Image by Christine Sponchia from Pixabay

I wrote here on how certain foods are ‘acidic’ (mostly the highly processed ones, and animal products), while others are ‘alkaline’ (mostly fruits and vegetables). While your blood has an intricate buffer system to account for these effects and maintain your pH, your kidneys and your bones might suffer the consequences if this system gets activated too often (I wrote more about that here).

But there’s another part to this story, too. 

The Extracellular or Interstitial Fluid (Lymph)

While the buffer systems work great for maintaining the pH in the blood and inside the cells, the extra protons (H+, which define an acid) have to go somewhere. Where they go is into the interstitial fluid, which essentially becomes the lymph. 

The interstitial fluid doesn’t have a system to buffer its pH. What this means is, an acidic environment in the extracellular space can influence the chemistry that ought to go on there—and this would include things like insulin fitting into its receptors and triggering an expected cellular response, leading to insulin resistance, or uric acid precipitating out of solution and into the joint space, leading to a gout flare. 

Acidity and Mitochondrial Dysfunction

As this paper notes, mitochondrial dysfunction is one of the main causes of acidosis. This is because the most concentrated source of energy produced by the mitochondria comes from fatty acids (which turn into ketones—this is the concept behind the ketogenic diet). But if the mitochondria aren’t efficient enough to utilize those acidic ketones, they’ll release protons, which will end up in the interstitial space. 

Mitochondrial dysfunction can occur from a number of possible causes, most of them toxic exposures—but it can also occur secondarily to diet and lack of exercise. 

Acidity and Lack of Exercise

Exercise ultimately helps to maintain the balance in the mitochondria between energy coming in and energy output. It means that the fatty acids supplied to the mitochondria will get utilized for energy, rather than turning into protons and contributing to overall acidity. 

But if there are way more calories coming in than there is demand for ATP, the energy currency made by the mitochondria, this will lead to oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction (and eventually apoptosis of the cell). 

Acidity and the Standard American Diet 

Foods that become acidic in the body include beef, ice cream, canned fruits, peanuts, bacon, tuna, corn, sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, cereals, mustard, mayo, corn tortillas, milk, sardines, soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, and ketchup. (Junk food, in other words.)

Foods with an alkalinizing effect include alfalfa, celery, barley grass, peppers, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, mustard greens, chard greens, collard greens, chlorella, onions, cucumber, spinach, spirulina, garlic, green beans, dandelions, lettuce, kohlrabi, kale, pumpkin, wheat grass, sprouts, watercress, and wild greens.

The Upshot

The potential acidity in extracellular tissues and lymph can cause or perpetuate metabolic disease. While certain minerals like calcium and magnesium can be utilized to balance acidity, of course the foundation of any healthy lifestyle is a clean, unprocessed diet high in plenty of produce, and a regular exercise program. 

This powdered calcium and magnesium are in the right ratio to optimize alkalinity. Dosing is 1/4 to 1/2 tsp per day.

But if your pH is still low (saliva testing should be slightly alkaline), consider testing for mitochondrial function.