I was driving recently, listening to a well-known nutrition expert talk about an alkaline diet’s many benefits. I found myself nodding in agreement until she delved into murky – OK, completely inaccurate – science about an overly acidic diet-wrecking your blood pH.
Often well intended, confusion and outright misinformation surround pH-balanced diets. As a medical doctor who often prescribes keto-alkaline® (Keto-Green™) diets to patients, I want to dispel that confusion.
Clearing Up The Confusion: What’s An Alkaline State All About?
To do that, we’ll need to flash back to high school biochemistry, where you’ll probably remember studying pH and acid versus base (alkalinity). If you can’t recall, or would rather not go back mentally, let me provide a brief refresher course. (I promise to be painless and brief.)
An acronym for “power of hydrogen,” researchers measure the total hydrogen ion concentration in a solution using pH. You can measure any aqueous (water-containing) solution to determine its pH.
The pH scale ranges from one to 14. Seven is neutral. Anything higher than seven becomes alkaline (base); anything lower than seven is acidic (acid).
Using that scale, human blood is quite stable at about 7.4, making it alkaline. The ocean has a pH of about 8.1. The optimal pH for a pool is 7.4, about the same pH as human eyes and your mucous membrane.
Growing research show an alkaline state is healthier for your body, and most tissues and cells maintain an alkaline pH balance.
Your blood pH doesn’t change, and even slight deviations above or below that 7.4 ideal become extremely life-threatening.
On the other hand, things like food can make your urine and salivary pH more or less alkaline. Measuring those fluctuations reveals cellular health.
When we measure the body’s acid-alkaline state, we’re not talking about blood pH (remember, that remains steady at about 7.4 unless you are extremely ill or near dying).
The rest of your body, however, carries different pH levels. Your stomach, which must be very acidic to break down food and kill ingested pathogens, maintains a pH less than 3.0. The vagina’s pH is 3.8 – 4.4. Your skin has a pH below 5. From that understanding, every system’s pH becomes very finely tuned to optimize its functions.
When experts talk about maintaining optimal pH, they’re referring to urinary not blood – pH. Checking your urine pH can provide clues to cellular health, mineral status, and lifestyle consequences.
Food pH – What Is An Alkaline Diet?
What you eat plays a tremendous role in your urine alkalinity. One study in The British Journal of Nutrition found a more alkaline diet with copious amounts of fruits and vegetables and lower meat intake helped create a more alkaline urine pH.
That brings us to food pH. In the 1960’s, scientists began analyzing the chemical components of foods. From that research, they labeled foods as acid or base.
Assigning pH values to particular foods can be confusing for several reasons. Some foods have a different pH outside the body. So, for instance, while acidic with a pH of two outside the body, lemon actually creates an alkalizing effect inside the body.
A general rule of thumb is that because of their mineral content, fruits and vegetables are most alkaline. Meat, poultry, dairy, sugar, processed foods, grains, and caffeine are acidic. As if you needed another reason to ditch it, soda has a pH of 2.5.
The Negative Effects Of A High-Acid Diet
More recent studies show if you eat a high-acid diet, an increased overall detrimental acid load occurs on the body.
When you consume too many acidic foods, your body’s overall pH load will become acidic, resulting in “chronic low-grade acidosis.” When that acid load remains high, minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium and bicarbonate become low, adversely impacting your health.
Conversely, one review in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health recommended: “an alkaline diet to reduce morbidity and mortality of chronic disease that are plaguing our aging population.”
What Did Our Ancestors Eat?
Researchers find the high acid load in modern-day diets differs dramatically from our mostly alkaline, plant-based hunter-gatherer diets. One study in the European Journal of Nutrition found the absence of plant-based foods our ancestors ate could create a “chronic, diet-induced low-grade systemic metabolic acidosis.”
More specifically, one review examined 159 hypothetical pre-agricultural diets. We aren’t certain exactly what our ancestors ate, so researchers looked at a variety of diets. They found 87 percent of those diets were primarily alkaline, not acidic.
Benefits Of An Alkaline Diet
Eating an alkaline-rich diet creates profound effects on numerous health markers. Among them:
- Bone health. Researchers find foods that create an increased urinary acid excretion increase your risk for fractures and osteoporosis, while foods that create a neutral or alkaline urine favor bone growth, prevent bone loss, and reduce osteoporotic fracture risk. An acidic diet may actually decrease bone density if you don’t balance that acidity with alkaline-rich foods or supplements, whereas increasing alkaline foods boosts bone mineral density.
- Lean muscle mass. Studies show alkaline fruits and vegetables increase lean muscle mass, reducing age-related muscle wasting (sarcopenia). Maintaining muscle mass can prevent or reduce the impact of falls and fractures while supporting overall bone health, especially in older women.
- Optimizes magnesium. Among its damage, an acid-heavy diet depletes already-insufficient alkaline minerals, demanding your body pull alkalizing mineral buffers (calcium and magnesium) to maintain pH balance. Over time, this demineralizes bone. Acidic diets are often especially deficient in magnesium, which studies connect with anxiety, sleep issues, headaches, and other issues. Nutrient soil depletion and not eating enough alkaline foods mean up to 80 percent of Americans are low in magnesium.
- Reduced pain and inflammation. Chronic inflammation underlies almost every disease on the planet and high-jacks your weight loss efforts. Studies show a more alkaline body reduces joint pain, menstrual discomfort, and inflammation. That makes sense when you consider chronic acidosis creates or exacerbates chronic pain and inflammation, especially chronic back pain.
- Chronic disease. Research shows an alkaline diet lowers rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. One study found our modern diet’s increased dietary acid load can disrupt acid-alkaline homeostasis, resulting in chronic disease. Researchers here found a high-vegetable diet in conjunction and supplementing with an effective alkalizing compound can help your body become more alkaline.
Designing The Right pH Diet – Neither Too Acidic Nor Alkaline – Ultimately Becomes About Balance
Rather than aiming for a completely alkaline diet, consider your diet’s net effect. I utilize the 80/20 rule among patients: Eat about 80 percent alkaline foods (with a ton of veggies) and 20 percent acidic with protein-and-health-fat-rich meats.
So you might combine grass-fed beef with lots of vegetables like broccoli and spinach. Always choose foods with higher mineral content and fewer (acid-forming) toxins.
Whenever possible, choose organic since conventional foods often grow in mineral-depleted, toxin-loaded soil.
And guess what is a great alkaline addition to your diet? Mighty Maca®Plus. Over 40 green superfoods to help you maintain that 80% alkalinity and also provides you with energy while balancing your hormones.
Maintaining That Balance Of Alkalinity Demands More Than Just The Right Diet – It’s A Lifestyle!
Hydration becomes crucial. So does sleeping well. Stress management, exercise, healthy bowel movements, and healthy relationships all contribute! Oxytocin, a hormone released when you hug, love someone, or have an orgasm, also creates alkalizing benefits. It is about many lifestyle decisions, as this research shows. You need to start looking at these other aspects of your life…
Test Don’t Guess!
Check your urine pH with my Keto-Alkaline test strips. You can also use these test strips to test your ketones once you get going on a keto diet (no worries… that info is coming!).
The strips are easy to use and let you immediately know if you are achieving an alkaline state. I use them in all of my hormone reset programs and my ladies love them.
In my next blog, I’ll discuss the health benefits of a ketogenic diet
A ketogenic diet is a diet which is low in (unhealthy) carbs and high in (healthy) fats and (healthy) protein.
There have been many studies which have scientifically shown that a ketogenic diet supports weight loss, but that also reduces epileptic seizures, reduces overall inflammation and blood sugar issues (diabetes, insulin resistance), may help fight cancer and may even be effective at treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Much more about ketogenic diets - and my optimal Keto-green diet, in my next blogs... there are so many benefits to it. But as you will see, some potential drawbacks to consider as well.
How do I address the drawbacks? The trick to my approach is starting off focused on getting alkaline, and then pulling in the keto piece. Don’t worry…I’ll tell you a lot more about this so that you will really understand it! So stay tuned…
In the meantime, I want to hear from you.
How aware are you of maintaining alkaline-acid balance in your diet? Would you describe the way you eat as “alkaline-rich”?