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Acidity & Acidification Part 1; Degenerative Disease

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1 year ago (Last updated: 4 months ago)


Acidity, what acidity?

The question of acidity is often misunderstood. When first hearing about it, most people think they grow acidic by ingesting acids or acidic food – such as lemons. Nothing could be more wrong. Lemons in themselves are acidic, but the way we are looking at it now, lemons are strongly alkaline. The reason for this is that we are not discussing the acidity of what we ingest, but the acidity of the metabolic residue of what we ingest. That is, the waste that remains when the foodstuff has been digested and metabolised, which is something entirely different. Lemons are indeed acidic to eat, but the metabolic residue of lemons is alkaline.

So, when we discuss acidity in this article, just forget whether or not a foodstuff tastes sour, that has nothing to do with it! Some acids have indeed an acidic metabolic residue, but for some, especially certain organic acids, it is alkaline. This goes for fruit acids in particular; the metabolic residue of sour fruit is generally alkaline. Acids such as (but not limited to) ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and citric acid are alkalising.

(If you have an ulcer and must avoid acidic food, however, it is the direct acidity of what you eat that matters – how sour something is. But that is not what we discuss in this article.)

Another rule of thumb is that certain minerals are alkalising – most notably calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Foodstuffs rich in these minerals are alkalising and combat acidification. However, I strongly recommend against using sodium for alkalisation, since extra sodium comes with its own problems – as we will see later in this article.

It should be noted that sodium bicarbonate is heavily promoted in certain circles. That, in my opinion, is lunacy, since it would seriously disturb the delicate balance of sodium and potassium, which is so important for proper cell function. Given that this balance for most people already is disturbed by relatively too much sodium (not at least due to the use of salt, which is sodium chloride), adding even more sodium would just grow things worse. Indeed, one very serious side-effect of acidity is that it stops the release of sodium from the kidneys and makes it accumulate in the body. This doesn't just raise the blood pressure, it makes the whole cellular respiration go astray – which paves the way for degenerative disease and death. (More on that below.)

pH; Acidity & Alkalinity

The level of acidity or alkalinity is measured according the pH scale. It ranges from 0 to 14. 7 is neutral, lower than 7 is acidic, and higher than 7 is alkaline.

Acidity can be neutralised by alkalinity.

When we talk about acidity of the blood, we mainly concerns ourselves with the level of uric acid (which can be measured by a simple test.) It is a metabolic rest of the breakdown of purines, which are found in all animal food, cereals, especially wholegrain cereals, dried beans and peas, asparagus, and a few other foodstuffs from the plant kingdom.

If you take a blood test, the uric acid level ideally should be 3-7mg/dl for males and 2.5-6mg/dl for females.

Reading this, it might be easy to believe that less is better, but that is not true. First: we need protein and purines are a natural part of our lives that can be handled, as long as it is not too much – second: we need uric acid; it is the dominant antioxidant present in the blood. It is when it becomes too much it becomes a problem.

Uric acid is excreted through the urine, but if the level grows too high, or if the kidneys excrete too little, it will be accumulated in the body. It goes without saying that although the diet plays the main role in a vast majority of cases, renal disease can also be the cause of acidification and too high levels of uric acid.

Uric acid is not the only acid active in a general acidification, although in many cases it is the dominant one, and it is the easiest one to detect and treat. Another one is the lactic acid which is produced as waste from the fermentation that gives a cancer cell its energy. It can grow to the dominant source of a general acidification when cancer is present. And that acidity is not detectable by a blood test. Among other troublesome acids, we also find oxalic acid.

How the Body Regulates the pH of the Blood

When the pH is not perfect, the kidneys are the first to be affected. It is their task to regulate the pH of the blood, and healthy kidneys can manage that while there are no repeated pH extremes, and if deviations are not always acidic. When you are a little too alkaline, they release sodium ions; when you are a little too acidic, they release hydrogen ions. If, at this stage, you are always too acidic, there is a gradual accumulation of sodium in your body. The level soon grows to become harmful - and so things begin to go astray.

Naturally, that is an attempt to combat the acidification, after all, sodium is alkaline, it is just that sodium causes other problems. Nature is always right, so why does it accumulate the problematic sodium and not some other alkaline mineral? Well, the system evolved for a natural lifestyle with natural food, it cannot handle the massive, permanent acidification that is the result of a denatured diet.

In the next stage, when the body is too acidic for the kidneys to handle, a general acidification of the body takes place, and minerals are taken from the bones – the body tries to neutralise the pH. Thus osteoporosis, loss of minerals in the bones, develops. Finally that leads to a state where there are no more minerals to take. Then the bones are ruined and further acidification of the body is unhampered.

Refined foods and beverages - white sugar, rice, and flour, alcohol, etc. - indirectly contribute to this process. They are deprived of all essential nutrients themselves, so for the body to be able to metabolise them, both minerals and vitamins must be taken from another source. Unless there is a sufficient extra intake of mineral supplements, compensating for what these substances have been deprived of during the refining process, the minerals will be taken from the bones.

So, you must realise that any foodstuffs which, for their metabolism, require more of the alkaline minerals than they contain, would have an indirectly acidifying effect. Natural, raw, unrefined foodstuffs normally contain what they need. Mainly, they become harmful (or at least more harmful) from what processing and treatment takes away from them before they are ingested. Even strongly acidifying eggs contain their alkalinity – in the shells, which we remove before we eat them! I don't suggest you should eat the shell from eggs or the bones from meat, I just want to explain why “full food” is the best food, and that everything you remove causes an imbalance for which you must provide compensation if you want to preserve your health.

The metabolism of meat, fish, and eggs results in strongly acidic residue. The same goes for wholemeal cereals, and especially natural (unpolished) rice. Fresh fruit and vegetables mostly leave alkaline residue, although there are a few exceptions. It is harder for us to get rid of an acidic surplus than of an alkaline, and the problem arises when depositions of acidic material are built up and the body's pH gradually falls [low pH = acidic, high pH = alkaline] over time. A small acidic surplus every day can grow to a serious health problem. The point here is that one should try to keep a moderate alkaline surplus. A day or two with acidic surplus does not matter, but do not let it become a week, a month, or a year. Modern diet almost always results in too much acidic residue. Sugar and salt, in indirect ways, contribute to this.

But do not overdo it; a too high pH (too alkaline) can give alkalosis, a life-threatening condition. Normally that is not a risk if food is the only regulator, even if you eat only vegetables, but if you exaggerate the intake of mineral preparations, it can happen.

The Balance Between Sodium & Potassium Cells, Acids, Cancer & Cardiovascular Disease

Chemically, acidity is the same as a deficiency of electrons. This is important to understand, since, on a cellular level, a deficiency of electrons also means a deficiency of oxygen. Cancer cells, which do not use oxygen, thrive in an acidic environment with little or no oxygen. Thus, acidification of the body paves the way for cancer. As a matter of fact, all cancer patients are over-acidic. Cancer, once it is there, contributes to further acidification, since the cancer cells, getting their energy from fermentation of sugar, leave acid as metabolic waste. While the disease develops, that becomes a vicious circle, hard to break. Cancer cells change the environment to the advantage of their own kind and make it harder and harder for normal cells to survive.

The cell membrane is like a gate into and out of the individual cell. Nutrients, oxygen, and waste pass through it, as do signal substances which are a part of the body's communication system. Possibly it also has a function in an all-encompassing electric communication system. The stability of these membranes is of crucial importance for health. If they do not function optimally, disease develops. Deterioration of membrane functionality is always at hand in cancer, and it is indicated in every case of reduced or ceased cellular respiration. What is cause or effect is unclear and a matter of dispute. In an effort to restore or protect respiration, and in the end possibly cure or prevent cancer, it is important to preserve and improve the quality and function of the membrane.

The permeability of the membrane (what it allows in or out) depends on the difference in voltage between the membrane's inside and outside: the membrane potential. For a healthy cell in rest it is between -60 and -100 mV. Some sources claim -69.4 mV, but that is a theoretical value. In reality it varies a little according to the cell type and external factors. For a cancer cell, the potential is much lower, sometimes not more than -10 mV. A normal potential is a prerequisite for good cellular respiration as well as for normal exchanges between the cell and the rest of the body. If it is more than temporary disturbed, the cell will soon become ill.

The balance between sodium and potassium, which is crucial for membrane potential, is a common problem. Over-consumption of salt, sodium chloride, is the most common reason. Too much sodium relative to potassium can initiate degeneration of membrane function and make the potential fall. It can be wise to exclude common salt from the diet entirely, since it has no nutritional function.

As I already mentioned, permanent acidity is another reason for a disturbed balance between these two minerals. The kidneys of a permanently acidic body never release sodium ions so an excessive amount of sodium is accumulated in the body.

When the potential is too low, sodium (whose concentration is normally higher outside of the membrane) enters the cell – while potassium (whose concentration is normally high inside) flows out, along with calcium, magnesium, and zinc. This also draws water into the cell (sodium binds water), which swells, so its structural geometry is distorted. Exactly how the geometrical change influences other factors is not known, but it certainly plays a role in the development of disease. The low potential and the entering of sodium can be the result of a deficiency of potassium relative to sodium (or too much sodium relative to potassium), especially if combined with other (common) deficiencies, as of magnesium, lithium, and vitamin B6.

Since sodium binds water, another consequence of too much sodium in the body is that it raises the blood pressure and contributes to cardiovascular disease.

Gout & Kidney Stones

Hyperuricemia, or high levels of uric acid in the blood plasma causes gout, or gouty arthritis. That's an illness where crystallised uric acid is deposited in joints and soft tissues, with inflammations and pain as a result. Such crystals can also become kidney stones. If left untreated, this process destroys as well joints as kidneys.

There are some useful medicines available these days and they may be necessary in difficult cases, but otherwise, and especially for prevention, it is a question of alkalisation; bring down the level of uric acid and inhibit crystallisation.

It should be noted that gout is considered as incurable but manageable. However, many illnesses considered incurable, have later shown to be curable. Incurability is a function of the current level of knowledge, and that level changes every day. Yet, preventing is always better than curing.

Uric Acid & Neurodegenerative Disease

Non-crystal uric acid seems to protect against neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease and Multiple Sclerosis. Patients with these diseases tend to have a low level of uric acid. It has also been observed a lower frequency of neurodegenerative disease among people who have a history of gout. Thus, less uric acid is not necessarily better.

The mechanism behind this neurodegenerative protection is not known, but it can have to do with that uric acid provides more than half of the antioxidant capacity in blood. However, studies suggest that there are other mechanisms involved as well.

Conclusions & Personal Comments

The discovery of the antioxidative and neuroprotective effects of uric acid show us that although this acid can become a nuisance, it also has important positive functions, of which we might not yet know all. Indeed, we don't really know how to balance these contradictions, how to reduce the bad effects and still fully utilise the good. I am sure we will learn more about this (and about uric acid) as research progresses.

A very interesting aspect of uric acid is that it inhibits certain chemical processes related to iron. More specifically, it binds iron and inhibits iron-dependent ascorbate oxidation.

Given the role iron plays in cancer (see "Iron & Cancer"), could this property contain a seed to something that could be used in a future cancer treatment? That is just speculation on my part, I have yet not studied this effect of uric acid in detail, and I think it is too limited to only this one inhibition, but in general I think a selective blocking of certain iron-related processes could be a way to combat cancer. That's why every inhibitor of selective iron-related processes and the mechanisms behind it must be studied. There might be something to learn.

This Article continues with Part 2: Acidity & Acidification; What To Do

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Written by   631
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What struck me the most now i understand why most people in my country are more and more prone to becoming acidic with the diet (I'm ruling out the booze because not everyone drinks) even if they claim it to be healthy. Should research more on this. Kinda curious if there's a trend of acidity and people going on whole wheat stuff diets for some reason

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1 year ago

I don't know of any study direct targeting that question, but whole wheat is very acidic, so such a diet is likely to increase acidity. If they also "enrich" their diet with extra wheat bran in order to get more fibres, and I know many people do, the acidification from this diet must be very strong.

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1 year ago

A timely article,
as some of us have recently recognized acidity and struggle to maintain a proper ph.
Sodium bicarbonate is a quick-fix which after a few weeks goes in a badly wrong direction.

"Incurability is a function of the current level of knowledge, and that level changes every day."
perfectly phrased mantra to live by. looking forward to "Part 2: Acidity & Acidification; What To Do"

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1 year ago

As always, very informative and interesting. I pay far too little attention to my diet.

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1 year ago

The diet is 80% of the health. Its importance cannot be overestimated.

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1 year ago

There has been a lot of talk lately about the acidity of the body and what kind of diet we need to follow in order to deacidify the body and be healthier.Preference is given,of course,to a plant-based diet,as a plant foods create a basic environment in the body.As with any diet,it is important to be careful about body acidity today,as there are many untruths on the market.By knowing what Ph body means in general,we can decide more responsibly how to balance our Ph.

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1 year ago

Knowledge is paramount.

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1 year ago