Your Body is Like a Swimming Pool

For many years, we had a large in-ground swimming pool, though it was always my husband’s responsibility to maintain it while he was alive. Jim was extremely fastidious about keeping the water pH balanced, regularly testing with the little pH strips, and then adding chemicals as required.  Every couple of weeks, he’d take a water sample to the pool store for a more sophisticated evaluation. In all the years that he took care of the pool, we never once had any sort of problem with the pool water.

When the care of the pool fell onto my shoulders, I tried very hard to keep the pool’s water balanced for the sake of all those swimming in the water, though I had many problems. Though Jim made it look easy, I was not as diligent as he was and so occasionally the water would get “funky.”

A pH of 7.0 is neutral, below 7.0 is acidic, and above 7.0 is alkaline. The pH of human eyes is 7.2. No wonder the ideal pH for swimming pools is just that – 7.2, and should be kept within the range of 7.0 to at most 7.6.

In case you’ve forgotten high school chemistry, pH stands for “potential of hydrogen.” It’s the activity of the hydrogen atom which influences acidity and alkalinity. An example of something very acid would be a car battery, which has a pH of 1, whereas household bleach is very alkaline with a pH of 12.5.

So, why am I telling you about the pH of pool water, car batteries and bleach? Because maintaining a normal body pH, or acid-alkaline balance, is also one of the most important aspects of human health. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most overlooked and often downright ignored!

If you ignore the pH of your pool and the water becomes too acidic, bad things eventually happen to the entire structure of the pool – the surface and tiles, pipe fittings, pump connections, etc. – can begin to corrode and eventually malfunction. Additionally, anyone swimming in the water will feel their eyes and nose burn and their skin become dry and itchy.

When the water is too alkaline, the calcium in the water combines with carbonates and forms scale, just like in our tea kettles. Calcification is seen most at the waterline, where it traps dust and dirt, creating a dirty, hard, black ring over time. The calcium carbonate also causes the swimming pool filter to lose its ability to trap dirt from the pool water so the water becomes murky and loses its sparkle.

Just as chemicals are added to pool water to maintain a balanced, “healthy” pH, our eating habits influence our body’s pH, which ideally should be between 7.0 (neutral) to 7.1. When we eat too many foods that promote acid we increase our chances of developing low-grade metabolic acidosis. In response, our kidneys, which are responsible for metabolic activities that buffer acidity in our bodies, must work harder to remove the excess acid.

Another of our bodies responses to too much acid, is our bones release calcium and magnesium, which promote an alkaline pH, and muscle tissue is broken down to make ammonia, another strongly alkaline substance. This process may not be noticed for many years, but ultimately result in osteoporosis and muscle loss – both associated with aging, declining strength and increased risk of fractures in our senior years.

So what can we do to correct this problem and maintain our ideal body pH? We’ve all heard the expression, “We are what we eat,” and this is very true when it comes to our pH level. Common acid yielding foods include meats, dairy products, eggs, seafood and whole and refined grains. But there are plenty of delicious foods that increase alkalinity: all fruits and vegetables! Said quite simply, the key to a neutral pH is to maintain a balance between proteins and grains with much more emphasis placed on fresh fruits and vegetables.

It’s also important to understand that it’s not whether a food itself is acidic or alkaline, but how the food’s content of sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate impact our body’s pH. For example, although oranges and tomatoes are acidic foods, they actually promote alkalinity in our body when we eat them.

Today, the battle between alkaline and acidic pH values in our bodies greatly depends on the balancing of four things: potassium vs. sodium and bicarbonate vs. chloride. Potassium and bicarbonate are found in fresh fruits and vegetables whereas sodium and chloride are found heavily in processed and packaged foods, which dominate much of the American diet today. However, humans evolved consuming diets rich in potassium and bicarbonate while low in sodium and chloride, but now today the pendulum has swung dangerously to the much less healthy tendency to eat many more foods loaded with sodium and chloride.

To make it really, really simple you need only remember that alkaline-yielding foods are: all fresh fruits and vegetables!

Everything else is acid-yielding foods: all dairy, eggs, meat, seafood, poultry, legumes, grains (whole or refined) nuts, rice and sugars!  And of course, all refined and processed foods, too!

Does this mean you shouldn’t eat foods from the acid-yielding categories? Of course not! But today, most people eat a ratio of 3:1 in favor of acid-yielding foods, whereas we evolved eating a 10:1 ratio! Big difference! And that’s another reason disease, especially diseases associated with aging, are dramatically on the rise today.

It’s simple to measure your own body’s pH with purchased test strips (they come in a roll) which can cost as little as $10 at a health food store or you can buy them online. Cut a 3” strip, urinate on it and after the strip changes color compare it to the chart provided. Record your results over the next seven days, then calculate your average for that time. The “normal” range for urine is 6.5 to 7.5, though anything over 7.0 (neutral) is best!

Once you know your body’s average pH, make a real effort to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less of everything else, drink plenty of water (you should also check the pH of the water you drink regularly, as this can have a huge impact on your personal pH.) In a couple weeks, check again to see if your pH is more alkaline and keep working towards getting your pH into the high end of the normal range. Bon Appétit!

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One Response to “Your Body is Like a Swimming Pool”

  1. Stanton Oto says:

    Thanks for this wonderful post! It has been very useful. I wish that you’ll carry on sharing your wisdom with us.

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