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Health Column: pH Perception

By Alecia Sexton

Layout Manager

Most people have heard the terms ‘acid’ and ‘base’ at some point in their lives. For many, however, the closest frame of reference we have is high school chemistry, and let’s face it, unless you’re a chemistry major, who really remembers the intrinsics? The fact of the matter is we should pay mind to what substances are acids and bases since we consume many of both daily.

You may remember something called the pH scale. This scale measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in any given substance in relation to the amount of hydrogen ions in water, which is neutral with a pH of seven. Since hydrogen ions are naturally acidic to the body, when a substance has lots of them, it’s said to be acidic. On the flip side, substances that are basic have a low concentration of hydrogen ions. The scale goes from zero to 14 and is centered around water. Acidic substances have a pH less than seven while basic ones have a pH greater than seven.

Believe it or not, the foods and drinks we consume each day have a specific pH that affects our metabolisms, immune systems and overall health. In America, we mostly consume a diet filled with acidic substances; soda, dairy, red meat, sugar and coffee are all semi strong acids that have a potent effect on our systems. If consume in excess or without the proper

balance of basic foods, acids create an unfavorable balance in the digestive system by hinder- ing the growth of beneficial bacteria that aid in metabolism. Over time, this can lead to weight gain, indigestion and even porous, unstable bones, known as osteoporosis. In fact, osteoporosis being a side effect of an acidic diet is a hot and controversial theory floating around in the scientific community today.

Since bones are made up of alkaline materials like phosphorus and calcium, when people constantly consume a highly acidic diet the body turns to these minerals to serve as buffers to neutralize the acidity. Encyclopaedia Britannica says more research has to be done on this theory, but the science behind it is sound and promising.

Basic foods include vegetables, fruits and nuts. These foods bring the body’s pH up and discourage indigestion. While it may seem blatantly obvious that the basic foods are those that we commonly deem as healthy, too much of a good thing can be bad for you too. Studies done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggest basic environments are harmful to certain bacteria in the digestive system and can lead to an inability to fight infections that would have otherwise been killed by protective acidic microorganisms.

Much of the information listed above can be conflicting. Are acidic foods bad and basic foods good, or vice versa? Unfortunately, the scientific literature is unclear, although we do know that too much of anything is never good; a varied diet is ideal. It seems safest to consume both nutritional acids and bases so we provide our bodies with all the essential vita- mins, minerals, and nutritional components it needs to keep us well.

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