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How to Maintain the Correct Acid Base Balance for Health

How to Maintain the Correct Acid Base Balance for Health

How to Maintain the Correct Acid Base Balance for Health

Your acid base balance is also known as pH balance, and maintaining healthy levels is essential.

Read on to find out why it's crucial for your health, how your body keeps pH levels in check, and how you can ensure they stay in perfect balance.

What is pH balance, and why is blood pH important?

Your blood pH and health are intrinsically linked, and you need the correct blood pH to function.

Even a minor fluctuation from normal pH can seriously affect your organs

The pH scale goes from 0 (acidic) to 14 (basic or alkaline). A healthy body pH sits between 7.35 to 7.45.

Several things can affect your pH balance, including:

  • Medications
  • Compromised gut health
  • Depleted electrolytes
  • Stress
  • A poor diet, including excess sugar intake
  • Lack of exercise
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Inadequate sleep

Signs your acid base balance is unstable include:

  • Fatigue
  • Low immunity
  • Aches and pains
  • Arthritis
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Headaches
  • Osteoporosis
  • Digestive issues
  • Inflammation
  • Chronic illness

Luckily for you, your body intelligently and tightly controls your pH levels using your brain, lungs, kidneys, and various buffering systems.

But the more acidic the environment, the harder the body must work to maintain balance.

So it's essential to look after yourself, minimising any strain to help your body out.

How your lungs and kidneys control acid-base balance

Your body helps control blood pH by releasing carbon dioxide, which is mildly acidic and a waste product, from your lungs.

Your cells release carbon dioxide into your blood, which carries it to your lungs for exhalation.

As carbon dioxide increases in the blood, it becomes more acidic. Your brain is constantly assessing and adjusting the speed, depth and exhalation of your breath to regulate your blood pH in real-time.

Your kidneys work more slowly than your lungs and brain, taking hours or days. They excrete excess acid (hydrogen ions) or bases.

How buffer systems control acid-base balance

Chemical buffer systems protect against deviations in pH balance by tempering changes in hydrogen ion concentrations.

These buffer systems are a combination of weak acids and bases naturally found in your body (plasma proteins, phosphate, and bicarbonate and carbonic acid buffers).

Generally, weak acids soak up hydroxyl ions, and weak bases absorb hydrogen ions.

Electrolytes also play a role

Both your pH and electrolyte balance are closely linked.

Electrolytes are essential minerals that have many functions, including powering your cells, maintaining fluid balance, regulating nerve and muscle function and balancing your body pH.

If your acid-base balance is off, your body uses vital electrolyte stores as it tries to get things on an even keel.

It leaches them from your cells, tissues and bones, resulting in gut disturbance and nutrient deficiencies, toxin build-up, reduced immune function, and an increased risk of osteoporosis.

You may also experience headaches, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.

Your gut pH is as important as your blood pH

To keep things balanced, you need to optimise your gut pH.

It's essential to keep you and your digestive system healthy, helping maintain healthy gut flora and digestive enzymes.

Related: A Closer Look at the Gut-Brain Axis 

Types of acid-base disorders

pH imbalance can lead to two types of acid-base disorders:

  • Acidosis – A low blood pH (below 7.35) which is more acidic.
  • Alkalosis – A high blood pH (above 7.45) where there is too much base or alkalinity.

There are two classifications:

  • Metabolic – an imbalance of acids or bases and their excretion from the kidneys.
  • Respiratory – where an imbalance occurs from an inability to excrete enough carbon dioxide due to lung or breathing disorders.

Your body will do everything in its power to try and reinstate pH balance, with the kidney and respiratory systems compensating for each other.

But over time, this will become more difficult, and if your blood pH changes substantially, it can become severe. If left untreated, acidosis can be fatal.

Causes and symptoms of acidosis and alkalosis

Symptoms of respiratory acidosis include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Headache

..and can result from conditions including: 

  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Pneumonia

Symptoms of metabolic acidosis, meanwhile, include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Headache

..and can be caused by:

  • Severe vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Excess lactic acid caused by alcohol abuse, seizures or cancer
  • Renal tubular acidosis (RTA), where the kidneys fail to remove acids from the blood and into the urine.
  • Severe dehydration
  • Poisoning by aspirin, ethylene glycol (found in antifreeze), or methanol.

Symptoms of respiratory alkalosis include:

  • Muscle stiffness and spasms
  • Chest pain
  • Tingling
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors

..and can be caused by:

  • Breathing too rapidly due to anxiety, using a ventilator or overdosing on certain medications.
  • Medical conditions including liver disease, pulmonary embolism, pneumothorax and atrial flutter.

Symptoms of metabolic alkalosis include:

  • Irritability
  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Confusion
  • Arrhythmia
  • Seizures

It can be caused by:

  • Severe or cyclical vomiting
  • Overuse of diuretics, antacids, laxatives
  • Overactive adrenals
  • Low stomach acid
  • Electrolyte imbalance

What causes pH imbalance?

Your body diligently regulates your acid base balance, but the less you look after yourself, the harder it has to work.

The following can contribute to pH imbalance:

  • A poor diet, including excess sugar intake
  • Excess alcohol intake
  • Medication including antibiotics
  • Chronic illness
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Stress, anxiety and depression
  • Too much or too little exercise
  • Overexposure to toxins including heavy metals, pesticides, and other environmental toxins in our water, food, toiletries, beauty products and household cleaners.
  • Growing exposure to EMFs from Wi-Fi, smartphones and smart meters may also play a role.

Other symptoms of unbalanced pH levels

Depending on how acidic your body pH is, your symptoms can range from mild to more severe.

Even a slight increase in acidity can lead to lower oxygen transfer throughout your body, with fatigue and lowered immunity being among the first signs

Symptoms can include:

  • Digestive problems caused by high acidity or vice versa. You may experience acid reflux, nausea, bloating, indigestion, IBS, and colitis.

  • An imbalance of gut microbiota, a weakened intestinal lining, and reduced nutrient absorption, which can result in inflammation, lowered immunity and impaired health. Over 70% of your immune system lives in your gut.

  • Muscle weakness, aches and pains, tingling, numbness and headaches as your electrolytes become depleted.

  • Inflammation, pain and arthritis caused by acid deposits in the joints.

  • When you have an acidic pH in the body, and your buffer systems are struggling, calcium gets leached from the bones increasing your risk of decreased bone density and osteoporosis.

  • Acidosis and inflammation are linked to a wide range of chronic diseases, including kidney stones, cancer, metabolic syndrome and impaired glutathione synthesis.

8 ways of restoring pH balance in the body

1. Eat a healthy, whole-food diet packed full of diverse vegetables, fruits and other plant foods. Try to eat organic as much as possible to reduce your exposure to pesticides, ditch processed, refined foods and reduce your alcohol intake.

2. Cut down on sugar. Your adrenals work closely with your kidneys to balance pH, and when you consume acidic foods (including anything processed and high in sugar) it causes your adrenals to release aldosterone, which signals to your kidneys to eliminate excess acid.

Over time, this can put a heavy strain on your adrenals and kidneys, leading to adrenal fatigue, inflammation and chronic illness.

Hyperaldosteronism is when one or both adrenal glands release too much aldosterone. Interestingly, this can lead to metabolic alkalosis.

3. Keep your gut health in check. Eat well, look after your mental and emotional wellbeing, effectively manage stress, exercise and live a healthy lifestyle.

Consume plenty of pro and prebiotic foods and consider taking a probiotic supplement. You may also benefit from supporting your gut pH.

4. If you're eating well, you should be consuming plenty of electrolytes. Some foods provide incredibly high amounts of these essential minerals.

Sadly, modern farming methods result in mineral-depleted soil, so if you can eat organic, the soil it's grown in will be nutrient-dense. Anything grown in it should provide more electrolytes like magnesium.

If you're concerned, intensively work out or have recently been unwell, you may like to take a supplement

5. Drink plenty of water. Tap water in the UK is safe to drink, but it does contain trace contaminants including hormones, pesticides, heavy metals, chlorine and microplastics.

Filtered, alkaline water has far fewer toxins, is mineralised, more hydrating than regular tap or bottled water, and helps neutralise acids by flushing them from your body. 

6. Limit your exposure to environmental toxins and hormone disruptors.

These are found in household cleaning products, health and beauty products, plastics, Wi-Fi, smartphones, computers, smart meters, building materials, pesticides (in the environment, your garden and your food) and pollution.

Medication, processed and refined foods, sugar, alcohol and caffeine all contribute to your toxic load as well, so be aware of what you're putting into your body. 

7. Look after your stress levels and mental health .

8. Take regular exercise .


A healthy acid-base balance is critical for you to function effectively and be well. Your body tightly controls your pH balance which needs to stay between 7.35 and 7.45 on the pH scale. 

To maintain the correct acid-base balance, your lungs and brain communicate to ensure you exhale enough carbon dioxide, and your kidneys excrete excess acids and bases.

You also have chemical buffer systems of weak acids and bases naturally found in the body, taking up hydroxyl ions (bases) and hydrogen ions (acids).

Your electrolyte and pH balance are also closely tied as your body will use electrolyte stores to help bring your acid-base back into alignment.

The more stress you put on your body, the harder it has to work to maintain healthy pH levels, and your health will start to suffer. As such, it's essential to eat the right foods, exercise regularly and look after your mental health. 

Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.