The subject of acid-base balance is quite complex and requires a sharp understanding of the body’s systems and processes. pH refers to the measure of acidity and basicity and it ranges from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 the most alkaline or basic. Normal blood pH in humans ranges between 7.34 and 7.45. This is vital for the body’s physiological functions.
Can food alter the pH of one’s blood?
Some diets claim to help your body to maintain normal pH. These claims are rather untrue simply because of these logic physiological reasons:
- The food you eat is digested in the stomach before it can be absorbed and enters the bloodstream. The environment in the stomach is acidic, with a pH of 3.5 and even lower.
- The body has the kidneys, lungs and other buffering mechanisms in place to maintain the normal blood pH regardless of the food consumed. Your kidneys can increase the excretion of acid if the blood pH falls below normal (becoming acidic). The lungs can decrease respiration if the pH of the blood is high (alkaline) and increase if the pH is low (acidic).
Acid-base imbalance, however, can occur when the acid or base losses or gains exceed the body’s regulatory capabilities or when the regulatory mechanisms are ineffective. This may be caused by certain diseases like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and kidney diseases; where there is fluid imbalance like in cases of diarrhoea; when certain medications like diuretics are used as well as when some surgical treatments are performed.
How can this be treated?
These imbalances are treated based on the cause and requires certain tests, procedures and the intervention of the relevant practitioners.
What about alkaline foods and the management of covid-19?
- In managing COVID-19, we should not single out certain foods and link them to the management of COVID-19. We should rather look at foods that will boost the immunity than alkaline foods; as well as to avoid lifestyle behaviour and foods that can weaken the immune system.
- We should also be careful of sending untested messages to the people as this might potentially cause harm.
- When disseminating information, some chronic diseases that are quite prevalent in today’s world must be taken into account. Examples are renal diseases, diabetes mellitus and heart diseases. Certain food items, even though they might be good for the general population, might cause significant harm to others suffering from such diseases. We must be able to advise that individuals consult with their doctors, pharmacist, dietitians and other professionals.
In conclusion, people are most likely to benefit from the consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as plant-based proteins that the alkaline diet advocates. The antioxidants that are found in plants offer protection against inflammation. The high fibre amount in fruits and vegetables can help in the management of diabetes, cholesterol and other conditions. Whether food is acidic or alkaline, it does not directly alter the blood pH level.
- Schwalfenberg, G.K., 2012. The alkaline diet: is there evidence that an alkaline pH diet benefits health? Journal of environmental and public health.
- Mahan, K. and Escott-Stump, S., 2008. Krause’s food and nutrition therapy St. Louis: Saunders Elsiever.