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Arthritis Diet and Exercises

Concerns about long-term bicarbonate supplementation and other suggestions for raising pH


Helen Donnell says, “Your post on urine pH
and exercise tolerance was a game-changer for me, but anytime I miss a dose of bicarb,
I’m right back to 5. Any long-term concerns with taking bicarb
two to three times a day, any suggestions for other ways to get my system pH up?” Well, I will say in my case that I stopped
taking the bicarbonate when I figured out that I had a zinc deficiency. So, for people who don’t know the backstory
here, Google “Masterjohn urine pH” and you’ll probably get that blog post to come up. It’s called “How Normalizing My Urine pH Helped
Me Love Working Out Again” or something like that. The backstory in brief is, when I was going
through the mold and barium toxicity crisis of turn of 2016 into 2017, I got to the point
where even after I was very on the way to recovery, I still could only work out once
every five days, and that was because—when I was in the midst of the crisis, I couldn’t
work out at all. When I was at this point, I could work out,
but then I’d be floored, I’d lay in bed for hours, and I wouldn’t have the, number one,
the energy to go back to working out until five days later, but also I couldn’t afford
to be laid out in bed for three hours every day of the week or every other day, like I
could only afford that time once every five days, as well. And so, what happened was I realized—oh,
in looking at some lab tests, a Genova ION Panel had some findings that suggested pH
imbalance problems. And that was based on, the only thing abnormal
in my ION Profile was that my glutamine-to-glutamate ratio was really screwed up. The glutamate was really high, and the glutamine
was really low because of the kidney freeing ammonia by breaking down the glutamine and
turning it into glutamate to make ammonia that would balance the acidity. So I looked at that, and I said, that sounds
like a pH issue, and I was talking with a friend of mine that led down the same rabbit
hole, and I put two and two together, and I thought, okay, maybe the reason the workout
is tanking me is because of all the lactic acid, and my system can’t handle the lactic
acid. So, I started measuring my urine pH, and the
urine pH was very, very low, like it was way less than 5. I had to get different strips that go down
further to see where it actually was. And it was staying there for a long time,
so when I started the bicarbonate dosing, I was taking a quarter teaspoon at a time,
and my first workout, I was totally laid out, and I’d take a dose of bicarbonate, then I’d
get up out of bed, and I’d go pee, and I’d measure my urine pH again, and it wasn’t going
anywhere. I’d just lay back down, get up, take bicarbonate,
pee, lay down, get up, take bicarbonate, pee. It just wasn’t going anywhere until at some
point, all the sudden I shot up out of bed, and I was like, I want to work. I felt amazing. I went and measured my urine pH, and it was
6. So, it was like it just went nowhere until
I got enough bicarbonate in that it crossed the threshold getting into 6, and all the
sudden I felt amazing. That was the first big clue, and then I replicated
things over time and found that it was a consistent effect. So, I took bicarbonate consistently to match
the dosing and frequency that would keep my urine pH, except for first time waking up
in the morning, between 6.4 and 6.8. So that meant taking some every day on rest
days and taking more during workouts by doubling up a dose before I worked out and then following
it up and so on. What turned things around for me was when
I realized that my zinc was low, and that was because when I started putting on muscle
mass—so basically the bicarbonate allowed me to work out more. Working out more allowed me to gain muscle. Gaining muscle made me get patches of dry
skin. Well, what do patches of dry skin mean? Well, first of all, patches of dry skin are
the first, earliest sign of zinc deficiency in experimental zinc deficiency. When they lock volunteers up and give them
a zinc-deficient diet and just watch what happens, patches of dry skin are the most
common early symptom. Well, what does working out do to your zinc
needs? It increases it because every pound of muscle
mass that you put on requires X amount of milligrams of zinc extra to sustain because
you’re making new tissue, and you have to keep the zinc concentration of the tissue
standardized across your body. And what does zinc do to pH balance? Well, zinc is a cofactor for carbonic anhydrase,
which is one of the main enzymes in regulating pH. As soon as I started—so I saw this, I started
supplementing zinc immediately, then I went and tested my plasma zinc within three days,
and even though I had been taking zinc for three days, my plasma zinc was still borderline
at the level that I associate with deficiency, which it was around 70. And that confirmed for me that I was even
more zinc-deficient three days earlier, and once I started supplementing zinc, the pH
problems went away. So, zinc is a big one that I would look at. I’m not saying that there aren’t others. But I would definitely look at zinc, and if
zinc doesn’t work, I’d just keep going down the rabbit hole and try to do a comprehensive
analysis, like the kind that I do with Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. Harms of bicarbonate, well, alkalinizing the
stomach is the big one, so you definitely want to take it as far away from food as possible. And I do think that chronic use, the biggest
potential problem is going to be alkalinizing the stomach, and that’s going to mean lower
ability to kill pathogens in the stomach, so greater potential for overgrowth of bacteria
in the stomach or in the small intestine, and it’s going to mean less efficient digestion
of your food, so I think, again, the number one thing you could do is take it as far away
from food as possible, but I do think that you don’t want to be stuck on taking bicarbonate
all the time every day forever. I would feel more comfortable about using
it as a bridge to get from point A to point B and fixing the underlying regulatory problems
as the destination.

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