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It’s a common theme in the natural health world to try to become more alkaline, and less acidic, as these are considered general conditions for health vs disease systemically. But why?

What pH is and Why It Matters

pH stands for “potential hydrogen.” H+ are single hydrogen atoms, or protons (as opposed to hydrogen gas, which is H2). The definition of an acid is a substance that releases protons, which carry a single positive charge (or another way to think of it is, they’re missing an electron). This means they want to steal an electron from something else, since electrons always like to be paired up. Substances that want to steal electrons are oxidizing agents (or oxidative stressors), while substances that donate electrons are reducing agents, or antioxidants.

In other words, pH is a rather arbitrary way of describing whether or not a particular substance or system will donate or steal electrons. A pH of 0 is the strongest acid, or a strong oxidizing agent. A pH of 7 is by convention, neutral. A pH of 14 is the strongest base, or reducing agent.

Extremely brief quantum physics interlude: electrons are particles, but when they travel from point a to point b, they do so as waves (unless you look directly at one of them, and then it becomes a particle again!) The wave-like behavior is a current, just like what flows from your outlet into your appliances.

Our bodies run on electricity.  It’s the literal engine that makes us go. We think of ATP produced by the mitochondria as our energy currency, and that’s true, but the mitochondria convert the electrons in oxygen and glucose into ATP. Electrons are more fundamental still.

So in a way, pH is a measure of whether or not we have enough electrons to function. Electrons are what’s flowing in a current. A current is an actual stream of electrons, versus voltage, which is the potential for a current to flow. Since pH is “potential” hydrogen, then it’s a measure of voltage, the potential current—and pH values can be converted into current. A pH of 0 = +400 mV—positive by convention, because it’s stealing electrons. A neutral pH of 7 is neutral because it produces no current at all, so it’s 0 mV. A pH of 14 is -400 mV, negative by convention because it is an electron donor.

Our blood has a pH of 7.35 (-20 mV) to 7.45 (-25 mV). There’s a tight buffer system involving the bones to maintain this… so as long as we’re alive, the blood will stay in this range, even if there’s collateral damage elsewhere in order to do it.

That’s not necessarily the case for the rest of our extracellular fluid, though. We can measure extracellular pH via saliva or urine as a rough indicator of our cellular voltage.

Relationship Between pH and Oxygen

Your pH describes the number of free protons (electron stealing power), or electron donating power available to your cells. The more free protons are present, the less space there is for dissolved oxygen, because the hydrogen will react with oxygen.

Remember that the mitochondria, which are inside every cell in the body except red blood cells, make ATP from the electrons delivered by glucose and oxygen. Less oxygen = less ATP.

Also, oxygen is a primary source of our body’s natural pro-oxidative defenses to kill off foreign invaders.

If your pH is too low, it will compromise your ability to both produce energy, and to defend against foreign invaders, at a minimum.

How to Raise Your pH (Increase Electrons)

Why your pH might be low is beyond the scope of this article—more coming on that in a future article, though certainly diet can contribute. I would certainly assume any source of oxidative stress could as well, and excess oxidative stress and chronic inflammation go hand in hand.

Nature is an abundant source of free electrons, though. This includes grounding (as long as you’re not wearing anything insulating on your feet, like rubber or plastic soles), forest bathing, and any source of moving water (no wonder we love waterfalls and the beach so much!)

Salt (in the environment) is also a source—which is why some use Himalayan salt lamps to render an indoor environment a little more electrically negative. Indoor plants have this effect as well.

Baking soda is another quick way to raise your pH—in part because it’s directly alkaline. It also turns into CO2 in the body, a vasodilator which will lead to increased blood flow and oxygen, and thus, electrons.

Humic and Fulvic Acid

I wrote here on fulvic acid—a component of soil which aids in delivery of nutrients to the growing plant. While it is technically an acid, it’s interestingly also an antioxidant, and can either donate or accept electrons.

Fulvic acid is a component of humic acid, which is formed from the breakdown of plant matter by fungi. The fungi essentially pre-digest the dead plant matter, making its constituent micronutrients available to the soil, and to any new plant that might take root in it. Fulvic acid specifically helps the plant utilize the electrons stored in the dead plant matter.

There are some studies that suggest it can do the same thing for us.

Healing Frequencies?

Einstein won his one and only Nobel Prize for discovering the photoelectric effect, which describes the way that certain wavelengths of light applied to certain metals can induce voltage. The colors of light that induce this effect in a given metal are the same colors of light emitted when the metal is heated hot enough to glow. When the metal is heated to incandescence, the electrons in the element’s outer subshell jump to an even higher subshell, releasing a quanta (or a little packet) of energy as light. When that same light is applied to the metal, the metal will absorb exactly that wavelength of light, converting it to voltage.

Light carries energy, in other words, in differing amounts, depending upon its wavelength. This same process almost certainly occurs in the body: certain wavelengths preferentially excite the electrons already stored in certain tissues. This may be how chromotherapy works.

Ultrasound therapy works similarly, via what’s called the piezoelectric effect, which is when mechanical pressure applied to a crystal produces voltage, or vice versa, when a current applied to a crystal becomes mechanical movement.

Doesn’t it stand to reason that the energy from sound therapy in audible ranges and vibration therapy might likewise translate to voltage in the body, as well?

The Upshot

You can easily check your pH via salivary test strips as one way to measure the status of your cells: are they hungry for electrons, or do they have plenty? Even if your blood oxygen levels are fine, find out if your tissues are getting the oxygen they need. If they’re not, choose from some of the recommendations above to add electrons to your cells.

For additional reading, I’d highly recommend “Healing is Voltage” by Jerry Tennant.