We’ve heard a lot about acid and alkaline balance, or pH balance, and how it affects our health and well-being. Well, the truth is…it also affects the health of our skin.
There is an intimate relationship between digestive health and beautiful skin. A highly functioning and healthy digestive tract means fewer skin imbalances and irritations. The opposite is also true. A sluggish, weak or overloaded digestive tract leads to inflammation, toxic build-up and malnutrition. One or more of these problems can easily and rapidly lead to skin conditions like dehydration, premature wrinkling, loss of elasticity, hyperpigmentation, rash and acne breakouts. The link between digestive health and acne is especially substantial.
This is not new information. What is interesting, though, is the link between digestive health (well, health in general) and pH balance in the body. The food we consume, stress levels, activity levels and emotions all play a part in pH balance. Foods, for example, are considered to be either alkaline or acidic. If we eat only acid-producing foods, our pH will be thrown off balance. Same goes for too much stress, not enough sleep, etc.
So, what is pH? pH literally means “potential of hydrogen” and measures the acidity or alkalinity in a substance – or in our system. The pH scale ranges from 0-14, 0 being most acidic and 14 representing the most alkaline. Battery acid would be a 0 and lye would be a 14. A balanced pH is about 7 (which is about the pH of seawater.)
A man by the name of Dr. William Howard Hay first introduced the term pH balance in his 1933 book “A New Health Era.” He came up with the concept of food combining (also known as the Dr. Hay diet), the idea that certain foods require an acid pH environment in digestion, and other foods require an alkaline pH environment, and that both cannot take place at the same time, in the same environment. *
When we talk about acid or alkaline forming foods, we are talking about their effect on the body, not merely on their pH alone. For example, milk has a neutral pH of about 6 when it is sitting on the shelf of the fridge, but drinking too much milk is acid forming in the system. If our body is too acidic, we are vulnerable to illness and infection. This could mean everything from breakouts and the common cold to more serious issues.
For the purpose of this blog, let’s focus on what pH imbalance does to the skin:
Too much acid in the body causes inflammation and leaves the body vulnerable for bacterial invasion. Both of these symptoms of ill-health can lead to acne, hyperpigmentation and other skin conditions. If we are eating a “dead” diet high in junk or fried food, meat, dairy and processed items without a healthy dose of fresh fruits and vegetables, we are simply asking for skin trouble. These foods are all acid forming in the system. Acidity in the body is often linked to acne breakouts. Note sure if you’re too acidic? Check out this great list of symptoms to look for.
Here are some basic acid and alkaline forming foods. For a more extensive list of foods, visit here.
Banana (high glycemic)
Whey Protein Powder
Fresh Fruit Juice
It’s important to note that all animal based protein is considered acid forming. Also, the only alkaline sweetener is stevia. All processed foods are acidic. Conversely, almost all fruits and veggies are alkaline (with some exceptions.) Caffeine is also highly acidic. So…cafe lattes twice a day are out if you want pretty skin…bummer.
The key is to choose foods that balance the pH. That is not to say that you should only eat alkaline foods…that’s not balance. If you choose brown rice and black beans (both acidic) then add in green veggies (alkaline.) If you are feeling under the weather, tired, especially stressed or breaking out, limit acid forming foods and bulk up on alkaline forming foods instead.
It’s not just foods that can cause acidity. Stress and lack of sleep are huge factors as well. It’s almost impossible to eliminate stress, but there are tons of ways to neutralize it: yoga, exercise, spending time outdoors, quality time with loved ones, journaling, meditation, and volunteering are just a few options.
In my professional opinion, this makes too much sense to ignore. I’ve seen first hand the wondrous effects of a healthy diet on the skin and have also seen the effects of too much sugar, caffeine and dairy. For acne it is especially important to limit acid forming foods.
*book information sourced online from Wikipedia and Amazon.
Please note: I am a licensed esthetician who acknowledges the link between internal / digestive health and the skin. I am not a nutritional expert. This article is meant for skincare purposes, not to treat or diagnose any medical conditions. Always check with your doctor or nutritional expert for more information.