Understanding pH and How it affects the Body

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By Dr. Keith Kantor

The Alkaline Issues

The body is remarkably adept at maintaining a blood pH between 7.35 and 7.45. Just as blood pH operates within a certain range, so do other cell structures throughout the body, depending on what kind they are and to which system they belong.

The body has a series of natural buffers, which help the blood, and cells resist changes in pH. Furthermore, the body’s water helps eliminate blood toxins. These natural buffers, however, are not designed to handle the acidic overload modern life imposes on the body. Stressors such as emotional stress, processed foods, pollutants, toxins and chemicals in our every day household products come both from without and within the body. What we do as individuals, or more accurately what we consume regularly, plays an enormous role in how the body can withstand both the pressures from outside as well as inside the body. Acidity leads to inflammation, which in turn can lead to many other health problems.

The Nature of Water

In order to understand what happens within the body, one must first understand the nature of water because the body consists of more than 60% water. Generally, blood is 92% water, the brain and muscles are 75% water, and bones are about 22% water. At its very core, the body is an aqueous environment so an understanding of water will lay the foundation upon which alkalinity and acidity can be understood.

A water molecule consists of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms held together by a covalent bond. It also has ions called hydroxide (a negative ion that has donated a hydrogen proton) and hydronium (a positive ion that has accepted a hydrogen proton). These ions develop in water through a process called self-ionization in which water molecules freely exchange a hydrogen proton forming both hydroxide (OH, a negative ion or anion) and hydronium (H3O+, a positive ion or cation). These ions exist in very small amounts in the overall aqueous solution but they do play an important role in water. This then is the power of water; it can transform itself to suit its environment and always seeks to maintain an equilibrium between the positive and the negative.

The Nature of Ions

In order to understand the acid/alkaline (acid/base) relationship we must first look at basic chemistry and the electro-magnetism involved. Ions play a major role in the acid/base reaction. The first modern definition describes how acids and bases interact in an aqueous solution (water). Simply put the Arrhenius theory maintains that:

An acid is any substance that produces hydrogen ions in an aqueous solution.

A base is any substance that produces hydroxide ions in an aqueous solution.

The hydrogen ions form through the dissociation of the acid and the hydroxide ions form by the ionizing of the base. Bases are said to ionize because they can either dissociate or dissolve whereas acids almost uniformly dissociate. In both instances, it is the action of water as a universal solvent that sets the ions free.

The Arrhenius theory was limited in its scope because it only dealt with acids and bases in aqueous solutions and only looked at the relationship between hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions. In an attempt to solve some of the limits of the Arrhenius theory, a new theory emerged put forth separately by two different individuals and became known as the Brønsted-Lowry theory, named for both of them. The Brønsted-Lowry theory holds that:

Acids are proton donors.

Bases are proton acceptors.

The proton in question is the hydrogen proton (hydrogen ion). Acids have at least one hydrogen proton that they easily transfer to another substance through a process called deprotonation. Furthermore, since bases are proton acceptors, they are in fact acceptors of hydrogen protons and it is called protonation. This concept of hydrogen proton donation and acceptance is fundamental to understanding how alkaline waters work.

The Arrhenius theory gives us the foundation of hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions and the Brønsted-Lowry theory gives us the concept of hydrogen proton transfer. With these theories as our basis, we can now discuss the fundamental chemistry behind base aqueous solutions, aka alkaline waters.

Hydroxide and Hydronium – Different sides of the Same Coin

Up to this point we have been discussing the hydroxide ion as if it exists in large quantities in water by itself. But hydroxide is not normally found by itself in nature, rather it is attached to another element, most commonly a metal (mineral) to form a base molecule or compound. The strongest bases in terms of alkalinity in an aqueous solution are the hydroxides formed from the alkali metals and the alkaline earth metals.

It is important to note that pH and alkalinity do not measure the same properties. Potential hydrogen (pH) measures the base properties of a substance while alkalinity measures the quantitative ability of a base to neutralize an acid. A substance can be a base without having strong alkalinity but a substance cannot have strong alkalinity without being a base. One further note, the word “alkaline” refers to a substance’s base characteristics NOT its alkalinity.

As with the hydroxide ion, the hydrogen ion does not exist as its own entity in an aqueous solution in any large amount. The hydrogen ion always wants to be attached to another atom or molecule that has electrons it can share. This seems somewhat at odds with the definition of an acid being a hydrogen proton donor but it is nonetheless true. The hydrogen proton may easily leave an acid but it then seeks to attach itself to another atom or molecule.

By its very nature, hydronium is the most acidic species that can exist in water.

How does the knowledge set forth above apply in the real world and your health?

What is the best way to arm the body to handle the acidic load modern life produces both from without and within?

First let’s define exactly what the enemy is, so that we can then figure out how to defeat it. It is clear that since hydronium is the most acidic species that can exist in an aqueous solution and that the body is by its very nature an aqueous environment, hydronium necessarily becomes the most important acid to combat in the body. Excess hydrogen ions in the form of hydronium are the real problem. The extra hydrogen ion in hydronium is still highly reactive and like all acids, hydronium will donate it to another atom or molecule freely under the right circumstances. This is what makes hydronium so potentially harmful to the human body. This potential reactivity of the extra hydrogen ion can only be combated by neutralization. Neutralization of hydronium then is the means by which the acidic load on the body can be lessened. Interestingly enough, the Arrhenius theory gives us the answer for neutralizing hydronium and it is hydroxide.

Hydroxide – The Champion Acid Fighter

As stated above, the strongest base hydroxides are those attached to metals (minerals). The ones with the strongest base properties in an aqueous solution are potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, and magnesium hydroxide. These four are the most prevalent hydroxides found in alkaline waters. Of these, potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide produce the highest degree of dissociated hydroxide ions in an aqueous solution and therefore the highest degree of alkalinity. Calcium hydroxide’s solubility decreases markedly in the presence of potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide which keeps it a base but does not allow it to provide dissociated hydroxide, aka acid fighters. Magnesium hydroxide is also a strong base with limited alkalinity because of low solubility.

Therefore, if an alkaline water is using many different minerals in its ionization process to create its hydroxide, the potassium and sodium hydroxides would produce the highest degree of dissociated hydroxide ions and the calcium hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide would help contribute to the pH but not the alkalinity. Any alkaline water that claims it contains negative ions, has hydroxide in it. Potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide raise both the pH and the alkalinity (acid fighting capability) while calcium hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide only contribute to the pH.

Hydroxide – the Source Matters

It may surprise you to learn that many alkaline waters contain hydroxide. Not all of them do but many do. So how do you tell? If an alkaline water claims to have negative ions or to have gone through ionization then it has hydroxide. Most alkaline waters like to claim some sort of proprietary ionization process but they all do basically the same thing.

Ionization is a process by which hydroxide is taken from a water molecule and bound to a mineral like sodium, potassium, calcium, or magnesium among others. The hydrogen proton that is removed from the water molecule is discarded and the result is sodium hydroxide (NaOH), potassium hydroxide (KOH), calcium hydroxide {Ca(OH)2}, etc. These are the negative ions most alkaline waters possess.

To Buffer or not to Buffer that is the Question

Although most alkaline waters contain hydroxide and many even make it an important selling point, most are far more focused on the addition of either minerals, trace minerals or electrolytes. This is the basis of their alkalinity. The negative ions (hydroxide) are only secondary but it is the negative ions that should be primary. Let me explain.

Acidity by chemical definition is the presence of too much hydrogen as noted above in the discussion of metabolic acidosis. Alkalinity is a quantitative measurement of the ability of a water to neutralize acid (hydrogen). One would think this means the acid is no longer able to function but that is not the case in chemistry. Neutralization just means adding enough of a base to compensate for the acid but both still remain in the solution or water. This is called buffering. The body has many different buffering systems to keep its pH stable. Alkaline waters attempt to supplement this with their alkaline minerals but in the end the acid is still present and able to act.

Hydroxide, on the other hand, does not chiefly act as a buffer. It eliminates acid by transforming it back into water as noted above. This is what makes hydroxide completely different from any other alkaline substance – it has the ability to eliminate acid, thus removing the need for buffering.

A Different Approach – Hydroxide Rich Water

AQUA OH! is a hydroxide rich water. By harnessing the power of nature we have achieved a natural hydroxide not found in other alkaline waters. Within the interplay between limestone and water, nature has provided the tools the body needs to NATURALLY fight acidity. Over millions of years water forms limestone through the process of sedimentation. With the addition of heat and then water, limestone can be transformed into a hydroxide rich compound called calcium hydroxide. Further hydration causes natural ionization and the hydroxide is freed from the calcium. Most of the calcium is then removed and the hydroxide remains suspended in the AQUA OH! concentrate. Natural ionization is more stable and longer lasting than artificially generated ionization like is found in most alkaline waters.

AQUA OH! provides far more free hydroxide ions than any other alkaline water can. Most alkaline waters add many different minerals before they undergo ionization. This then creates many different mineral hydroxides each with a different dissociation rate. As explained earlier, dissociation is just a fancy way to say break apart. For example, sodium hydroxide becomes a sodium ion and a hydroxide ion in water. Some hydroxides readily dissociate creating free hydroxide ions while others do not. It is free hydroxide ions that matter. But even these free hydroxide ions still have their mineral counterparts present so they are not completely free.

AQUA OH!, on the other hand, only uses calcium hydroxide as its main source of hydroxide. This provides two main benefits. First, calcium hydroxide is divalent meaning it has two hydroxide ions for everyone one calcium ion. This means AQUA OH! starts out with twice as many hydroxide ions. Second, when alone calcium hydroxide is relatively soluble in water. This means it breaks down into its constituent ions easily.

But the difference in the source of hydroxide is not the only reason AQUA OH! provides more free ions than alkaline waters can. As stated, AQUA OH! starts out with twice as many hydroxide ions and then it naturally removes much of the calcium. This further concentrates the ions and eliminates the problem of leftover minerals when the hydroxide combines with hydrogen to eliminate acid. By the time the process is through AQUA OH!’s hydroxide to mineral ratio is far greater than 2 to 1 and far exceeds any alkaline water on the market.

AQUA OH! – The Difference is Clear

  • The natural ionization AQUA OH! employs is more stable and longer lasting than the artificially generated ionization alkaline waters use.
  • AQUA OH! removes minerals instead of adding them.
  • AQUA OH! eliminates acid by transforming it back into water instead of merely buffering the acid with alkaline minerals.
  • Because water is the result of AQUA OH!’s interaction with acid, there are no by-products that the body needs to deal with.
  • AQUA OH! provides far more free hydroxide ions than any other alkaline water can or does.
  • AQUA OH! is more cost effective because it is a concentrate – 1 quart will make 8 gallons of drinkable AQUA OH!.



Properties of Water

Source: http://www.anaesthesiamcq.com/FluidBook/fl1_1.php

Regulation of Intracellular Hydrogen Ion Concentration

Importance of Intracellular [H+]

‘Intracellular Buffering’

Source: http://www.anaesthesiamcq.com/AcidBaseBook/ab2_6.php#261


Source: http://www.tiem.utk.edu/~gross/bioed/webmodules/phbuffers.html

Arrhenius theory

Source: https://www.britannica.com/science/Arrhenius-theory

Source: Myers, Richard (2003). The Basics of Chemistry. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 157–161. ISBN 978-0-313-31664-7.

Brønsted–Lowry acid–base theory

Source: https://www.britannica.com/science/Bronsted-Lowry-theory

Source: Masterton, William; Hurley, Cecile; Neth, Edward (2011). Chemistry: Principles and Reactions. Cengage Learning. p. 433. ISBN 1-133-38694-6.

Alkalinity Table (hydroxides and carbonates)

Source: http://www.aquatext.com/tables/alktables.htm


Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroxide

Source: Marx, D.; Chandra, A; Tuckerman, M.E. (2010). “Aqueous Basic Solutions: Hydroxide Solvation, Structural Diffusion, and Comparison to the Hydrated Proton”. Chem. Rev. 110 (4): 2174–2216.

Calcium hydroxide

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcium_hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide


Source: http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Core/Physical_Chemistry/Acids_and_Bases/Aqueous_Solutions/The_Hydronium_Ion

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydronium

Acid Base Reactions

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid%E2%80%93base_reaction