Acid-base balance and its importance for the body
Causes of an acid-base imbalance
A prerequisite for the metabolism’s ability to do its job properly is that the acids and bases in the body are in balance. But what exactly is this acid-base balance? It is a mechanism for regulating certain chemicals in the body. So what throws this mechanism off balance?
What is acid-base balance?
Acid-base balance describes a physiological control system. It is associated with a range of functions that ensure the body’s pH values remain constant. In other words, our system is always working to make sure that the acids and bases in our body are in balance.
Why is acid-base balance so important?
To effectively regulate all our body’s biochemical processes, we need to ensure that our cells receive the right ratio of acids to bases. These processes are controlled by enzymes, but these work most effectively only under certain conditions. This is why the body keeps the pH value within each cell, the surrounding tissue, our organs and especially in our blood within a defined narrow range.
The acid-base balance is responsible for ensuring that the ratio of acids to bases in the body is as it should be. This is an incredibly important job – especially considering the sheer number of factors that can throw this precarious chemical ratio off kilter.
Did you know? pH is generally measured on a scale of 1 to 14, with under 7 being the acid range and over 7 the base range.
Diet and its impact on the acid-base balance
Our acid-base balance is often a direct result of what we eat and drink. Foods that contain animal protein (meat, fish, dairy products) can throw the body’s acid-base balance off kilter. This effect is intensified if we eat large amounts of cereal products and only small amounts of fruit, vegetables and salad.
Focusing on protein-rich foods
So certain foods can cause an acid-base imbalance in the body. But why exactly? Because protein-rich foods contain sulphur amino acids (cysteine and methionine), the body metabolises them as acid. Such foods include meat, fish, dairy products and cereals.
Moreover, phosphatic compounds – such as those present in meat, meat products and many drinks – deliver phosphoric acid, which impacts acid-base balance. To find out which other foods can cause an acid-base imbalance, check out our Food Table.
Should foods containing protein therefore be avoided altogether? No, what matters is striking the right ratio of acid-producing to alkalising foods. Following an alkaline diet is about reducing the proportion of acid-producing foods so that the body can achieve a balance between acids and bases.
Sour taste – too acidic?
People often assume that foods with a sour taste are also acid-producing. But in fact the opposite is true: sour-tasting fruits such as citrus fruit are rich in alkaline minerals. These have an alkalising effect on the body. In other words, they might leave a sour taste in your mouth, but they help neutralise acids and in turn help restore the body’s acid-base balance.
Other causes of an acid-base imbalance
Even though what we eat has a major effect on our acid-base balance, there are other things that can upset it, too. These include an unhealthy lifestyle of too much stress and too little exercise, or also certain dieting and fasting regimes.
How does the desire to lose weight relate to our acid-base balance? Dieting leads to critical changes in the acid-base balance – and can in turn cause hyperacidity. Breaking down fats produces keto acids, thus increasing acidity. This then affects overall metabolic performance.
The result: Too much acid and too little alkalinity in the body. In such cases, it is important to restore the natural equilibrium. This hinges on getting a sufficient supply of alkaline minerals from fruit, vegetables and salads. In addition, taking an alkaline food supplement can provide valuable support. The goal should be to effect a sustainable change in diet, which often involves a shift in lifestyle.
To achieve an acid-base balance, nutritional experts recommend occasional base fasting, which involves purposely avoiding acid-producing foods for a certain period. But no need to worry, base fasting has nothing to do with starving yourself. Instead, it is about deliberately choosing to eat predominantly alkaline foods.
How it works: Base fasting permits all foods that the body metabolises as alkaline – in their raw or cooked form. Lamb’s lettuce, rocket, fennel, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, fruits, nuts and herbs are particularly suitable. Since base fasting is done over a limited time and does not exclude all foods, it can be regarded as a gentle form of fasting. A week of base fasting is more like a beneficial regimen that can restore an acid-base balance.
For an overview of which foods are alkaline, check out our Food Table. Eat, enjoy, feel full and do something good for your body – in our online magazine, you can learn all about maintaining a balanced diet.