Sugar, Acidity in the Body, and Disease
Our modern diet is no stranger to excess sugar consumption. Sugar is everywhere you look, in plain sight: in sodas, juices, candy, and baked goods, and hidden: visible only in the ingredient labels of common food items such as ketchup, yogurt, and even spaghetti sauce. It masquerades in many forms- high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, artificial sweeteners, fructose, sucrose, and dextrose, to name a few. But even the "healthy" alternatives, such as honey, agave nectar, and maple sugar, all have effects within the body. Are you fully informed on the effects all this sugar is having on your health?
What Is All This Sugar Doing?
The warnings are everywhere: sugar consumption causes tooth decay, diabetes, and obesity. High fructose corn syrup has gotten a bad rap and food producers are scrambling to offer alternatives. But a little-known side-effect of all this sugar is its effect on body pH and the resulting cascade of physical problems leading to chronic and potentially life-threatening disease. If the majority of Americans were aware of these implications, many of them would probably drastically alter their diets. Sugar, and its substitutes, are poisoning us in insidious ways. And acidity in the body is a very insidious thing indeed.
What is an Acidic Body pH and What Does Sugar Have to Do With It?
A normal pH range in the body is 7.35-7.45. Any measurements outside this range in either direction can have dangerous consequences. Many acute (meaning sudden) and serious illnesses that can land people in the hospital intensive care unit will result in, or be the result of, an extremely acidic or alkaline body pH.
Thankfully, the body has many compensating mechanisms for correcting these imbalances, and for most of us, a stay in the hospital on any given day due to pH imbalance isn't likely. But what about more subtle pH variations? Can that cause problems? The answer is a resounding YES. And many of us walk around every day with a body pH that is too acidic, thanks to excess sugar consumption. Did you know that the average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar per year!?
As you can see from the chart below, sugar (in all its forms) is highly acidic. And when you stop and consider how prevalent it is in foods (and often in very high amounts), it is easy to see how significant its influence is in contributing to an acidic body pH.
Diseases Caused by Acidity
There are many diseases that can be traced back to high acidity. These include:
- Tooth decay
- Heartburn/gastric reflux
- Yeast infections
Interestingly, if you look at the above list, many of the diseases already known to be caused by a diet high in sugar directly relate back to an acidic body chemistry. When the body is acidic, it has mechanisms in place to try to counteract that and bring body pH back to the healthy 7.35-7.45 range. For example, it pulls calcium from bones to neutralize the acidic pH, leading to osteoporosis and tooth decay. And fatty deposits form to trap acidic waste products which an otherwise overloaded system cannot excrete, leading to obesity.
Consider, briefly, the following article. Notably, all three conditions mentioned have a common relationship: acidity in the body. Is one caused by the other, or are all three related to an acidic body pH?
Natural Ways to Correct an Acidic pH
Thankfully, correcting an acidic body pH is possible. It does require a certain level of commitment and awareness, however. At the forefront of this is eliminating excess sugar from our diets. Often, by simply striving to avoid sugar as much as possible, our diets will naturally contain less of all the food substances that contribute to an acidic pH.
How can you measure how much sugar really is in your food? Consider that one teaspoon of granulated sugar contains 4 grams of sugar. A 12 oz. can of soda has 33 grams of sugar- that's over 8 teaspoons of sugar! Removing soda alone will have a major impact, as it is one of the largest sources of added sugar in our diets. Check out this chart and consider what you've eaten today. How many of those foods are on the chart?
Keep in mind, the "all other foods" category includes all those hidden sources of sugar. Often, you won't even be aware you're consuming it unless you read the label! Common hidden sugar sources include:
- Spaghetti sauce
- Barbeque sauce
- Peanut butter
- Vitamin and energy drinks (even vitamin water has 13 grams of sugar per serving)
Fortunately, many natural sugar substitutes have the benefit of having little to no impact on the body's glycemic index (blood sugar level), which also means they have less effect on body acidity. But keep in mind, these sweeteners still have an acidic pH, so like everything else in life, moderation is key.
The following is a list of low-glycemic natural sugar substitutes:
- Agave nectar
Other natural approaches to creating a more alkaline (less acidic) body pH include:
- Drinking more water (which helps flush out excess acid)
- Eating more alkaline foods (such as spinach, broccoli, avocados, carrots, garlic, apples)
- Supplements such as potassium citrate, magnesium citrate, and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
The adage "knowledge is power" applies to the effects of sugar on acidity in the body. Armed with the knowledge that sugar has profound impacts on your overall health, you can make the best choices for yourself and create a healthy, balanced diet. Our bodies strive to maintain a delicate balance of optimal pH and are constantly at war with outside influences that alter that pH. With the understanding that sugar consumption can have an effect on your body's healthy pH, what will you do?