Chemistry expresses the degrees of acidity or alkalinity of a substance in pH values. The pH system, or potential of hydrogen, is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. The degree to which a substance is neutral, neither acidic nor alkaline, is measured at 7. Increasing acidity is displayed as any number less than 7, while increasing alkalinity is expressed as any number above 7. Additionally, each unit on the scale is Iogarithmically derived, meaning that there is a factor of 10 between each digit. So, a pH of 2 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 3, and a pH of 1 is 100 times more acidic than a pH of 3.
The pH of blood is closely maintained between 7.45 and 7.35. More specifically, the blood within the arterial system stays near 7.45, while the blood within the veins stays near 7.35. Venous blood is more acidic due to the large amounts of hydrogen ions indirectly produced from carbon dioxide that is released from the tissues. Another point to note is that the chemically neutral mark for blood is a pH of 7.4, which is slightly more alkaline than the standard neutral point of 7.0. Death may rapidly occur if the blood pH falls outside the range of 6.8 to 8.0 for more than a few seconds, as a blood pH outside of this range is incompatible with life. This fact exemplifies the importance of careful regulation of hydrogen ion concentration in the body.
Regulation of pH is also referred to as acid-base balance. The body is constantly working to maintain a balance between overly acidic and overly alkaline, or base, dietary choices. The lungs and the kidneys are the primary organs by which the body regulates its supply of acids and bases. Normally, the body is able to maintain an acid-base balance with little difficulty. It is only when we do not have enough raw materials for the body to accomplish this task that we run into problems maintaining that balance. Even small changes in acid-base balance can have dramatic effects on the normal function of cells within our bodies. For instance, a key manifestation of acidosis is a depressive effect on the central nervous system, which may manifest as disorientation and, in more severe episodes, as coma. Conversely, a person who tends to have more alkaline blood will experience over-stimulation of the nervous system, resulting in nervousness, tingling, spasms, and twitches of the muscles. If not promptly addressed, excessive alkalinity can lead to violent muscle spasms and convulsions.
The most important nutrients in our bodies for maintaining acid-base balance are minerals, more specifically sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate (a combination of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen molecules), the latter of which is responsible for the precise balance involved. Physicians routinely analyze the proportions of these minerals in the blood to determine one’s relative acid-base concentrations. By fine-tuning the relative amounts of minerals, many practitioners of natural medicine can help improve their patient’s overall balance with the environment. The amounts of sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate can be mathematically calculated to determine how well the body is dealing with its production of hydrogen, a waste product. As stated earlier, a hydrogen build-up can lead to an imbalanced acid-base ratio. If the physician finds an unusual ratio between respective elements, they may suspect an irregularity in the production and clearance of hydrogen in the body. Natural medicine practitioners will then design and implement a protocol geared toward re-establishing balance with a strategic use of absorbable minerals and trace minerals.
Analyzing acid-base balance and the concentrations of minerals in the blood provide yet another way for the practitioner of natural medicine to address the ability of the body to maintain homeostasis (balance). By supplying the body with enough of the lesser known substances found in nature, physicians can help the way in which the body manages its own internal production of wastes as well as respond to external influences upon health. Additionally, by preventing excessive fluctuations in acid-base balance, the body may be more apt to heal itself from chronic forms of illness. Thus, maintaining the complex function of the body’s tightly regulated pH system requires the maintenance of proper mineral and trace mineral levels for optimal and healthful balance.
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