The fear of over-acidification has developed into a lucrative business. It arises from all the dangers of this world, whether sausages, electrosmog or over-fertilisation. With this cheap diagnosis, the dealers of alkaline powder make a lot of money with it. Fortunately, according to Udo Pollmer, the most important antidote to this nonsense is available at practically zero cost.
by Udo Pollmer / December 2023
"Over-acidification" is considered a basic health problem of our time: even "the earth craves for deacidification", complains a medically approved health portal.1 Holy shit! Fortunately, there is a colourful assortment of alkaline rinsing powders. They "cleanse body and soul" and make the world a healthier place. Those who are annoyed by...
...the high price of their alkaline soup powder "for detoxification and deacidification" can calm their nervous stomachs with cheap sodium bicarbonate. And that is that.
To convince a clientele that usually knows less about biochemistry than a hamster knows about yodelling (Yodeling is a popular form of singing in the Alps), they are allowed to pee on a pH indicator paper every morning. This method had already given ascorbic acid its entree 90 years ago as a "vitamin" that one could never get enough of.2 Now the older youth is also researching and doing chemical experiments in the bathroom. An acidic urine signals impending suffering, an alkaline one a healthy future. The urine pH shows a circadian rhythm: it is most acidic in the morning - hence the tip from the business world to please measure the morning urine - and mostly alkaline at noon.3,4
Unfortunately, the long-term pH value also hardly allows any conclusions to be drawn about health. Urine becomes alkaline not only through broccoli, but also through inflammation of the urinary tract or even liver cirrhosis.5,6 The advice of nutritionists to drink bitter herbal teas to "deacidify" leads at best to liver damage if consumed continuously. Even as the doctor suspects the tea-drunk alkaline disciple of being addicted to alcohol, friend Hein lays his gentle hand on her pale shoulder and offers her a particularly warm place in the hell of healthy food?
Our body is not simply acidic or alkaline, but each organ, each cell, has a different, precisely regulated pH value that fluctuates depending on the time of day and the respective biochemical requirements. The gastric juice is most acidic with pH two, the protective acid mantle of the skin has a pH of about five. Our saliva is also acidic at almost six, and breast milk is still slightly acidic at 6.6 to 6.9. The gall bladder and pancreas are alkaline, and their pH of eight is about the same as that of chicken egg white.
Against the acid mantle of the skin
Nutrition experts recommend alkaline baths for "acid-base balance in the skin". However, our tap water (in contrast to carbonated sparkling water) is usually already alkaline. Highly alkaline water is known as lye. Alkaline powders for bathing usually consist of common salt and sodium bicarbonate, some also contain calcium. This makes for hard water. The acids in the powders serve to neutralise the water. There is something amusing about the idea that you can use them to lure "slags and acids" from the connective tissue into the bath water.
Phosphates provide the "soft" skin, common salt ("sea salt") increases the density of the water, the buoyancy makes the body feel "lighter". The skin loses its protection against infection through the baths. The "bases" remove not only the flora but also lactic acid, antiviral fatty acids, antibiotic proteins and the antibacterial nitrite. Due to the lack of acid reserves, the skin barrier of small children and the elderly is impaired longer by leaching baths.
The stomach sometimes actually produces too much acid. (Alkaline) sodium bicarbonate helps against soda burn, but this has nothing to do with the postulated "over-acidification" of the body. All other organs are logically not affected by the stomach contents. If you've eaten cheese, you won't get smelly feet from it and you won't get fingers looking like sausages from sausage salad. The cerebrospinal fluid, the brain water, is not fed by the gastric juice, even if some health apostles seem as if their upper brain had taken an acid bath that was too warm.
Why does the body take all this trouble and set a different pH everywhere? The answer: Its enzymes only work optimally at certain pH values, and these are different for each enzyme. This is the reason why a different pH is set within the cells and the organelles they contain. If the enzymes get into a different cell area, they can cause great damage. But if a different pH prevails there, their effect is lost.7
"Overacidified" by vitamin C
The principle of a politically correct acid-base diet is simple. An alternative practitioner explains it: "Everything that can generally be described as unhealthy", i.e. everything that people consume with pleasure, such as sugar, meat and coffee "tends to be metabolised acidically. Vegetables, fruit and neutral liquids (water) tend to be alkaline".8 How about pretzels? Far from it, pretzels are considered "particularly acid-forming". In a pinch, the so-called PRAL index is used to "calculate" the alleged "acid load" of food with a little imagination.
The ideas of what is "healthy" and what is "unhealthy" are constantly changing. Every list of acidic and alkaline foods says something different - and often enough the opposite, depending on the zeitgeist and business model. What is certain, however, is that slimming diets and therapeutic fasting alike make for highly acidic urine. Why don't the acid-base popes warn against this? Because you can see how healthy starvation is: the many bad acids are finally excreted. Now the rule is: the more acidic the urine, the healthier it is.
The nonsense is taken to the extreme when die-hard vegetarians snack on a spoonful of "vitamin C" with their alkaline food. Since the body can no longer absorb the overdose, it splashes out again in the urine. The urine is now deliciously acidic, which the vitamin C dealers praise to the skies: The ascorbic acid kills the germs in the bladder. The more acidic the better. But they say that the acids in fruit produce alkaline urine. Why then are citric acid or orange soda used to dissolve calcium kidney stones?
Caution: Work makes the body acidic
If the useless theories on hyperacidity were true, then not only fasting and vitamin C, but also sport would be the devil's work. If you jog diligently or do physical work, lactic acid is formed in the muscle and this, as we know, increases the lactate in the blood. It's hard to imagine how over-acidified the nomads of Africa or the polar peoples must have been, who lived almost exclusively on meat, fat and sometimes milk, and had to work hard for it. All those lovely diseases of civilisation that supposedly come from over-acidification through too much meat and too little exercise are supposed to have been foreign to them?
The urine of a nimble antelope is alkaline, that of a healthy lion that kills these animals is acidic. The fox is no sicker because of its "acidifying" diet than the poor vegan rabbit it is eating. Or the eagle, which serves its young birds a freshly cut pasture lamb. Why doesn't he feed leeks? Why are there creatures at the top of the food chain that are always admired for their cleverness and prefer to eat "acid-forming" food?
The body regulates its acid-base balance neither with broccoli nor with fried chicken, but primarily through its breath. CO2 is produced in all cells as an end product of metabolism. This gas is dissolved in the blood as carbonic acid. The amount far exceeds the production of bases by the metabolism and also the intake through food. To remove the acid from the body, we exhale all the CO2 through the lungs.9 The body regulates the excretion autonomously by breathing slower or deeper. Where is the expert advice to hyperventilate three times a day to deacidify? It's not missing because it's stupid, but because it doesn't generate high sales.
Beer instead of bases
The rest of the acids and bases are excreted through the kidneys in the urine, which is sometimes alkaline and sometimes acidic. That is why animals and humans urinate. This is as trivial as a rice flour beetle having flatulence in China. So, if you're worried about your health horoscope and hold the indicator paper in your morning urine, you should try drinking wheat beer in the evening. You will spontaneously "deacidify" by burping audibly. And you can go to sleep with peace of mind.
Those who regularly swallow alkaline powders should not be surprised if their activities lead to the milk-alkali syndrome: The first symptoms are constipation, nausea, joint pain and dizziness. Causes include alkaline powder and alkaline food, as well as medicines such as calcium for osteoporosis, some diuretics, and calcium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate for acid stomach.10,11 If you drink a lot of milk in addition, you increase the hypercalcaemia. The health portal DocCheck adds: "The simultaneous intake of vitamin D can promote the development of milk-alkali syndrome.12 Is this the reason why vitamin D is increasingly being added to alkaline powders?
Alkaline powders or diets hardly compensate for supposed deficiencies, but rather increase them. The oversupply of calcium causes a relative deficiency of magnesium and zinc. Zinc in turn slows down the absorption of copper.13 Abundant potassium, on the other hand, promotes a relative sodium deficiency.
Low sodium levels in the blood drastically increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.14-17 This is also true in the lower "healthy" range: according to epidemiological studies, at 135 millimol/l, which is shown as "normal" in the blood count, almost twice as many people died as at a mean value of 140 mmol/l. The lower the sodium level on admission to hospital, the worse the prognosis.18,19 The lower the sodium level on admission to hospital, the worse the prognosis.20 The antidote is salt. As a medicine, it is downright obscenely cheap.
In 1998, the first major study was published that was not dedicated to the long-known consequences of a sodium deficiency, but to the health significance of chloride, the other component of salt, i.e. the most important "acidic" anion in the acid-base balance. For this purpose, 9,000 healthy citizens in Belgium were observed for 10 years. Result: A low chloride level was the most significant risk factor for death from cardiovascular diseases. It was more significant than the usual parameters such as cholesterol or smoking.21
A series of new studies confirms that patients with heart failure and kidney disease are particularly at risk from chloride deficiency.22-26 But the general population is also affected, as an Israeli study with over 100,000 adults and an observation period of a decade showed. Again, the lower the chloride content of the blood, the more people died.27
In the case of chloride, as in the case of sodium, values that were previously considered normal were associated with significantly increased mortality. This only dropped at 106 millimol/l, and, as the authors write, "abruptly". The lower value of 97 millimoles, which is usually accepted as "normal", is much too low. And the upper normal value of 108 millimoles is not optimal either. From then on, the diagnosis is hyperchloraemia, i.e. an excess of chloride. But this seems to be problematic especially in the case of a simultaneous sodium deficiency.27
When chloride and sodium were low at the same time, three times as many people died.27 This is why a low-salt diet is not recommended.
Semmelweis sends his regards
Of course, many doctors in this world do not agree when their professional societies still turn a blind eye to the fatal consequences of a chloride deficiency. The comparisons made in the medical press are fierce. They culminate in the reference to the fate of Ignaz Semmelweis, whose discovery had the same shameful resonance.24
Semmelweis had saved the lives of countless mothers and newborns after he realised the cause of the life-threatening childbed fever: lack of hygiene. The doctors dissected the bodies of the dead women and without washing their "paws", they helped with the next birth. Just as there are "marotteurs" today who consider meat harmful because it is supposedly an "acidifier", the medical profession at that time considered washing with soap and water to be detrimental to health. The reason for this was the traditional doctrine of juices.28
Many pregnant women were doomed to death by this medical idea. Therefore, every woman who could afford a midwife gave birth at home. Pregnant women from poorer classes were forcibly admitted to so-called accouchier houses, where unmarried women gave birth to children. During epidemics, half of all women in childbed died in some of those homes. Semmelweis was mercilessly opposed by his colleagues for his life-saving insight. They sent him, who by then was teaching obstetrics as a professor, to an insane asylum in 1865, where he died a disgusting death.28 What became of the many newborns whose mothers had died, I could not find out. Perhaps they were a sought-after commodity, like the organs of accident victims today?
The anion gap
Babies cannot defend themselves. Therefore it is easier to enforce a low-salt diet. In 1979, this led to a disaster in the USA. When a manufacturer of bottle milk dispensed with the usual addition of salt, „some weeks later, approximately 200 infants (…) admitted with failure to thrive, constipation, food refusal, muscular weakness, and delayed psychomotor development."29 The little patients suffered from metabolic alkalosis, a "base excess", so to speak, combined with a lack of chloride.30 Fortunately, the little patients recovered after they had been given salt again.
In 1981, the drama was repeated in Spain. Those who live under the delusion that salt is unhealthy are not easily impressed by babies fighting for their lives. At that time, a total of about 50,000 babies were ill.29 Inspite of having recovered physically, permanent cognitive damage is still to be expected. Strangely, this has not been investigated.29
Clinical indications of an increasing salt deficiency in the population have existed for a long time. For years, a growing anion gap has been observed in blood analyses. Since it is too time-consuming to record all negatively and positively charged particles, one helps oneself with a few. In this case, the total amount of positive, i.e. "basic" ions often exceeds that of the negative, i.e. anions. This calculated difference is called the anion gap. Over the years, it has become larger and larger, especially because the chloride has become less and less. The larger the anion gap, the faster heart and kidney patients meet their fate.32-34
People today clearly consume more potassium, mostly through alkaline powders and plant foods. Since the potassium in plants is not present as chloride, unlike table salt, there is a relative alkaline surplus.31 Also „the combination of endurance exercise and a diet low in salt and protein and high in vegetables may cause chloride deficiency hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis“.29
"Deacidifying" with food, rich in additives
According to the nephrological press, the anion gap is exacerbated by additives such as sodium saccharin, sodium phosphate, sodium benzoate etc.31 If one thinks the world view of the base powder makers through to the end, this would be a stroke of luck for mankind. According to their standards, low-quality convenience foods would be predestined to deacidify the world. Thanks to the chemicals added in the form of sodium, potassium or calcium salts.
It is time for the food industry to rethink its policy of additives in food. One solution, besides reducing the additive load, would be to raise the salt content to the level of a decade ago. That would be real prevention, and it would cost nothing.
Risk nutrition table
Too much chloride in the blood? The experts are already pulling out their nutrition tables and advising healthy food: "All natural cereals, such as rice, wheat, barley, and rye, contain more chloride than sodium."31 This is correct in principle, but still fundamentally wrong. The information in the nutrition tables is given in milligrams. The contents in blood or urine, however, are given in millimoles, because it is the ratio of the two ions to each other that matters, not their weight. In table salt, the two substances are present in a ratio of 1 : 1. However, since a chlorine atom weighs one and a half times as much as a sodium atom, table salt contains 50 % more chloride than sodium.
So: If, for example, cereals are recommended because of their increased chloride content, this does not remedy a chloride deficiency, but is only a sign of a lack of competence, which unfortunately cannot be remedied by nutrition.
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Copyright: EU.L.E. e.V.
English editor: Josef Hueber, Eichstätt