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It's probably been a long time since you have thought about pH, maybe as long ago as high school chemistry class. If you suffer from psoriasis or other inflammatory conditions, it may be critical to re-familiarize yourself with the subject. Numerous researchers have made a connection between pH and diseases like psoriasis, eczema and acne. Excess acids are known to irritate the tissues and deplete them of minerals. In fact, some believe that acidic foods are so detrimental to our systems that they commonly refer to them as being poisonous!
What is pH?
The abbreviation "pH" simply refers to the measurement used to determine if a substance is acidic or alkaline. Substances with a pH of less than 7.0 are considered acidic, and those with a pH of greater than 7.0 are "basic," or alkaline. Humans need to maintain a pH ~ 7.4 in order to thrive. If your body has the mineral reserves that it needs, an abundance of minerals will show up in a saliva pH test (showing a pH reading of 7.0 to 7.50). A lower saliva pH reading indicates that mineral reserves are being used to buffer acids elsewhere in the body. Normal acid excretion through the renal system (kidneys) gives urine a pH that falls between 6.75 to 7.25. Urine pH helps to determine whether your body is eliminating a normal quantity of acids.
The alkalinity or acidity of our system depends largely on the food we consume. The usual culprits—sugar, coffee, highly processed foods, some meats, and excessively fatty foods—raise acid levels (lowering pH). When foods are digested they leave an "ash"; this residue determines whether a food is considered acidic or alkaline. Additionally, stress, depression, and lack of exercise can also cause acid levels to rise. As with many situations, people often begin to feel poorly from the increased acidity, stop exercising, become emotionally negative and perhaps start making poor food choices, which simply makes the problem worse.
In her book Digestive Wellness, Elizabeth Lipski, PhD,CCN explains how consuming even one can of soda can drastically affect pH:
One can of cola contains enough phosphoric acid to significantly change our pH. The kidneys cannot excrete urine that is more acidic than about 5.0 without damaging them or the bladder. The pH of cola is between 2.8 and 3.2, about a hundred times more acidic than a pH of 5.0. To dilute this to an appropriate level, you'd need thirty-three liters of urine. So, the body has another mechanism—using buffering minerals from elsewhere in the body. If there are enough reserves, the body will pull sodium and potassium to do this. If not, it will pull calcium, magnesium and other minerals from the bones. The amount of minerals necessary would be the buffering capability of four TUMS. One can imagine the effects of drinking several cans of cola or one Big-Gulp daily.
Consider a typical fast food meal, with a large soda, fries and cheeseburger, combined with the often high levels of stress experienced on a daily basis, and it's easy to see how quickly acid levels can rise.
Interestingly, some research indicates that pH levels may also be affected by seasonal changes. Many patients with eczema and psoriasis see a marked improvement over the summer months, only to relapse once winter arrives. There is some evidence to suggest that the summertime improvement may be related not only to increased sunlight levels, but increased humidity and greater water consumption, all of which aid in balancing acidity and alkalinity.
How does pH affect psoriasis?
As with many other conditions, pH imbalance can have multifold negative impacts on psoriasis. Organs work harder to balance the system, stored minerals are used up, toxins are filtered though the skin to compensate for the workload placed on other organs, and some researchers believe it may also lead to leaky gut syndrome. Oftentimes people with a pH imbalance suffer from joint pain and arthritis as well as skin problems.
Increased acidity in the body may create an environment that aggravates psoriasis. When the system becomes too acidic, organs such as the kidneys have to work extra hard to return the system to more alkaline levels. In order to achieve this, sodium, potassium and often calcium are utilized, depleting our mineral reserves. These minerals are often leached from the bones, and unless foods or supplements containing these minerals are consumed, mineral stores may remain low or depleted, which over time can lead to even worse health problems, including osteoporosis.
If you have read our articles on toxicity, you already know that increased toxicity from overtaxed organs can greatly impact inflammatory conditions like psoriasis. Just to quickly review, when organs like the kidneys and liver cannot effectively filter toxins from the blood, other organs like the skin and lungs take over the job of filtration. When this occurs, toxins, which usually are excreted through the urine, end up on the surface of the skin and exacerbate existing conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema. In the instance of an overly acidic system, the kidneys are working very hard to balance the system, and may not be effectively doing their job of filtering toxins. This can compound existing problems of overtoxicity, leading to systemic problems throughout the body.
For example, an acidic system can lead to leaky gut syndrome, which many researches consider one of the main driving factors in increased psoriasis flare-ups. "Leaky gut" is the term some researchers use to describe a condition where the intestines actually develop small holes and leak toxins and particulate food matter back into the system. This is most often caused by poor dietary choices. The toxins and particles travel through the system and can cause inflammation both internally and externally. Read more about leaky gut.
Measuring saliva pH with Alkalive pH Stix
Use the Alkalive pH Stix to take a saliva pH reading before and after meals. The pH reading, or alkaline level of your saliva, should be higher after meals because there is an abundance of alkalizing minerals in saliva after eating. Test your saliva ~60 minutes after a meal. If your pH level is lower than 6.75, your alkaline mineral reserves are low. Determine an average over several days or weeks.
Measuring urine pH
For optimum test results, test the pH of your second urination in the morning. Most people see urine pH become more alkaline as the day progresses. Test frequently during the day, and determine an average. Determine an average pH over several days or weeks.
Achieving and maintaining optimum pH levels
As mentioned earlier, a pH of ~7.4 is the level essential to achieve optimum health. Since many factors both within our control, such as food, or outside our control, such as changes in the seasons, can contribute to the rise and fall of acid levels, it's important to get a firm hold on those factors over which we do have power.
First and foremost, including alkaline-forming foods and reducing acid-forming foods in the diet is key. In her book, Your Healing Diet, Deidre Earls, RD, LD suggests the following:
When you are trying to recover naturally from disease, it is good to have a diet that is ~80% alkaline-forming and ~20% acid-forming. This is challenging but to the extent that the vast majority of your diet is built around whole grains, vegetables and fruits, you will alkalize your system. This will enhance the ability of your immune system to rid your body of toxins and create natural healing. After symptoms are resolved, you still want a majority of your intake to be alkaline-forming. A general guideline for maintaining optimum health is ~60% alkaline forming and ~40% acid forming.
A few of the alkalizing foods you may want to eat more of include:
Some highly acidic foods to avoid:
As always, it is important to drink lots of water throughout the day, not only to flush toxins but to raise alkalinity as well.
In addition to diet, emotions may play a significant role in governing pH levels. Negative emotions, stress, and depression may increase acid levels. In addition to exercise—preferably outdoors so that you get the benefit of sunlight, which helps the body to make vitamin D—it is very beneficial to include activities like yoga, meditation, and t'ai chi in your daily routine.
Through increased exercise, greater awareness of food choices, and reduction of stress, it is possible to ease the demands your body places on your renal system (kidneys). Once an optimum pH level of ~7.4 is achieved, it is a good idea to periodically test pH levels to make sure they remain within a healthy range.
Read on for the answers you seek, then give us a call if you would like additional guidance.