Thursday, March 21, 2013
Acidosis and chronic illness
Acid refers to one of the fundamental principals of science. All chemical reactions require numerous conditions to be present for the process to occur. For example if you warm up the temperature reactions usually go faster. Fever is a classic example of this, whereby the body’s metabolism is running faster as a result of the fever. The same occurs with acid levels. The level of acid, known as the pH (potential Hydrogen) determines the speed at which chemical reactions occur. Some reactions need higher acid levels (lower pH) while most chemical reactions in our body require neutral to alkaline (the opposite to acid) to occur. An example of this is in the stomach which requires a pH as low as 1 or 2 for certain digestive enzymes to work (pepsin the main protein digestive enzyme in the stomach works at a pH of 1-2.4 that is why the consumption of antacids only reduce digestion and create more digestive problems) but in the small intestine the pH has to be alkaline for the other digestive enzymes to work so the body injects in bicarbonate (HCO3) into the small intestine.
The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14. 1 being highly acidic and 14 being highly alkaline. So the lower the number the higher the acidity. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic. A pH greater than 7 is basic/alkaline. The pH scale is also logarithmic which means, each whole pH value below 7 is ten times more acidic than the next higher value. Not just one. For example, pH 6 (acidic) is ten times more acidic than pH 7 (neutral) and 100 times (10 times 10) more acidic than pH 8. Similarly a pH 8 is ten times more alkaline than pH 7.
When we refer to acidosis we are freeing to the pH level in the internal body fluids. When the body fluids such as the blood and the fluid between the cells and in the cells becomes slightly acidic it is so smart it sets up a triage system to rebalance the pH (acid/alkali levels) to maintain homeostasis. The pH of the blood is between 7.35-7.45. When the blood pH falls below 7.35, this is called “acidosis,” (too much acid) and our death can occur at a blood pH of 7.0. So we want to avoid this. If the pH varies slightly from this level it dramatically affects many of the 90 or so enzyme functions in the blood. These enzymes literally do all the work, repair, cleaning up, immune function, transport etc in the blood. If they slow down too much we get very sick and die quickly. To make sure this doesn’t happen the body has a few mechanisms to keep the pH in perfect balance. These include buffers, respiratory regulation and renal regulation of pH.
Unfortunately, many of the body’s natural process produce acid waste by products so we have a constant requirement to balance out the pH. Each cell, in the presence of Oxygen performs its task of respiration (the chemical and physical process in which oxygen is delivered to tissues or cells in an organism), it also creates acidic end products that are used for energy and function. The residue of these products and functions is known as metabolic wastes, and these are acidic in nature. This acidic waste must not be allowed to build up as it becomes increasingly toxic to the body. One example of the short term waste build-up is the often painful lactic acid which is created through extreme exercise.
The importance of acid-base homeostasis (balance) in the maintenance of normal cellular responses and physiological integrity has long been recognized. Many cellular responses are diminished at lowered extracellular pH, including intracellular fluid and membrane-associated enzyme activities, ion transport activity, protein and DNA synthesis, metabolism and calcium levels. Even at low levels of acidosis it decreases the body’s ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, lowers energy production in the cells and the body’s ability to repair damaged cells. Essentially, it stops all the normal functioning, growth and repair in the cells so we slowly start to decay. Acidosis also increases the body’s ability to grow abnormal cells, increases fatigue and susceptibility to infections and also contributes to cardiovascular disease, weight gain, diabetes, kidney and gall bladder stones, hormonal problems, premature ageing and much more. An acid environment is also required for cancer cells to survive and increases the inflammation in the body, which feeds cancers. Dr. Otto Warburg was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 and 1946 for his studies on how cancer can not thrive in an alkaline medium and the interstitial fluid of tumors has shown pH values of less than 6.0, 0.2–0.6 units lower than mean pH of normal tissues. In fact a major by product of cancers due to their incomplete metabolism is high levels of acid.
In the case of chronic acidosis the main mechanism is to allocate or triage alkali minerals like magnesium and calcium from where they should be working in optimal conditions, such as in the muscle cells and in bones, to balance the pH in the blood. Acidosis literally causes physicochemical dissolution of bone and cell-mediated bone resorption (inhibition of osteoblast – which cause bone to be laid down- and stimulation of osteoclast function – which breaks down the bone). While this protects our urgent health requirements and keeps us alive today it increases our long risk of chronic health conditions such as osteoporosis heart attack and cancer as a result of the shortage of these minerals. The body allocates the nutrients for short-term survival, the “essential,” functions are protected from nutrient deficiency over other “nonessential, non immediate” functions needed only for long-term health. As a result acidosis does not refer to the body becoming full of acid but the conditions that are created around the body by chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis.
Under normal conditions the body produces acid as a byproduct of metabolism and breakdown of other molecules. In a healthy body with a nutritious diet and well-balanced healthy lifestyle our body eliminates the wastes. Unfortunately, a nutritious diet and well-balanced healthy lifestyle are relatively rare now.
When food is altered from its natural state, the way it interacts with the body also changes. It is not the organic matter of foods (whether the food itself is acidic or alkaline such as in the case of lemon juice being acidic), but their inorganic matter, how they break down in our bodies into minerals, that determines either the acidity or alkalinity of our internal body. Following digestion, absorption and metabolism, nearly all foods release either acid or base into the systemic circulation. The pH of the body is determined and measured by the mineral residues in the blood and tissue. Acid and alkaline minerals bind to each other to neutralise the pH and bring about balance. If there is not enough alkaline minerals it will draw on minerals from the bone and other organs as described earlier.
Alkalising elements include
Acidic elements include
There is significant differences between modern diets and those typical of our Homo sapiens ancestors. Studies in hunter – gatherer tribes suggest a relatively high intake of plant foods compared with modern-day humans. In a recent study estimating the net acid load 87% of 159 pre-agricultural diets were found to be alkaline compared with the average American diet was acid producing. This represents a major switch from the alkaline producing diet we ate for the majority of our evolutionary history to the acid producing diet we now eat.
The adoption of a diet which is high in alkaline foods has been shown to reduce the occurrence of diseases such as osteoporosis, age- related muscle degeneration, kidney stones, hypertension, asthma and kidney degeneration. The adoption of a predominantly acidic diet can lead to a condition called pathogenic metabolic acidosis which causes degeneration of the kidneys.
Acidic foods include:
Meats and seafood
Drinks: coffee, tea, alcohol, processed fruit juice
Fats and Oils
Acidity within the body can also occur as a result of dehydration and/or the quality of liquids we drink. While liquids are needed to flush out the wastes, including the acid wastes the different drinks we consume can have a big impact on our internal pH. Acid forming drinks include coffee, alcohol and soft drinks. The worst of these is without doubt is soft drinks. Not just because of the pH of the drinks but the sheer amount some people use and the fact they are consumed mainly by young people, even infants.
When soft drinks are consumed, pH regulatory mechanisms come into force to reduce the acidity of the soft drink. Soft drinks have a high buffering capacity, which means that more pressure is placed on the body to neutralise the pH, as the soft drink is resistant to small changes in the pH. The lower the pH (more acidic), the more alkaline needed to make the soft drink return to a neutral pH. Therefore not only is the initial pH of the soft drink bad, but also the corresponding buffering capacity results in greater stress on the body. Soft drinks are associated with many adverse health effects as well as osteoporosis and tooth decay. If the minerals are drawn out of the bone they are also removed from the teeth with acidosis, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay. Literally from the inside out.
It is not just our diet. Stress and anxiety are acid generators aside outside of our diet. An over active adrenal gland caused by high levels of stress can release a hormone called aldosterone into the blood stream causing large quantities of potassium and magnesium, alkaline minerals, to be excreted into the urine.