood. For example, if we consume something that's very acidic (like a soda), the kidneys balance it with alkaline minerals like calcium, sodium, and phosphorus. If they can't adequately buffer the acid content of our blood (a condition called metabolic acidosis) or they have to pull too many minerals out of our bones over too long a time period, the result can be poor bone health and organ damage. Chronic metabolic acidosis and loss of valuable minerals can increase risks for high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems, muscle wasting, and decreased ability to repair damaged body tissues. It's also linked to accelerated aging, kidney stones, fluid retention, and digestive problems.

How diet and lifestyle impact pH and bone health
Scientists now believe that consuming a diet high in acid-producing foods like animal proteins, processed foods, and sweeteners and low in fresh fruits and vegetables is partly responsible for the development of osteoporosis and diseases caused by chronic metabolic acidosis. They note that in cultures where people consume more fruits and veggies and less meat, dairy, and processed foods, bone health is better and life spans are longer. In fact, the countries where people consume almost no dairy products (Japan, for example) are also the ones that report the greatest longevity and least amount of osteoporosis. 

In America, where we're taught from childhood that, "milk does a body good" because it supplies us with calcium for health bones, we're dealing with osteoporosis and fractures at alarming rates. But diet isn't the only contributor to pH imbalance. Chronic stress is also a factor. It causes acidosis and tissue breakdown through long-term exposure to stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

How can you help bring your ph level and bones into balance?
1) Eliminate process foods, sodas and excess sweeteners from your diet.

2) Consume more fruits and veggies, especially citrus fruits, raspberries, melons, leafy greens and broccoli.

3) Drink plenty of water.

4) Reduce your stress load with exercise, meditation, yoga and a simpler lifestyle.



American Society for Nutrition
J. Nutr. 138:164S-165S, January 2008. The Journal of Nutrition. "The Importance of Calcium, Potassium, and Acid-Base Homeostasis in Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention."