pH - What Is It, And Why Does It Matter?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

We've all heard of the pH scale and may even remember it from high school science class, but what does it have to do with our health?

The body is constantly working to maintain a delicate balance between acid and alkaline (or base) - the body's pH. The scale ranges from 0-14. 7 is considered neutral and 0 through 7 is acidic, while 7 through 14 is alkaline. An example of something that is relatively neutral is most water weather it is from the tap, the ocean, springs or bottles. pH stands for "potential hydrogen" and represents the hydrogen ions that are present in when we are speaking about health, the body. But, pH also affects things like the quality of our soil and the water in the oceans.

pH And Your Health : Chinese Medicine Living

The pH Scale And Your Health

When it comes to the human body, the pH varies depending on what part of the body you are talking about. For example, the pH in the bowels, stomach, skin and vagina should be slightly more acidic because they need to fight off invaders in the form of bacteria, whereas the pH of saliva is more alkaline. Also, the body is constantly dealing with the naturally occurring byproducts of cell breakdown, respiration and metabolism all of which are acidic and affect the body's overall pH levels.

As a culture, at least in the US and Canada, most people are highly acidic. Disease thrives in an acidic environment. It is host to inflammation and degenerative diseases. The most acidic foods are the ones that are the easiest to find and often the least expensive. But in the long run, they really cost much, much more if you take the long term consequences and the future health care costs into consideration. Below is a list of acidic foods.

Acidic Foods

Acidic Foods for Health : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Coffee
  • Meats, especially red meat
  • Soda
  • Cheeses
  • Processed foods
  • Chemicals like aspartame, nutrasweet & sweet 'n' low
  • Vinegar
  • Black Tea
  • Wine
  • Pickles
  • Fruit juices
  • Grains
  • Pasta

In contrast, here is a list of some alkaline foods.

Alkaline Foods

Alkaline Foods for Health : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Sprouts
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Green juices
  • Green tea
  • Figs
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Kale
  • Asparagus
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Cabbage

To help, below is a chart which shows the entire pH scale and the foods that belong in each category.

Acid & Alkaline Foods & Health : Chinese Medicine Living


The body's pH is extremely important to maintaining health. The way we most often measure pH, is in the blood. The pH of blood should be slightly alkaline at around 7.4. The body is constantly working very hard to maintain this balance, so if we are feeding it all kinds of acidic foods (like the ones that comprise the average American diet), the body is forced to work even harder, taxing the body's resources to achieve that balance. Your incredible body, in fact, if it needs to restore that balance will take alkalizing materials like calcium, magnesium and potassium from other parts of the body like the bones and teeth and even your organs to restore the pH. Amazing, but this can have long term, detrimental effects like osteoporosis, cancer and stroke to name a few.

Here is a list of diseases that can be caused by a highly acidic body.

  • migraines
  • gout
  • allergies
  • stroke
  • obesity
  • osteoporosis
  • arthritis (both osteo and rheumatoid)
  • asthma
  • bronchitis
  • arteriosclerosis
  • diabetes
  • constipation
  • gout
  • cancer
  • acid reflux
  • nausea
  • kidney stones

Now, this may all sound like very bad news, but it isn't. The good news is that you can, through a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits alkalize your body and prevent disease. It's all up to you!

How To Have A More Alkaline Body

Here are some tips on how you can shift your body's pH balance in a more alkaline direction.

  • Eat a diet rich in leafy greens, sprouts, avocado's - plant based, fresh foods
  • Drink fresh, green juices daily
  • Drink lemon water every morning (this is very alkalizing)
  • Exercise daily, even if it is just going for a short walk to move your qi around
  • Manage your stress
  • Stay away from chemicals in your food, beauty and cleaning products
  • Keep environmental toxins to a minimum
  • Get enough sleep

If you want to test your pH you can buy litmus paper strips (for about $10) that you pee on, usually first thing in the morning (or the second pee of the day is usually better and will be a little more balanced). This will allow you to see where you are on the pH scale. You can track your progress with changes to your diet and the other things on the list and see if you are moving in a more alkaline direction. Even doing one or a few of the things on the list will have an impact on your overall health, and probably make you feel a whole lot better too.

The important thing to remember is that if you are flooding your body with unhealthy foods, you are forcing your body to work even harder to maintain the pH balance and health in general. If this is ongoing it can lead to problems down the road. So, being kind and giving it fresh, natural foods and doing things like exercising, sleeping enough and managing stress are huge when it comes to keeping your body healthy and happy for many years to come.


pH - What Is It And Why Does It Matter? : Chinese Medicine Living

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