Personally, even if I don’t follow the Alkaline diet; I think its proponents have made some valid points, and there are few valuable lessons we can learn from it.
But let’s make one step at the time...
The blood’s pH
In order to understand what the alkaline diet is about we have to recall some of the notions we learned in high school chemistry and, in particular, about pH.
The pH is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen in an aqueous solution. The more hydrogen in a solution, the more acidic it is (low pH); to the contrary the less hydrogen, the more alkaline it is (high pH).
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic. A pH greater than 7 is basic (alkaline). For instance, pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at 77°F (25°C).
The human blood stays in a very narrow pH range right around 7.35 - 7.45. Below or above this range means symptoms and disease. If blood pH moves to much below 6.8 or above 7.8, cells stop functioning and the patient dies.
An healthy blood pH has acid/alkaline balance almost equal.
Actually, an healthy blood is slightly alkaline measuring approximately 7.4.
How the body regulates the pH
The body during the day performs a number of intricate acts in order to maintain the pH of blood, tissues and cells are at the 7.4 range, by:
- Increasing or decreasing respiration: when you breathe more rapidly, you blow out more carbon dioxide. This raises your pH so it becomes more alkaline and less acidic. Conversely, slowing down your breathing causes you to release less carbon dioxide, which lowers your pH making it more acidic and less alkaline.
- Neutralizing excess hydrogen ions: neutralizing substances in the blood, such as bicarbonate and hemoglobin, mop up excess hydrogen ions and prevent pH from becoming too acidic.
- Eliminating the excess: your kidneys excrete excess acidic substances into urine to prevent pH from becoming too low. Conversely, if your pH starts to become too high or alkaline, the body uses similar tools in reverse to bring down the pH.
The alkaline diet
The proponents of alkaline diets claim that when the body leans towards too acidic, because of bad nutrition choices, the risk for many conditions increases dramatically.
They stress that the Western diet is too rich in certain foods such as animal protein, sugar, caffeine, and processed foods that makes the body more acidic.
Based on such assumption they postulate that by changing the diet we can greatly influence our pH.
Thus, the alkaline diet involves eating certain fresh citrus and other low-sugar fruits, vegetables, tubers, nuts, and legumes and avoiding grains, dairy, meat, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and fungi.
Such a diet is alleged to help to maintain the balance of the slight alkalinity of blood without stressing the body's regulators of acid-base homeostasis.
So far so good: eat more greens and less fats and sugar...but the proponents of the alkaline diet take a step forward and claim that by making the body pH “alkaline enough” we will be able to prevent cancer, fatigue, obesity, allergies, as well as increase bone health.
Critics of such predicament have pointed out that under normal circumstances, a selectively alkaline diet has not been shown in vivo to either elicit a sustained change in blood pH levels, or provide the clinical benefits as alleged by its proponents. In addition, the mechanisms by which an alkaline diet would produce the alleged benefits are vague, unknown, or nonfactual. As a result, it is not widely accepted by the mainstream medical or scientific community, and is often thought of as a pseudo-science.
What we can learn from it
I don’t want to get into the debate whether the alkaline diet is ultimate health wonder or not.
But I have to confess that I dig some the general idea behind it: the typical Western diet is made up of too many acidic foods (fats, sugars, processed foods, etc) and this causes too much to our bodies in order to maintain the homeostatic healthy pH levels.
Thus, in order to combat the negative health effect of the Western diet we must consume more alkaline foods, in particular organic green veggies. And reach the optimum balance level that should consist of 65-75% alkaline forming foods and the remaining 35-25% of acid forming foods.
If you’re curious to see what are alkaline and acidic foods you can take a look at the following link where you can find a comprehensive list of all foods: http://www.rense.com/1.mpicons/acidalka.htm
But it’s not only about food
I was pretty surprised to discover that one of the things that supporters of the alkaline diet really stress out regards the quality of the water we drink.
Water accounts for up to 75% of the body and greatly impacts the pH of the body. And, unfortunately, most of the water that we consume is highly acidic. This includes distilled water, reverse osmosis water, tap water, bottled water, and deionized water. Those water have many of their minerals removed.
So what we can do about it? Since alkaline water is not easily available, by adding minerals we can solve this issue.
According to the alkaline diet we should add coral calcium supplements to water in order to reach the “perfect water”.
But, I have to tell you, I have no idea what these coral calcium supplements are and further research is needed before I can draw any conclusion on this.
Also salt plays a crucial part in the alkaline diet. All the salt we are consuming is highly refined (hence, ultra processed) and instead we should look for unrefined sea salt. If you’re not familiar with unrefined sea salt, it has a grey color and it’s almost moist to the touch. The moisture assures that the salt still contains the numerous elements that buffers the sodium chloride part of the salt and make up as much as 16% weight in valuable trace elements and macro-minerals. The gray color instead comes from the clay beds that line the bottom of the salt ponds. This is pure, edible clay, is an essential food that enhances the bio-energetic quality of the salt crystals and ionizes them as they form.
Unrefined sea salt contains not only proper amounts of sodium chloride, but also more than 80 trace minerals from the ocean plasma that are in perfect symbiosis with each other and the human body matrix.
All this stuff gets lost in the refining process that salt industries perform in order to bring us the white shining sea that we can buy at the grocery store (I think I will do a post about unrefined sea salt pretty soon!)
I have to confess that I like few things about the alkaline diet. Mainly: the idea of eating more leafy green veggies and the use of unrefined sea salt.
As with all other eating regimens there some valuable lessons that we can learn from them to become even healthier.
The necessity of an alkaline/acidic balance in the diet is certainly a compelling argument and one factor that I will try to keep in mind in the future!
The Iron You