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Alkaline for Life®

The importance of pH balance in healthy bones

Susan E. Brown, PhD By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

Alkaline balance is very important for bone health. We evolved in an alkaline ocean environment, and even today our body’s internal environment remains alkaline, with a pH just above 7.0. Our enzymatic, immunologic, and repair mechanisms all function their best in an alkaline environment. Despite this, our biochemical functioning, the metabolism of food, and many other fundamental life processes, all produce a great deal of acid.

When we exercise or move, for example, we produce lactic acid and carbon dioxide. Lactic acid is by its nature acidic, and the exhalation of carbon dioxide represents an excretion of acids. Further, our immune responses (manifested as allergies and hypersensitivity) and stress responses generate substantial amounts of acidic by-products. Finally, we generate acids when we eat and digest food. For example, sulfuric acid can be produced from the metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids, and we consume phosphoric acid as a food additive. Long-chain fatty acids also produce acids when metabolized.

There are countless chemical reactions necessary for life that can only occur within a very specific pH range, so the body has many checks and balances to maintain pH within a narrow range. To regain the alkaline state necessary for our health and survival, metabolic acids from all sources must be buffered or neutralized.

Through various mechanisms, alkaline mineral salts of organic anions are drawn upon to buffer acids. Many of these can be obtained by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Potassium citrate and potassium malate, for example, are commonly found in vegetables and fruits. The organic anions of these compounds, when metabolized, have the ability to accept hydrogen ions and thus reduce the acid load and restore alkaline balance. When dietary consumption patterns provide insufficient buffering capacity, body buffering mineral pools can be depleted and the intracellular environment becomes acidotic.

An underlying metabolic acidity is a common denominator among — and a likely contributing factor to — all degenerative and autoimmune diseases. An acid condition has several adverse effects on cell metabolism, including impaired energy production, fluid accumulation and edema, and a likely increase in free radical production. Interesting enough, kidney specialists working with acid-base balance now recognize that most Americans, as they age, live in chronic, low–grade metabolic acidosis. This condition contributes to a series of health problems, including loss of bone mineral, loss of muscle mass, a reduction in growth hormone, and the development of kidney stones.

The restoration of the health-promoting alkaline state is essential to the regeneration of bone health, immune competence, and overall well-being.

Our most popular resources on alkaline balance

  • Testing your pH: a pathway to alkaline balance
    One tool used at the Center for Better Bones is pH testing, which helps us learn when our acid-alkaline balance is out of the range required for bone health. Learn about pH testing and how it can help you monitor your bone health in this article.
  • Acid-forming foods
    A table of foods that help make the body more acidic.
  • Alkaline-forming foods
    A table of foods that help make the body more alkaline.
  • Sample day on an alkaline diet
    The acid-alkaline diet to balance pH and improve bone health is offered by Better Bones, including a sample daily Alkaline for Life diet plan.
  • pH and bones: the science
    General information on how the body regulates pH, and how you can use first morning urine to monitor pH, from Dr. Susan Brown and Women's Health Network for Better Bones to maintain healthy bones.
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Original Publication Date: 01/01/2009
Last Modified: 05/11/2015
Principal Author: Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD