If you visit a health food store or have read much in the natural health arena, you know that you need to have a proper pH in your body. Stores sell products like “alkalinizing water” because they know most people have their body pH too acidic. But what do you know about pH, and how do you get yours in the right range?
The overall body pH is ideal at around 7.4. Blood pH is strictly kept between 7.35 and 7.45, and any deviation from that range triggers emergency functions in your body to bring it back into that range. Why is it so particular about that pH range?
Basic Acids and Bases
An acid is proton-rich/electron deficient. Hydrogen ions are positively charged, being one proton, and are highly reactive as electric attraction forces cause them to want to bond with something that has extra electrons. The term pH simply means “potential hydrogen.” Bases, being the opposite of acids, bond with the hydrogen ions (protons). Since water is two hydrogens and one oxygen, if a base donates a OH pair to hydrogen (H), the result is water. Or molecules with a positive charge may bond with those of a negative charge, resulting in a salt. Either way, the result is neutral. On the pH scale, neutral is 7.0.
Your pH must be correct to allow enzymes throughout your body to function properly. A shift away from the proper pH means that chemical bonds of molecules are not being broken and new ones aren’t being formed fast enough to sustain life. A pH shift away from the ideal means your biochemistry is running poorly, which detracts from your health. You can being too acid or alkaline, but in modern culture you won’t find many who are too alkaline — the standard American diet is extremely acidic.
So if you need a 7.4 pH in your body, all you would have to do is eat and drink food and water that are near that pH, and all is well, right? Of course, it’s not that simple. As an example, lemon juice has a pH of around 2, yet when metabolized it is an alkalinizing food. You can’t measure the pH of the food, because your body changes the food when it breaks it down.
The effect of metabolism
Metabolism is a “slow burn” — basically, when you consume a food, you are doing a special “burning” which releases energy, takes in oxygen and gives off carbon dioxide and water. This is similar to, although more complex than literal burning with fire. But some byproducts are the same either way. You can take a lemon and burn it, and the result will be an alkaline ash, as is the case with most plant-based foods. The burning, as well as your metabolism, takes up hydrogen in the process. What is left behind are sodium salts such as sodium citrate, which, when metabolized, results in bicarbonate, which is alkaline.
Metabolism of most unprocessed foods from the plant kingdom (nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables, and fruit) results in alkaline by-products. How about the reverse — foods that metabolize to acid? Let’s look at the animal kingdom. Eating animal products, including dairy and eggs, metabolize with an acidic ash. The amino acids resulting from the breakdown of the proteins are low pH simply because they are acids. So the metabolizing of all animal products by the body is considered acid-producing, requiring the body to buffer the acid with its stores of base chemicals, such as calcium stored in your bones. Animal products thus take away alkalinity from your body and increase your chances of osteoporosis.
There is one product which is acidifying that is not from animal products, yet rivals them as a disease-producer. That product is sugar.
How Sweet it isn’t
Your body uses glucose for energy. In fact, we can’t live without some glucose. In the presence of sufficient oxygen, normal metabolism does not produce acid. Glycolysis produces pyruvate which can be utilized for more energy in the ATP (Krebs) cycle. However, when starved for oxygen, anaerobic respiration skips the pyruvate step, and the pyruvate becomes lactic acid as a waste product. When muscles are used heavily, lactic acid builds up because the aerobic process can’t occur fast enough, and muscles switch to anaerobic metabolism. Also red blood cells don’t have the mitochondria necessary for aerobic respiration and have to rely on anaerobic breakdown of sugar.
As the name implies, lactic acid is acidic. Although lactic acid is considered a waste product, it still has a lot of stored energy, and can be used as an alternative energy source. In fact, since it does not require the complex ATP cycle of the mitochondria, it is a simpler, more primitive energy source. It is the preferred energy source for many cancers, and the tumor internal environment is highly acidic. The harsh acid environment favors cancer particularly well, and the lactic acid build-up disfavors healthy cells. Lactic acid and low oxygen environments work together, promoting cancer development. Cancer could be considered as life’s attempt to adjust to the high acid/low oxygen environment. We see other such adjustments in nature: A cactus is an alternate plant form that is suited to the harsh desert conditions of low water and high heat. If you put an oak tree in the desert, or a cactus in wetland areas, neither would do very well. All life attempts to adjust to its current environment, and individual cells are no exception.
In the case of cancer, lactic acid is not a waste product, but a way of maintaining its preferred environment. Published in Cell Reports, researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) found that not only do cancer cells tune their environment by producing a lot of lactic acid, but the lactic acid also works as a fuel for macrophages (immune system cells) that get talked into (via signals from the cancer cells) cooperation with the tumor development. Switching their energy usage to lactic acid lets them handle the low oxygen environment better, since lactic acid usage does not require oxygen. The turncoat macrophages are now classified as tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) which further aid the tumor development and metastasis instead of destroying the cancer.
The Sugar-Cancer Connection
There are many ways that excess sugar, (which is defined as unused sugar levels after metabolism, so it includes foods that quickly turn to sugar during digestion) damages health. We know that excess sugar means more insulin, and frequent overdosing of insulin makes the cells tired of responding to it, resulting in insulin insensitivity and ineffectiveness. This alone makes a toxic, inflammatory environment. But we also see that excess sugar means more lactic acid because the liver, being overused and inflamed by the frequent excess sugar, has a reduced ability to extract lactic acid from the blood and convert it back to glucose. This furthers lactic acid buildup, meaning greater acidification of the body, making a more comfortable environment for cancer cells, while making a less healthy environment overall. This means that diabetes and cancer are both promoted, even initiated, by excess sugar.
Cancers take in fuel at a tremendous rate to support their high growth and reproduction rates. In the presence of sufficient oxygen, they gobble up glucose rapidly — so rapidly that one test to find cancer (called a PET scan) uses traceable sugar in the bloodstream and sees where it goes in the body: the cancer will consume more sugar than any other tissue. However, the tumor environment makes getting oxygen to the cancer cells difficult, and they develop an anaerobic environment, now unable to use glucose. This would cut off their supply of energy and kill them if they could not find another source of energy. Lactic acid is that source. In a research article published in Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy from the Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China, researchers showed that they could kill liver cancer cells by injecting bicarbonate directly into patient tumors. This neutralized the lactic acid and drove the cancer cells to try to live off of glucose, which they could not process in their anaerobic environment.
But you don’t need alkaline injections to create an alkaline environment to starve cancer. Just eat naturally alkalinizing foods. This is why eating raw low sugar plant-based foods is a great way to prevent cancer from ever getting started, and vital to those who currently have cancer. Most generations of people throughout history have lived close to the farm where sugar was not that plentiful. Just because our modern society makes sugar plentiful doesn’t mean our body design has changed to suddenly thrive with the new standard diet.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
What we see in the study published by Cell Reports is simply this: lactic acid causes normal immune cells called macrophages to actually stop killing cancer cells and to help them grow and metastasize. This is somewhat shocking. What this means is lactic acid not only alters normal immune function but causes normal cells to support cancer cell spread. This would not happen if lactic acid did not build up at the cellular level. Lactic acid largest source is from sugars and cooked simple carbohydrates when the body is low on oxygen at the cellular level. Also the research from China shows us that alkalinity counters acidity and to heal or prevent cancer you must make an alkaline environment. Here are some things to keep in mind with acidity and alkalinity:
- Alkalinity is the norm when you eat raw uncooked greens, vegetables, herbs, fruits, seeds and nuts. The most alkalizing agent of all are green leafy vegetables — that is why that should be big in the diet along with freshly made and consumed green juices.
- Alkaline water is not the same. You should not focus on drinking alkaline water but on eating and drinking alkaline greens which include kale, spinach, dandelion, collards and broccoli. These not only are the most alkalizing but also high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and enzymes.
- Acid comes from all animal products AND grains. So get rid of the dairy products, eggs, meat, chicken and fish because they are all highly acidic. The wheat, pasta, rice, bread and processed carbs are also acidic, so when you remove them once again you are decreasing acidity.
- Thoughts that are stressful produce acid in the body. Thoughts that are peaceful promote alkalinity, so always think on what is GOOD and TRUE.
- By staying in the moment and being thankful for that moment you are shifting your metabolism to one that is alkaline.
Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:
- Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
- Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
- Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
- Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.