Urine/Saliva pH Testing:
Another Gimmick to Sell You Something

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Some "nutritionists" and other fringe practitioners use a nonsensical urine/saliva test as the basis for evaluating a person's health and prescribing dietary supplements to fix it. The most visible modern proponent of this test was Gary Martin, who, during the 1980s, operated the American College of Nutripathy, a nonaccredited correspondence school that granted "degrees" in nutrition. One of the school's brochures described nutripathy as "the condensation of most all natural healing and counseling techniques available today . . . . the basics 'boiled' from literally hundreds of different therapies and techniques."

Martin claimed that nutripathic tests could detect "imbalances which, if left to mature, must ultimately manifest as some form of disease process." and "discover the root cause of the disease while it is still in the prediagnosable stage."

The most notable of these tests was the urine/saliva test developed about more than 50 years ago by Carey Reams (1910-1985), a self-proclaimed biophysicist who was prosecuted during the 1970s for practicing medicine without a license.Reams, who also claimed to be guided by God, devised "a mathematical formula for perfect health, based on the biophysical frequencies of living matter." The formula, which Martin called "your Nutripathic Portrait" or "your NutriPathic Profile," looks like this:

1.5 6.4 / 6.4 7 1 3 / 3

According to Martin's book, Nutripathy: The Final Solution to Your Health Dilemma, the first three numbers represent sugars excreted in the urine and the acidity (pH) of the urine and saliva, and indicate how much "energy input" you have. The other numbers, said to represent your "mineral salts index, urine debris index and nitrate nitrogens over the ammoniacal nitrogens index," indicate how much energy your metabolism is using. "A low energy input and high energy drain," says the book, "means degeneration, rot, decay and death." To fix these alleged problems, Martin and his followers offered a large variety of supplement products. The full text of a slightly modified edition titled Nutripathy: A Natural Solution to your Health Dilemma can be accessed online.

Reams testing and its associated trappings are utter nonsense. Blood and most tissues in the body have a pH of about 7.4, which is slightly alkaline. Blood pH is maintained within a narrow range by homeostatic mechanisms that involve the blood, kidneys, and lungs. Most disease states do not significantly affect blood pH. Those that do, such as respiratory failure and diabetic ketoacidosis, would be diagnosed with tests of the blood, not saliva or urine. Diet can alter the pH of urine, which can be important in preventing kidney stones. However, the pH of the blood will still remain within its narrow range. Saliva tests only measure the pH of the mouth, which is influenced by diet and does not reflect either the pH or the health status of the rest of the body. For all of these reasons, it is senseless to use saliva pH as a basis for recommending diets or dietary supplements.

For many years, Martin did business as Health Watchers System. His "graduates" include:

Nutritional Resources, of Warsaw, Indiana, offers a $290 "Basic Reams Test Kit" that it claims "is capable of determining up to 2,600 different health conditions by analyzing chemical, digestive and nutritional imbalances within the body."

The urine/saliva test is often referred to as RBTI testing. (RBTI stands for Reams Biological Theory of Ionization.) The A Gathering of RBTI Web site, operated by Rex Harrill, provides additional history, comments about proponents, and descriptions of variations of the test.

This article was revised on November 8, 2016.

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