pH, or potential Hydrogen, isn’t just something to be discussed in a high school science class. pH levels can have a big impact on your overall health. The pH scale ranges from 0, which is considered very acidic, to 14, which is basic or alkaline, with 7 being the most neutral level. A high acid diet full of coffee, soda, energy drinks, meats, pastas, alcohol, and other acidic foods can cause over-acidity in the body. This overload can result in bad breath, headaches, nausea, trouble breathing, diabetes, heart disease, and may even effect bone density.
“To survive, our bodies must maintain the pH very close to 7.4, which is just on the alkaline side of neutral. If your body’s pH varies too much from this ideal, it becomes difficult for various enzymes to function properly” says medical researcher and biochemist Dr. David Williams.
Improper pH levels can be an even bigger problem in the mouth. The ideal pH level for saliva is around 6.5 to 7. According to Jefferson Dental Clinics, eating more alkaline foods creates “an unfavorable environment for bacteria to thrive.” The lactic acids that are produced in your mouth can cause tooth decay.
“Tooth roots begin to dissolve as this pH gets a tiny bit below neutral and when acidity levels dip to pH 5.5 or lower teeth will erode, become discolored, and be at risk for cavities,” says Dr. Ellie Phillips from Ultimate Oral Health.
The reverse can also happen. Phillips claims that when your mouth has a pH level of 7.5 or higher, teeth can get stronger and re-mineralize.
The pH level of your mouth has a lot to do with your saliva. Saliva can vary naturally from person to person. According to Dr. Sara Gottfried, pH can even vary depending on the time of day and an individual’s stress levels.
One way to help make the mouth more alkaline is simply by eating more raw foods. Phillips recommends foods like papaya, pineapple, watermelon, asparagus, mushrooms, mango, apples, and garlic to help balance your mouth’s pH levels. In addition to fruits and vegetables, Gottfried also recommends adding more cumin, fennel, and sesame. Carefree Dental says that the more vibrant colored vegetables are often the best for our health. This includes red bell peppers and kale as well as many others.
“For even faster results, however, try juicing. Making and consuming fresh vegetable juices on a daily basis will jumpstart the process of alkalizing your body,” adds Williams.
Most experts recommend cutting back on coffee, breads, alcohol, and most artificial sweeteners to help improve pH levels. If cutting these foods out completely is too difficult Gottfried also suggests doing at least a 70:30 ratio of alkaline foods to acidic foods and reducing stress to improve alkalinity.
Tonya Zavasta from Beautiful on Raw says, “Consuming raw fresh fruits and vegetables and their juices, partaking of lots of fresh air, deep breathing, and adequate sunlight, along with stress reduction, are powerful factors that help keep our bodies alkaline.”
You can test the pH levels of your own saliva using pH test strips from a local drug store. Gottfried suggests testing your saliva at the same time each day and waiting two hours after a meal before testing.
Carefree Dental. (2016, March 28). The Importance of pH Balance in the Mouth. Retrieved October 02, 2016, from https://www.carefreedental.com/resources/17-nutrition/152-the-importance-of-ph-balance-in-the-mouth
Globeadmin. (2015, September 16). Understanding pH Balance in the Mouth. Retrieved October 02, 2016, from https://www.jeffersondentalclinics.com/blog.html/2015/09/16/understanding-ph-balance-in-the-mouth/
Gottfried, S., MD. (n.d.). Eating Alkaline Foods: How to Test and Improve Your pH Levels. Retrieved October 02, 2016, from http://www.saragottfriedmd.com/eating-alkaline-foods-how-to-test-and-improve-your-ph-levels/
Phillips, E., Dr. (2012, October 22). Change Your pH and Improve Your Teeth and Gums! Retrieved October 02, 2016, from https://ultimateoralhealthguide.com/2012/10/22/change-your-ph-and-improve-your-teeth-and-gums/
Williams, D., Dr. (2016, August 18). Proper pH Balance Is Critical for Good Health. Retrieved October 02, 2016, from http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/proper-ph-balance/
Zavasta, T. (n.d.). Raw Foods: PH Balanced Diet. Retrieved October 02, 2016, from http://www.beautifulonraw.com/raw-foods-ph-balanced-diet.html
Written by Hannah Reasoner, Ramapo College Intern to Karen Ranzi, M.A.