By Carlos Garcia, MD
In the past few years, researchers around the world have reported the importance of an acid-alkaline balanced diet. Changing a patient’s diet is extremely helpful when someone is confronted with a diagnosis of hypertension. The goal of this diet is to achieve an optimal balance between acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods. When balanced, it greatly reduces the strain on the body’s detoxification systems. A change in pH of body fluids can have a profound effect on cells, organs and overall wellbeing.
The optimal pH of different body fluids or compartments varies. Arterial blood has a pH of about 7.4. The body’s normal physiology can only function between the pH of 7.38-7.44. Intracellular fluid, the environment within cells, has a pH of about 7.0 and venous blood and interstitial fluid, the space between cells and tissues, have a pH of about 7.35.
The pH scale measures hydrogen ion concentrations on a log scale; a difference of 1.0 means a 10-fold difference in hydrogen ion concentration. If hydrogen concentration increases then there is acidosis, an acidic environment. If hydrogen concentration decreases then alkalosis ensues, an alkaline environment. When the pH in body fluids drops too low, the body begins to suffer from acidosis and when the pH rises high, the condition is called alkalosis. Acidosis or alkalosis can be caused by disease, diet, exercise, state of mind, stress and respiration just to mention a few.
Systemic physiologic changes can influence a slight change in pH in the spinal fluid and cerebral fluid, which may cause a reduction in affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen. The reduction in hemoglobin affinity (poor oxygen delivery) may stress cells and organs, which could result in tachycardia, elevated heart rate, as well as other physiologic compensatory mechanisms. Hypertension may be one of the physiologic results.
Chronic blood acidosis can lead to muscle loss or degradation in extreme situations, such as cachexia. Skeletal and cardiac muscle cells as well as organ function are adversely affected. A low pH depresses cardiac muscle cell contractions, thus decreasing the intensity of the heart muscle’s contraction. Smooth muscle cells are also impacted by acidosis and hypertension. For example, vascular smooth muscle cells contract with increases in extracellular pH and relax with decreases in pH. When the vascular smooth muscles contract, one’s blood pressure rises. Conversely, when vascular smooth muscles dilate, blood pressure drops. A rise in extracellular pH increases the influx of calcium into vascular smooth muscle cells, in order to compensate or regulate blood pressure.
Your state of mind can also influence your blood pressure and other organ function. When one is calm and happy heart rates tend to decrease and blood pressures lower. However, given one’s inability to manage unusual or stressful events may result in just the opposite. As you can begin to see, the physiologic regulation of blood pressure is not as straight forward as one might think. The human body is a highly complex system with numerous feedback and interactive mechanisms affecting all our physiologic responses.