Throughout history, we've tried some pretty crazy things in the name of beauty. From lead makeup to guano moisturizers, there's not a lot we haven't tried to put on or in our bodies to look and feel our best. But what if the answer to beauty wasn't in any cream, lotion, or potion...but instead came from deep within the body itself?
While there are thousands of products you can use to temporarily change your appearance, the truth is that natural, authentic, and lasting beauty really does start on the inside. From your gut to your blood chemistry, your body is perfectly capable of developing smooth skin, a clear complexion, and that vital glow without a fancy serum or pricey face masks. But it does need a little help from you to make it happen.
Your Body Is Always Searching for Balance
Every day, your body goes through hundreds of balancing acts to keep itself functioning properly, a process called homeostasis.
You see, the body is kind of like Goldilocks: it prefers for everything to be within a certain range of "just right" to function optimally. Consider the importance of your body temperature––vary more than several degrees either way and you'll need a hospital––or the level of sugar in your blood, which can cause huge changes in mood and body function with a relatively small fluctuation.
Indeed, balance is key. And, one of the most important balancing acts that your body performs is keeping your pH levels balanced. Your pH is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline various parts of your body are: the higher the pH is, the more alkaline they are, the lower the pH is, the more acidic. There are various healthy ranges for pH in different parts of your body––for instance, your gut is naturally more acidic, while your blood is more alkaline. Generally speaking, you want your ranges to be pretty close to neutral, that is, in balance.
But when things get out of balance, it starts to show pretty quickly. Your sleep, immune system, hair and nails, skin, and even your weight can be affected before you know it. The problem is, it's pretty easy to unintentionally throw off your balance with our modern Western lifestyle, especially our diet.1
In fact, it can happen within mere hours and is due to things like processed foods, alcohol, coffee, sugar, processed or low-quality meats, and artificial sweeteners. These foods break down in such a way that leaves your body more acidic than you'd like, which can disrupt the balance of your hormones (among other things) and lead to things like a flushed complexion, breakouts, teeth prone to issues, and even brittle or dry hair and nails.
That being said, you can do lots of things to mitigate this (unfortunately ever-more-common) tendency to fall into acidity, neutralize your pH, and get your body back to looking (and feeling) its best.
So, where do you start when it comes to this balancing act? First, you need to find out where you stand and how your daily diet is affecting your body's pH levels. Try taking a simple urine litmus test (you can find the strips at your local pharmacy) a few times a day, several days in a row, to see just what's happening in your body. Then, by getting more alkalizing foods into your diet and figuring out those acidity-pitfalls, you can quickly get back on track to bringing harmony to your body so you can shine from the inside out.
Try These 7 Ways to Balance Your Body's pH:
1. Fall in love with your water bottle.
We all know that drinking water is good for you, but it's often easier said than done.2 It really is worth the effort though: besides being generally good for your health, drinking lots of water helps keep everything flowing in your body, including the systems that get rid of waste products like extra acids.
Plus, by drinking more water, you can help reduce the amount of other beverages that can drive your pH levels down, including sodas, coffee, and alcohol. You don't have to give these things up entirely, but you should know that sugar, caffeine, and alcohol are all acidic, so the more you avoid them, the better.
Just one caveat...make sure that the water you're drinking is neutral, or even better, alkaline. Ideally, you should put your water through an alkaline filter before you drink it, or use alkaline drops to make sure you're getting the best pH. And don't think that bottled water is exempt. In fact, some bottled water is very acidic!
2. Switch out your sweeteners.
Sugar and artificial sweeteners are really acidic when broken down in the body, and they exert a number of other negative health effects (especially on your gut bacteria!) that make them some of the most important additives to avoid in your diet.
This can be one of the trickier things to work around in a modern diet, since so many of our foods have sugar added to them under other names, like high fructose corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, or maltodextrin, so you may have to take a little extra time reading labels to make sure you're not getting more sugar than you think in your diet.
When you do have sweet things, try to keep it to natural sweeteners. Raw honey is one of the best options, since it's full of really valuable vitamins and minerals, is alkaline-forming in the body, and is a great prebiotic too!
3. Eat clean and green.
If you start using the litmus test method to monitor your pH levels, you might find yourself surprised by JUST HOW MANY veggies you will need to eat to maintain a balanced pH.
Try your best to eat organic, non-GMO foods, especially green and cruciferous veggies. Some particularly alkalizing foods include leafy greens like spinach and kale, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, and sprouts.
Another great source of alkalinity: citrus fruits! It may seem counterintuitive, since citrus fruits taste acidic, but when they're broken down in the body they increase alkalinity. Plus, these types of foods are full of the nutrients that your skin needs to remain at peak health, so by incorporating them into your diet you can really double down on the benefits to your health and appearance.
One great way to ease your body’s pH up the scale is to start your day off with a hot cup of alkalizing lemon water. Since the health of your gut is intimately connected to your body's pH, you may also want to give it some love with a prebiotic powder that supports your bacterial balance.
4. Sweat it out.
What you do with your body can be just as important as what you put into it. When you exercise, you help your lymph system function at its best, which means that any waste products (including acids) circulating around your system get processed and removed as fast as possible. Plus, regular movement boosts the number of bacteria in your gut microbiome, which in turn supports your metabolism, which then helps you absorb the nutrients you need to keep your pH in balance.3
When it comes to types of exercise, try something aerobic––this kind of movement gets you breathing deeper, leading to more oxygen flowing through your bloodstream, which helps keep your pH balanced. Jumping on a mini or regular size trampoline is especially good for cleansing your lymph system and balancing your body's pH.
Bonus benefit: When you sweat, your pores open up, meaning that all the gunk that can accumulate in them has a chance to get out before they block up.
Being stressed is incredibly common, and is sometimes even seen as a badge of honor in our modern society. But, it has so many negative effects on your health, pH included. Chronic stress, or being stressed out on and off over a long time, contributes to higher acidity in your body, so try to find ways to lower your stress levels. A few easy changes to try include reducing your screen time, implementing a gratitude practice into your day, and of course, getting better quality sleep.
6. Breathe deeply.
You might think that breathing isn't something you need to pay attention to; after all, your body breathes whether you consciously think about it or not. But a lot of people have developed less-than-ideal breathing habits, mostly shallow, fast breathing. When you breathe in this way, you not only get less oxygen into your system, you don't get a chance to breathe out all of the waste products that ideally would be coming out through respiration, raising levels of acidity in your body.4
But just as you (unconsciously) trained your body to breathe shallowly, you can reverse the trend and train yourself to breathe deeply again. Many online tutorials for learning how to do this exist, but one really easy way to start deepening and optimizing your breathing is through meditation.
7. Set yourself up for success with a strong foundation.
If you follow the steps above and do absolutely nothing else, that's already a great start. But if you want to really make sure that you're seeing the full impact of the positive changes you're making, you'll need to get your gut on board.
The balance of bacteria in your gut can actually have some really positive effects on your pH balance via its impacts on your nutrient absorption, digestion, and metabolism. The more you can do to support your gut microbiome, the more it can support your pH balance, which then in turn can do so much for your overall health.
One of the easiest ways to do this? Taking a premium probiotic. This will lower the pH of your gut, but this is actually a good thing––your gut needs to be acidic to function properly. So while you should normally try to steer clear of acidifying substances, a probiotic supplement is one that can really work to improve your overall health by helping your body benefit from all your alkaline food and drink choices.
All pretty doable, right? (And certainly easier than many of the other beauty tips out there!) By implementing even a few of these tips in your day to day routine, you'll not only give your body the balance it needs for beautiful skin, hair, and nails; you'll almost certainly feel better too!
1. Schwalfenberg, G.K. (2012) The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health? Journal of Environmental and Public Health 2012(2012). doi: 10.1155/2012/727630
2. Kempton, M. J., Ettinger, U., Foster, R., Williams, S. C., Calvert, G. A., Hampshire, A., . . . Smith, M. S. (2010). Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Human Brain Mapping, 32(1), 71-79.
3. Clarke, S. F., Murphy, E. F., O'Sullivan, O., Lucey, A. J., Humphreys, M., Hogan, A., … Cotter, P. D. (2014). Exercise and Associated Dietary Extremes Impact on Gut Microbial Diversity. Gut, 63(12), 1913-1920. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2013-306541
4. Fencl, V. Vale, J.R., Broch, J.A. Respiration and cerebral blood flow in metabolic acidosis and alkalosis in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology 27(1).
Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.