Participation in collegiate sports requires a high amount of discipline, attention to detail, and the ability to successfully balance a variety of responsibilities. Coaches are then tasked with the management of their athletes, athletic directors are in charge of the athletic department and its coaches, and finally the NCAA regulates the universities and their athletic departments. To put it in perspective, think of it like we are like the president of the NCAA and our bodies are the universities we govern because we are responsible for everything that goes on inside and outside of them.
Even now as you read, a flurry of activity is taking place in every cell of your body. With every second that goes by millions of cells are unnoticeably created in your body’s perpetual system of self-regeneration. Cells are the bricks and mortar from which all living tissue and organs are made, and are key to the production and chemical transformations taking place inside our bodies.
Make What Goes In Your Body Count
Since all disease originates at the cellular level instead of the organ or system level, a healthy body is therefore established by the health of each of its single cells. Healthy cells create healthy tissues. Healthy tissues create healthy organs like the heart and lungs. Healthy organs create healthy systems like the immune system and healthy systems make up a healthy body. As the president of our bodies, we are in charge of the police force that protects and shields the cellular athletes from attack by foreign enemies; the cellular athlete’s work performance, transportation system, medical care, communication, food and water, and methods of toxic waste and trash removal. The cells in our bodies are like Bo Jackson, they can do a little bit of everything very well.
One of the most memorable statements I heard from my head collegiate football coach was on every Thursday before game day. He said, “Today is the day before the day before, what you eat and drink today will fuel you for the contest on Saturday. Make great decisions about what you put inside your body.” Like each member of the football team, each one of our cells have a purpose and duty to operate for the good of the team—our body.
What you eat, drink, breathe in, and bathe in will either nourish or contaminate your cells by way of your bloodstream. The bloodstream is a flowing river carrying our cells that have been either fed by fruits, vegetables, and proteins or polluted with processed foods, sugar filled drinks, and acidic waste residues. What you eat and drink today will truly fuel you or degrade you for your upcoming activities over the days following meals.
What you eat, drink, breathe in, and bathe in will either nourish or contaminate your cells. [Photo credit: Jorge Huerta Photography]
The Power of the pH Scale
Our bodies and cells are also tasked with temperature regulation, balancing pH, and the management of the most comprehensive and complex communication network in the world. In order to paint a picture of the complexity of our communication network, imagine all six billion people on this planet picking up a wireless phone simultaneously and having a phone conversation. Then picture everyone in the world clicking on conference call. The question is, does your “cell” phone have good enough reception to transmit and receive messages? Because all of our organs and systems work together through constant communication with each other, our cell network needs to be regulated in order to keep our bodies functioning properly. Fortunately for us, the power of the hydrogen (pH) scale is here for the rescue.
In chemistry, pH is a numeric scale used to specify the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. The scale acts like a thermometer showing increases and decreases in the acid and alkaline content of these fluids. The human body is designed to maintain a very delicate pH balance in its fluids, tissues and systems. When our bodies are operating in optimal conditions, the pH in our blood typically ranges between 7.35-7.45 pH. Deviations above or below a 7.35-7.45 pH can signal potentially serious and dangerous symptoms or states of disease. When our bodies can no longer effectively neutralize and eliminate the acids it relocates them within the body’s extra-cellular fluids and connective tissue cells.
Imagine our bodies being like fish tanks. Consider the importance of maintaining the integrity of the internal fluids and structures that are used daily. Your organs and cells are like the fish in the tank, and they bathe in these fluids that transport nourishment and remove waste. Waste is produced by every living cell within our bodies. The nutrients from our food are delivered to each cell, and they burn with oxygen to provide energy for us to live. These burned nutrients are the waste products, which are mostly acidic, are discharged from our body through urine and perspiration. Now imagine we stop cleaning out this tank and begin throwing in excess food that the fish are unable to eat. The toxic waste chemicals build up as the food breaks down, creating acidic by-products, altering the optimal pH. This is a small example of what we are doing to our internal fluids daily, some of us more than others. We fill our bodies with toxins like nicotine, drugs, acidic beverages, and social drugs such as coffee, carbonated beverages and alcohol, and they all compromise the balance of pH that maintains homeostasis.
Our Acidic Lifestyle
Unfortunately, because we lead such busy lifestyles and choose to deposit these poor nutritional options in our bodies, this creates a puts a hefty acidic burden on our bodies and our buffers can’t always keep up. The problem this creates is an unstable pH balance which leads to a reduced ability for our body to eliminate waste products. To protect itself, the body converts acidic waste into solid waste and stores it in less critical areas of the body. The accumulation of solid waste can contribute to health problems including excess weight, clogged arteries, arthritis, kidney stones, and various other chronic illnesses. Luckily, our body has several homeostatic systems that protect us from wide fluctuations in our blood’s pH levels.
One of the most important defenses is the bicarbonate buffering system. When carbon dioxide (CO2) mixes with water (H2O), carbonic acid is formed (H2CO3). When carbonic acid dissociates in an aqueous environment, it releases a molecule called a bicarbonate ion (HCO3-). Bicarbonate ions act as buffers because they bond with positively charged alkaline ions such as calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium ions to help the body neutralize an increase in the blood’s acidity levels. An extremely important component of this system is the acid-base balance. Alkaline (base) buffers are released into the blood stream when the blood becomes too acidic, and conversely, acidic buffers come into play if the blood pH becomes too alkaline.
Another unfortunate effect of our buffering system’s inability to keep up with our acidic lifestyle is the effect it has on calcium. Calcium is not only important for bone strength, it plays a critical role in blood pressure control, nerve function, and blood clotting. When our blood starts to become too acidic and the supply of alkaline buffers in the blood is insufficient to neutralize this acidity, our bodies turn to plan “C” in order to reach pH balance. Since calcium is a very alkalizing mineral, the body will start pulling calcium from our bones and teeth in an effort to balance the blood’s pH levels. If our acidic blood pH becomes chronic, it can lead to a loss of bone density which eventually leads to osteoporosis. So if balance of blood pH is the answer, what is the best source of nourishment for our 75 trillion cells?
Estimate how much and the type of water you need to drink each day. [Photo credit: Jorge Huerta Photography]
The Role of Water
The importance of drinking water is undeniable and our survival depends on it. Without food, we can survive several weeks but only a few days without water. Water forms the major part of all of your bodily fluids, such as blood and lymph, and every cell relies on containing an optimal amount of water. The average adult will lose ten cups of water per day just by breathing, sweating, and going to the bathroom. It can be very easy to become dehydrated. But how much water do we actually need? The Mayo Clinic suggests that for the average, healthy male living in a temperate climate needs roughly 3.0 liters per day and females need approximately 2.2 liters per day.
Our bodies may be made up of about 70% water, but our brains are made up of a massive 85%. Unfortunately, our brains cannot store water like our bodies and it will become dehydrated much more rapidly if we don’t replace the water we have lost. Water is also the energy source for your brain cells which use twice as much energy than the other cells in your body. Consequently, your brain functioning goes downhill dramatically when you are dehydrated. However, when you are properly hydrated you have more energy, you think faster, and are more creative.
Water also has various other functions within the body. It helps the body to regulate temperature. It helps to deliver important nutrients to the cells so that they can perform their necessary functions to keep us healthy. It works to remove waste from those cells and then from the body. Water helps to regulate metabolism. When you are properly hydrated, you are less likely to deal with headaches, heartburn, or constipation. The right type of water controls the pH balance in the body. Low blood pH is linked to high blood pressure.
These are just a handful of the very important benefits of consuming water. Drinking alkaline ionized water on a daily basis helps neutralize acid to maintain or restore the body’s optimal pH balance. When our body is in homeostasis, our multiple self-regulating control mechanisms are able to operate in ideal conditions to efficiently deliver nutrients to our cells and to dissolve and eliminate waste products through the body’s natural elimination channels. Even though water may be in sodas and juices, it is important to drink water by itself as well. Most popular brands of soda register a 2.5 on the pH scale (acidic), and it takes roughly 32 glasses of 10 pH water to neutralize that one can of soda. Without balancing your body’s acidic intake with alkaline water, your body may have a difficult time functioning properly.
Although unusual, it is possible to drink too much water. When your kidneys are unable to excrete the excess water, the electrolyte (mineral) content of the blood is diluted, resulting in low sodium levels in the blood, which is known as hyponatremia. It is much more common to see this in endurance athletes, such as marathon runners who drink large amounts of water. In general, drinking too much water is rare in healthy adults who eat an average American diet.
Recognize Your Needs
Although no single formula fits everyone, knowing more about your body’s need for fluids will help you estimate how much and the type of water to drink each day. Whether you choose alkaline water, bottled water, or just drink water from a hose, the effects water has on maintaining a proper pH balance are undeniable. Choose to stay properly hydrated and you will avoid many of the bad “cell” service areas that you may run into along the way.
More on maintaining balance:
1. Staff, B. M. (n.d.). “Nutrition and healthy eating.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 13, 2016.