The alkaline diet

I have recently been asked about the Alkaline Diet. I will try to answer 2 fundamental questions about this diet:

  1. Does the Alkaline Diet change the blood’s pH?

  2. Is the Alkaline Diet good for us?

The typical western diet consists primarily of toxic and acid-forming foods like processed, refined sugars and wheat, industrially produced meat, chicken and fish, sweeteners, genetically modified vegetables, coffee and alcohol. All of these, combined with other external factors such as stress, lack of sleep and rest, and medication to provide quick fixes, are likely to be the cause of an increased rate of chronic and autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, and suffering for which modern conventional medicine has no cure, only treatments.

Let’s start by briefly discussing what is an acid or an alkali (also referred as a base).

pH is the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration, [H+], a measure of the degree to which a solution is acidic or alkaline. An acid is a substance that can give up a hydrogen ion (H+); a base is a substance that can accept H+. The more acidic a solution the greater the hydrogen ion concentration and the lower the pH; a pH of 7.0 indicates neutrality, a pH of less than 7 indicates acidity, and a pH of more than 7 indicates alkalinity. The pH is used as a measure of whether the body is maintaining a normal acid-alkaline balance. Our body has a very complex system in action, involving buffers and several organs like the kidneys and lungs, to ensure that the blood pH is always kept slightly alkaline between 7.35 and 7.45.  Without this balance, the enzyme systems and other biochemical and metabolic reactions will not function normally. Only extreme aggressions such as severe infections, severe dehydration, or even complications from chronic metabolic diseases like type 1 diabetes can create conditions where the ability of the body to regulate the pH is overwhelmed and therefore the body fails to maintain it within the normal range. Extreme variations from this range, below 7 or above 7.8, can have disastrous consequences, and may even lead to death if not corrected urgently by emergency personnel at a hospital. Having said this, we can temporarily modify the blood’s pH by breathing fast, blowing out carbon dioxide (which is an acidic gas) and alkalinising the pH, or breathing slow, retaining carbon dioxide and making the pH more acidic.

With regards to the first question, “Does the Alkaline Diet change the blood’s pH?” it is worth noting that nothing that we eat, if all systems are working well, is going to substantially change the pH to a level outside the normal range.

If we, for instance, drink lemon juice, with a pH of 2 (extremely acidic), our body will quickly neutralise it by breaking it down, and even using its components to neutralise other acidic foods, such as animal protein, or dairy products. It is not whether the food itself is acidic or alkaline, but what is left after it is broken down by digestion, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulfur, phosphorous, etc… that determines either the acidity or alkalinity. When the nutrients required to support the buffer systems cannot be obtained from food, the body will instead draw them from its own stores, such as the bones or other vital organs, thus depleting the natural reservoirs. According to some sources, we can roughly determine the general state of our system by measuring the pH of the urine. This pH will be more acidic if we have an excess of acid after foods have been digested.

With regards to the second question, “Is the Alkaline Diet good for us?”, the Alkaline Diet does not refer to specific eating habits that will maintain blood pH more alkaline, as it already is alkaline.

It refers to the intake of foods that are not acid-forming, therefore requiring little “neutralization” by the body, or that help to maintain the normal, slightly alkaline pH by supporting the buffer systems.

Whatever the mechanism of action, the fact is that the Alkaline Diet is good for us.

It encourages healthy eating by favouring plant based diet, nuts, superfoods, fruit, as well as gluten and dairy free. These foods are low in fat and rich in vitamins, vegetable proteins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre and so many other nutrients that have been proven to be essential for good health. It can also help to balance diets that are rich in acid-forming foods.

Here is a list of the foods recommended as part of an Alkaline Diet:

-Lemon, lime and grapefruit
-Dates, figs and apricots (rehydrated)
-Tomato, apple, pear, mango, papaya and avocado
-Watercress, fennel, asparagus, celery and cauliflower
-Onion, garlic, ginger (fresh), cayenne pepper and beetroot
-Kelp, spinach, rocket, parsley and coriander
-Sunflower, pumpkin, sesame seeds, and their oils
-Almonds, walnuts and pecans
-Quinoa, millet, buckwheat, oats and brown rice
-Almond milk, brown-rice milk
-Ground coconut and coconut water

For further advice on how to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, as well as on how to promote or restore your health using alternative and complementary therapies, you can come and see me at the Westlake Clinic in Harley Street. To book your appointment, click here.

Until then, stay well.

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