The typical African American diet tends to be highly acidic as it is heavy in grain-fed animal proteins, processed and fried foods, refined sugars, sugar laden beverages such as sweet tea, and carbohydrates. When your body’s pH balance is acidic, vaginal infections, bacterial infections, skin eruptions such as acne and allergic rashes, generalized aches and pains, and severe menstrual cramping are common symptoms. Improving pH balance calls for long-term changes to food, nutritional supplementation and overall lifestyle.
An Imbalance in Your Body’s pH May Lead to The Following
- Hormone concerns
- Cardiovascular weakness
- Weight gain/loss
- Bladder and kidney concerns
- Immune deficiency
- Acceleration of free radical damage
- Structural system weakness, including brittle bones, hip fractures and joint discomfort
- Stressed liver function
- Low energy
- Slow digestion and elimination
- Yeast/fungal overgrowth
It is important that you body be in balance, especially the digestive, intestinal, circulatory, respiratory, and immune systems. When we maintain a proper pH balance our metabolic functions work correctly which in turn allows our body to function at its best. Determining your own pH balance (or lack thereof) is simple. All you need are some inexpensive pH test strips and a color chart. Testing twice daily for several days will give you a general idea how your body changes.
What Does it Mean to Have “Normal” pH Balance?
Dr. Marcella Pick, OB/GYN says: “In terms of body pH balance, there is no one “correct” reading for the entire body. For instance, healthy human skin has an approximate pH of 5.5 (slightly acidic). Saliva, on the other hand, has a pH of around 6.5–7.4 (teetering on either side of neutral). Your digestive tract’s pH can range from 1.5 to 7.0, depending on what stage of digestion is underway. And when the body is in good working order, human blood reveals a narrow pH window of about 7.35–7.45 (slightly alkaline). Other parts of a healthy, well-functioning body will show still other pH readings.”
Your body’s pH will vary between 6.5 – 6.8 for saliva, and 6.0 – 7.0 for urine. Usually urine tests more toward 6.0 in the morning and 7.0 just before dinner. The key here is balance. It should fluctuate between these points throughout the day, with saliva averaging 6.5.
Testing Your Body’s pH Balance
To measure urinary pH, all you need are pH test strips, which can be purchased online or in some in drugstores, pharmacies, and health food stores. These strips have properties that cause them to change color when they come in contact with acidic or alkaline substances. The color they change to when in contact with a substance tells you whether the substance is acid or alkaline. they even indicate the strength of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance because the color change becomes more intense if a substance exhibits an extreme pH.
The different shades of color that the coloring agent adopts allow the degree of a substance’s acidity or alkalinity to be measured. Each shade of color corresponds to a precise pH value. The value is not indicated on the pH strip itself, however, but on a color chart that comes with the strips. This chart includes every shade of color the strips can adopt, with its corresponding pH value next to it.
The most pH strips available allow pH measurements between 5.5 and 8 to be taken; others have a wider range of between 4.5 and 9.0. The clearly visible changes of one shade to the next are provided either in half units, which results in a scale that runs 4.5-5.0-5.5-6.0, and so on; or in measurements from 0.25 , for example 5.5-5.75-6.0-6.25, and so on. I recommend using ones with this tighter .25 increment indicator.
How to Test
The pH test strip needs to be put in contact with the substance to be tested. The most simple method consists of holding the strip in the flow of urine for one or two seconds, just long enough to moisten it. The acid of the urine reacts with the strip, causing it to change color. The strip is then matched to the indicator scale on the color chart. The figure of the corresponding urinary pH is located right next to the color. Remember that it is neutral at 7; at 6.5 and under it is too acid; and at 7.5 and above it is too alkaline.
A single measurement is not enough to draw any valid conclusions about the state of the internal environment; pH can vary at different times of the day because of activity, meals, physical effort, stress, and so forth. To be truly representative, the measurements must be taken several times a day for four to five days in succession. You should note the data collected from these readings on a chart to obtain an overall picture of pH over time.
As a rule, the first urination in the morning is not representative of your normal pH because it contains all the acids filtered by the kidneys that have accumulated overnight. The first test should therefore be made with the second urination of the morning. The second test should be made on the urine before lunch, and the third before the evening meal. It is very important to take the test before the meal, because the pH can temporarily vary significantly depending on what beverages and foods you have consumed. Besides these three tests, you may measure and note urine pH at other times of the day just as complementary data.
Your Natural Hair and pH Balanced Hair Products
There has been a great deal of discussion in the natural hair community about properly pH balanced hair products, with dozens of videos made by Naturalistas about which commercial products are properly balanced for your hair, as well as how to test your own home made products.
Human hair and scalp oil (sebum), has a pH balance of between 4.5 and 5.5. This natural hair acidity prevents fungi and bacteria in the hair and scalp, and keeps the hair cuticle closed and healthy. Many of the hair products that women use disrupt the natural pH of their natural hair. A cleansing or styling product that is too alkaline will cause the hair cuticle to open (allowing moisture to escape and making hair subject to breakage and damage), while a substance that is too acidic will cause the cuticle to contract preventing moisture and strengthening oils from being absorbed into the cortex appropriately. When the hair pH is balanced, the cuticle lies flat but not contracted, which allows absorption of moisturizers and strengthening proteins without making the hair strand weak.
But how do you know if your hair is being affected by products that are too acid or too alkaline without testing? You can look for certain symptoms such as:
- If you have problems with fungi or bacteria on your scalp, it is likely that your scalp and hair are too alkali. Usually, this means that you are using a product that has a high pH (above 7.0), and it is eating away your protective layer of acidic sebum that fights bacteria.
- If you have permanently dyed or relaxed hair, your hair was first treated with a highly alkali substance to expose and change the hair’s cuticle, and then, it was “neutralized” with a highly acidic substance to flatten the cuticle again. This is a damaging process and slightly acidic hair products are needed to keep the hair cuticle lying flat.
- f your hair is outside the recommended 4.5-5.5 pH levels for hair, it will FEEL dry and rough to the touch, LOOK dull and grayish in color, APPEAR brittle, crunchy, and have breaking split ends. You’ll also have a lot of bad hair days as your hair becomes stiffer, harder and more prone to breakage.
- If you have curly (Type 2 or 3) or kinky (Type 4) hair, your cuticle is already partially open. It is especially important for people with curly to kinky hair to return their hair to a slightly acidic pH level, since the open cuticle prevents natural acidic sebum from keeping the hair at a balanced pH level between 4.5 and 5.5.
- If you have straight (type 1) hair, you should use hair-care products that are pH balanced, but may not need to apply extra products because the sebum moves through your hair, creating a natural pH balance.
Tips for Maintaining Your Natural Hair’s pH Balance
- You should also carefully review the labels on your current hair products. If they do not say they are pH balanced for your hair, then they should be tested using your test strips to see how they will affect your hair. A pH between 4.0 to 7.0 works well on all hair types. For those with dry kinky or tightly coiled hair, it is highly recommended that you discard any product with a reading outside of the 4.0 to 7.0 pH range. Remember, anything higher than 7.0 or lower than 4.0 begins to eat away at your hair and will ultimately prove quite damaging.
- The food we eat affects our pH. Acid foods create higher levels of acidity (reduces the pH) while alkaline foods can increase and maintain the pH level of the body. Alkaline foods are the helpers while acid foods are the criminals. Eating more raw foods increases your intake of foods rich in alkaline minerals such as plant-based calcium and magnesium. All green vegetables contain alkaline minerals.
- Eat fewer foods containing phosphates. Phosphates bind to calcium and prevent its absorption reducing calcium and pH levels. Dietary phosphates are found in all carbonated beverages and animal proteins such as cheese, meat, fish, milk and seafood.
- Always use pH balanced shampoos and conditioners. Water has a pH level of 7, so it is more alkali than your hair. Apply a leave-in conditioner to wet hair to return your hair to the 4.5 to 5.5 natural acidity, if your hair is naturally dry or damaged. Try a homemade leave-in conditioner composed of the following recipe: Pour 2 tbsp. (30 ml) of a silicone-free conditioner into a small bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) of whole-leaf aloe vera juice and 2 tsp. (10 ml) of jojoba oil to the bowl. Mix well with a spoon and use a pH test strip to ensure the pH is not under 4.5. Apply the mixture to damp, washed hair. Allow it to dry and style as usual.
About the Author (Author Profile)Blogger, writer, relationships/dating expert, fitness trainer and natural hair enthusiast since 1997. Sharing information from grandmomma, books and scientific journals, as well as my personal discoveries and experiences with natural hair as we journey from relaxers, flat irons and weaves together.
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