Low Grade, Chronic Acidosis...What in the CELL is going on?
We have acid all around us. We’ve got acid rain, acid reflux, and acid rock. There’s acidophilus, antacids, and acidic comments. I’m not trying to get “Forrest Gump” on you; the destination for this rant is the fact that many acids around us are hidden. The acids I’m referring to are acids hidden in what we put in our bodies, posing as nutrition. I’m talking about acids that rob us of our good health; that affect our quality of life. These acids, when left unchecked, can bring about an unhealthy state of tune in our bodies. Mind you, I’m not talking death here (at least not immediately); I’m sharing the type of acid effects that sneak up on you quietly, like a thief in the night. This insidious acid health condition is called low-grade, chronic acidosis. I’m trying to stir your pot a little, because you should be angry about what causes this “under-the-radar” condition. Everyone should be furious about what isn’t being done to stop it!
Low grade, chronic acidosis isn’t something that’s going to come up in casual conversation with your doctor. You’re not going to see many television reports on it. The type of acidosis that your physician is worried about is full-blown metabolic acidosis, where systems that rid acids in your body have shut down. This can be a life-or-death matter, and nothing to play around with. Chronic acidosis, of the type we’re talking about, is a disorder that gradually impacts your body, potentially causing mineral loss in our bones and teeth (osteoporosis has been a well-studied side effect!), digestive problems, cardio-vascular ailments, joint maladies, low-energy issues, and many other problems. Like chinking away at armor, this type of acidosis takes little stabs at our good health. Eventually these little stabs become gaping wounds, metaphorically, influencing how we feel and function every day.
My diatribe should be causing you to ask, “Ok, so what causes this problem?” In a word, YOU! We are our own worst enemies when looking for the culprit behind this slithering acidosis epidemic. You see, low-grade, chronic acidosis is largely caused by what we decide to put down our throats, and what we don’t. By and large, many Americans consider a handful of potato chips to be a great vegetable choice, think cherry-flavored soft drinks suffice as a serving of fruit, and think about drinking water only to take their morning round of meds. Some or all of these medications could be thrown in the trash if the effects of chronic acidosis were reversed. So...the basis of all this is that we are writing acid checks that our alkaline body bank can’t cash, and it’s damaging our health. What to do about it? Read on....
Before we run amok looking for a head of broccoli, we should dig a little further into what happens to our bodies “on acid.” Let’s use our favorite punching bag, a 32 ounce soft drink in the hands of our example, Nancy. You can witness people driving to work in the morning slurping these down, getting their morning fix. Soft drinks are highly acidic, usually in the range of 2.5 to 3.6 on the pH scale! (*Just to note, pH is measured on a scale from 0-14...7 is considered neutral. As the number moves lower from 7, a substance is said to be acidic. Higher than 7 rates the substance alkaline. Human beings are alkaline creatures mostly, with a blood pH hovering around 7.4.
Going back to our sample human Nancy, she just finished her 32 ounce Coke®. Coke has a tested pH level of 2.525, due to its content of sugar, phosphoric acid, and carbonation level. Incidentally, factoring in 4 ounces of ice in her cup, our 32 ounce serving of Coke® has about 91 grams of sugar or 364 calories. That’s 22.75 teaspoons of sugar! Wow!!! I digress, back to Nancy’s internal chemistry. Her soft drink hits her stomach (after the acids in the soda impact the enamel of her teeth); there the sugars in the drink begin digesting. Normally, the sugars would begin digesting from the saliva in her mouth; a high-acid drink like Coke® would deactivate the enzymes in your saliva, so the stomach has all the work to do. The digestive acid in the stomach is around a 2-2.5 pH range, lower than most soft drinks, so she’s ok right? Nope, it seems that exposure to phosphoric acid can actually reduce the secretion of hydrochloric acid (HCI) in your stomach.
Poor HCI secretion is a big problem for proper digestion, particularly protein digestion. Mineral absorption is also impaired with low HCl. Also, reduced hydrochloric acid in the gastric juices, can allow potentially dangerous bacteria, yeasts and other parasites in food to survive the stomach, where they are normally neutralized. These pathogens are then free to move on to the intestines where they can cause all manner of health issues. Yuck! But wait...there’s more.
Nancy’s body also has to deal with that phosphoric acid she guzzled. While a healthy digestive tract will typically keep these strong acids from affecting our vital blood pH, the countermeasures used to do so can prove to be taxing to Nancy’s body. Minerals stored in her body, such as calcium phosphate, are drawn upon by the phosphate buffering system to counteract strong acids like the phosphoric acid in her Coke. Calcium phosphate is an important component of our bones and teeth. But the more acidic foods and liquids we consume, the more calcium phosphate is drawn upon to neutralize them.
It’s not simply a case of Sue being deficient in calcium and other minerals to maintain healthy bones and teeth. Over time, with high consumption of acid foods and drinks like Coke, calcium can actually be drawn from her bones and teeth to deal with the ongoing acidic onslaught to her digestive system. When this happens, Nancy’s teeth become weaker and more likely to decay. Her bones become more brittle and easier to fracture. The eventual result can be a crippling case of Osteoporosis. The Framingham Osteoporosis Study suggested cola consumption specifically, rather than just carbonated drinks in general, is directly related to an increased risk of Osteoporosis.
Let’s now assume that Nancy drinks a 32 ounce Coke® every work day. She also is a lover of loaded cheeseburgers, and has never met a French fry she didn’t worship. Nancy isn’t a big fan of veggies, and will eat an occasional banana. This day in-day out intake of acidic foods causes Nancy’s acid defenses to be called on heavily, as her life progresses. Her body starts breaking down, little by little. Besides the brittle bones, her body needs a storage place for all the acids she consumes that her systems are barely keeping up with. No problem! Nancy’s body will just start storing the excess acids in fat cells, which seem to increase nicely to fill the need. Her joints are also a great place to hide a little acid, so arthritis sets in early for poor Nancy. Her cardio-vascular system takes a hit too, as studies have shown chronic acidosis to negatively affect blood pressure, cholesterol numbers, and waist index size. Nancy used to be a fairly energetic person, now she has a hard time mustering the energy to do anything but go to work. Sadly, Nancy has fallen into the trap that so many Americans (and people worldwide) become hostage to. Like Nancy, we keep eating our way into poor health and ultimately, disease.
This was just an illustration using one acidic substance. The Standard American Diet (SAD!) is chock-full of acid-producing foods. Standard Americans don’t seem to neutralize these acids well with consumption of odd things like vegetables, fruits, and water. (Side note: it takes 33 glasses of water to neutralize the acids in one 12 ounce can of soda!) We really have fallen off the turnip wagon, and into a big vat of junk foods. It doesn’t have to happen like this! We can still eat many of our favorite foods, and yes, occasionally enjoy a soft drink. We must do a better job of BALANCING these acid-producing foods, and the beauty is...it’s not that hard! Stay tuned, read part 2 of Acidosis...What in the Cell is Going On? to get the “skinny” on how to battle back against acid; using a few simple suggestions to help you...you guessed it....THRIVE!!!!