T Nation

Acid/Base Theories


Theories about the effects of acidic and basic foods in the body have been mentioned in a few other posts and featured in Berardi's "Covering You Acids and Bases." I don't know a tremendous amount about these theories, but I have some thoughts regarding their validity. I'm wondering if the acidity or basicity of food matters at all. Let me know what you think.

When food reaches the stomach, gastrin stimulates the secretion of hydrocholic acid, which lowers the pH of the stomach to about 1.5-1.7. At this low acidity, proteins denature, enabling stomach proteases to begin breaking apart peptide bonds. Since enzymes function at specific pH levels, stomach proteases must require the 1.5-1.7 pH range. Therefore, if stomach function is normal, hydrochloric acid secretion would adjust according to foods eaten so that this pH is obtained. Otherwise, protein digestion in the stomach would be significantly compromised.

When chyme reaches the small intestine, the hormone secretin from the walls of the intestine signals the pancreas to release bicarbonate Bicarbonate alters the pH of the food again, by raising the pH to approximately neutral. Again, since enzymes function at specific pH levels, this approximately neutral pH must be necessary for intestinal digestive enzymes to work.

Thus, the pH of the food is altered before it leaves our digestive tracts. Now, the pH of individual nutrients when they reach the bloodstream is likely what this theory
is all about. However, our blood contains buffers that constantly regulate pH so that our blood remains close to neutral.

If these buffers are in short supply, I would think it would be the cause of a mineral deficiecy or metabolic disorder, a long-term effect rather than the consequence of an individual meal. Also, as Berardi said, proteins have their own system of regulating pH (production then subsequent excretion of urea). So, with all these systems in place, is the net acid/base content of a meal really important?

Let me know what you think.


Hi There,

Your thinking is rock solid except one point.

It's NOT the acid/base content of a specific food OUTSIDE the body that matters. It's the PRAL (potential renal acid load) of the food that matters.

The PRAL is not a theoretical construct - it's a measurable, testable thing - it's the acid (or alkaline) load the kidneys see.

So, you can see, that although the PH values of the food itself are altered during the digestive/absorptive process, it's not the food we're measuring. It's the result of eating the food - measured by the PRAL.

That's why oranges are acidic outside the body but basic after digestion/absorption.

(That's also why the measures of food acidity outside the body are useless).

Is this clear?


Oh yea, I forgot to mention that you're right - there are buffers in the blood to deal with any net acidity or alkalinity once the food is digested/absorbed. And that's the point - calcium from bones and glutamine from muscles are strong buffers and will be called to action to balance the acid/base status.

Not good.

Can you say muscle and bone loss?


Also, one more important point, these ideas are nothing new. They are WELL validated in the scientific literature - take a peek through medline to learn more about them.

This stuff is critical, especially as we age.


i know the dude who was pushing coral calcium was saying the same thing.that the body will keep the ph where it needs to be but if the body is constantly doing this because of acidic foods then calcium loss will be the damage.

how do you address this in your own diet Dr. Berardi? do you avoid acidic food?if you want to include grains in your diet,are there measures you can take to lessen or eliminate the foods negative effect?


Okay, this makes much more sense to me now. Thanks for the direct replies, Dr. Berardi.

In your estimation, how big of an acidic effect would a diet have to produce over a period of time to create significant bone loss if mineral intake is adequate? In other words, how easy is it to create this danger?

Also, you mention that protein has it's own mechanism for reducing the acidity of blood. However, studies have shown that high protein corresponds with increases bone calcium loss, regardless. Could this be because of the acidity it creates in the blood before urea is excreted?

Many people say that this bone loss is more of an indication of low calcium intake than too high protein intake, since bones need calcium and protein. Instead, they stress maintaining a ratio between protein and calcium in the diet. If this is the case, then couldn't bone calcium loss via other acidic foods be controlled by increasing calcium consumption, as well? Why should these foods be treated differently?

Thanks again for your input.


were these studies using just meat eaters or were there grains involved?sorry couldn't help myself.


Haha, not this again...

If these studies adhere to the scientific method, then there was a basis for comparison: an experimental group - a group for which meat consumption was high - and a control group - a group for which meat consumption was not high. If the experiment was regulated so that both groups ate or did not eat grains, and other foods for that matter, in similar amounts, then the variable - meat consumption - is the crucial factor.

I'll be honest, I don't know the exact parameters of these studies, but I think it is unlikely that they would be cited as often in scholarly works if their setup was blatantly flawed.

..but that's why I'm asking these questions, anyway - to find out.


Actually,that can be true.Oranges are acidic,but have an alkaline ash,so they're really alkaline.I actually went on a one month juice fast when I found out that I had cancer.As funny as this might sound,my cancer was cured.After the month of vegetable and fruit juices from my juicer,and not eating highly acidic foods,I then started adding in other natural methods,like eating apricot seeds because they contain vitamin b-17.You all should do some research and read up on the government and the bitter almond tree;and them banning it in 1995.Vitamin b-17 isn't sold in any stores.It obliterates cancer cells pretty much.Cancer cells CANNOT live in an alkaline environment. I must of turned my bodies PH alkaline.I guess when you get the knews that you have cancer your whole world turns upside down.I'm happy to be alive though.I didn't want to use drugs because two friends that my mother knew died of the drugs when they were being treated with cancer.I think that the FDA doesn't want a cure for cancer because if there was a cure for cancer they'd be out of business.Think about it.They wouldn't make any money.Like I said before,Our government isn't as loving as you all think.I sound like a nazi,lol,but it's true.I highly resperct America,and those who fought and died for this country,but our government is corrupt.There is only one fact:America gets fatter and sicker every year;the government isn't doing a good job.


Wow, thanks for sharing your story about you fight with cancer. That is some fascinating stuff.

Although I agree that the government is not without corruption, one must question whether the obesity and sickness we are currently facing is really the government's fault or because the majority of people weren't following the recommendations about diet correctly. I tend to agree with the latter, especially since the government's supposed alliances don't coincide with their dietary recommendations anyway; more money is given to cattle and corn farmers than produce farmers, yet the government stresses fruits and vegetables.


Very interesting post, but it should be noted that the blood already is alkaline, and if the pH fluctuates very far outside the range of 7.35-7.45 cells begin having difficulty functioning, and eventually you die.

That being said, when you realize you have cancer, I say do whatever works, no matter how crazy it sounds. Congratulations on beating it!


I definitely agree that most governments seem to be more interested in the health of their economy than the health of their citizens, and while the FDA may seem to be remiss at times in their regulation duties, I'm not sure it's entirely their fault. Don't forget that they regulate three of the largest industries in America: drugs, food and medical supplies. They need to sort through millions of documents about products from the estimated 95 000 companies that they are responsible for regulating...all this with a mere 8000 government employees. I think it's an understatement to say that they are ridiculously understaffed.

I suppose this is why many problems with drugs are only recognized after they have been on the market for a significant amount of time, such as the SSRI and suicide issue, which was only really brought to the public's attention 14 years after the drugs had already been on the market.


Also, answer me this: how the hell can a company sell a product as 'ginger ale' when it contains neither ginger nor ale? What do those wankers at President's Choice think they're trying to pull anyway??


Any thoughts on my question? I'd really like to figure this out.


Sometimes studies are cited often, because they are cited often. That?s the "everyone says so, so it must be right, therefore I don?t have to look it up"- phenomenon.


Well, that's why I'm asking.


Very true. If only you guys knew the stuff that they do everyday.I wish all of you guys worked for the government so you'd understand what I'm talking about. The FDA wants America sick.Just try doing some research on this matter-it'll shock you.When I cured myself of cancer,I told my doctor.He didn't want to listen .Since then I've lived a life without using their drugs(that don't cure cancer,but babysit it).There are many good websites that cancer survivors have put up.They talk about the corruption in the government;FDA are trying to shut them down;and debunk their natural methods though,sadly.

Look at the animals in the wild.They never get sick,get cancer,or get fat. God honest truth.The FDA wants America sick.It's all about the money for them.The FDA pays sale reps to march into hospitals and offer the doctors an extra 100 thousand bucks a year if they put,atleast,two of their patients on their NEW DRUG.Drugs actually lead to health problems.

No one ever thinks something like a flu shot can actually cause cancer....boy are they wrong.I haven't had a flu shot since I was 11.Look at the new food pyramid.It's listed with nothing but processed junk-food.The government wants us sick so that they make more money on drugs.Its sad,but true.Did you know that 100 thousand people died from the drug vioxx? Did you know that the FDA pays the companies to pass the drugs as "safe and effective?".

I'm telling you guys this because I,unlike they,care about the health of others;hope all of you live a healthy,happy,sick-free life.Everytime someone cures themselves of cancer the drug companies lose over a million dollars.Thats a lot!Do some research on what the FDA does.It might shock you.There is a underground organization ran by cancer survivors who are trying to get the truth to America about the corruption in the government,FDA,and FTC.

Wish you all the best.I agree.People should watch what they put into their bodies.But when they're mislead by the government,it's not their fault.Look at the subway commercials.You see some guy with a six pack eating a "low-fat" sub from subway.I say thats misleading to 13 yr old kids.I thank you all for taking the time to read this guys.Happy halloween,Steve.

Although I agree that the government is not without corruption, one must question whether the obesity and sickness we are currently facing is really the government's fault or because the majority of people weren't following the recommendations about diet correctly. I tend to agree with the latter, especially since the government's supposed alliances don't coincide with their dietary recommendations anyway; more money is given to cattle and corn farmers than produce farmers, yet the government stresses fruits and vegetables.[/quote]


Lol.Like I said,It's all about the money.They don't care.They just want a cheap product ,that didn't cost them a lot of money,so that they can sell it for more than it costed to produce.


                               They're not understaffed,just corrupt.Exactly.You just hit the nail on the head! They run the three biggest industries:Drugs,food,and medication.Thats what America needs.Thats one of the biggest reasons why we're so sick.No one has changed anything in america.People still eat oatmeal.People still drink coffee.People still eat cake.In the 1940's America wasn't so fat,they all ate like pigs back then too.

There was coke,there was candy back then too.But America wasn't as fat.Why? Look at the stuff they're shooting into foods.Trans fats,oils,stabilizers,chemicals.Splenda can cause MS,did you know that? HFCS actually makes people gain weight.Why is this crap in our food? Because its cheap,and they don't have to spend millions on production.


Um.... wow. That's blatantly false. Wild animals do indeed get sick in various ways, get cancer (though they rarely survive long enough for the cancer to be the cause of mortality), and they'll get fat if there's enough food around.

They'll also get eaten sometimes.

That being said, pharmaceutical companies do hold heavy sway over governmental policy, sure. That's why everyone should learn basic human physiology so they know what they're putting in their bodies.