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Should You Follow an Alkaline Diet Plan? What The Science Says

alkaline-diet-2

The alkaline diet (also known as an ash diet or alkaline acid diet) has gained in popularity over recent years, thanks in part to celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham, and Kate Hudson.

Proponents of the alkaline diet claim that by replacing certain acid-forming foods with alkaline foods, you can improve health.

Some even believe that an alkaline diet may help fight chronic disease. For example, a review of clinical trials from The Journal of Environmental and Public Health found that eating more alkaline foods like fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of hypertension, stroke, and it may even improve cognition. [1]

So does the Alkaline Diet actually work? What does the evidence say?

In this in-depth article, we’ll get review the science and get to the bottom of it.

 

How Does the Alkaline Diet Work?

The theory behind the alkaline diet is as follows: the foods you eat can change your body’s pH balance, which will then lead to significant health benefits over the long term. The pH balance in the body refers to the natural balance of alkalinity and acidity in the body – mainly regulated by the lungs and kidneys. Body pH balance is measured on a scale from 0-14, where 0 denotes the most acidic and 14 denotes the most basic pH balance in the body. To this extent, a pH balance of 7 is considered neutral.

Additionally, when you eat, your body takes the calories from food and turns them into energy. This process leaves behind a so-called “ash residue”, which is why the alkaline diet is also called the alkaline ash diet. The main hypothesis behind the diet is that alkaline foods produce more alkaline ash, nudging the body toward a more alkaline ph, while acidic foods tend to produce more acidic ash. In other words, eating a meal that is rich in acidic foods leaves creates an acid load, that over the long-term, may be detrimental to health. This, as the hypothesis claims, can make your body either more alkaline or more acidic. Some people argue that acidic ash increases the body’s risk of illness and disease, while alkaline foods negate this and prevent these ailments from developing in the first place.

 

alkaline-diet-foods

Alkaline Diet Foods

This diet is set up around the pH of individual food choices.

Some versions of the diet are more strict, while others allow more flexibility, to be consumed regardless of the acidity of those foods. If you want to follow a strict alkaline diet however, you’d have to avoid acidic foods, limit or avoid neutral foods, and eat as make sure your diet emphasizes alkaline foods.

alkaline-diet-chart-1

 

To this extent, you can either follow a strict diet plan, or make your own diet from the number of recipes and cookbooks which we’ll talk more about in a minute.

 

Are Alkaline Diet Foods Legitimate?

To answer this question, first you have to understand how the body regulates pH levels. The blood is naturally a little more alkaline, having pH levels anywhere between 7.35-7.45. On the other hand, the stomach is very acidic (3.5 or below), mainly because it needs that pH state in order to break down food. Depending on what foods you eat – your urine changes to accommodate that dietary change; this is how your body keeps your blood pH levels in check.

As we’ve seen, the alkaline diet claims that the diet itself helps to maintain your blood pH (or body pH) levels as-is. The truth, however, is that nothing you eat can significantly change the pH of your body and your blood respectively. In fact, your body is actively trying to maintain an optimal pH balance on a day-to-day basis.

With all of that being said, the foods you’re supposed to eat (as advised in the alkaline diet) can be good for you regardless of the bogus claims. Again, these foods will not change your blood or stomach pH levels but will have a positive impact on your health in general instead. In fact, they can even lead to a healthy and all-natural weight loss as well (more on alkaline food cookbooks, recipes, charts, and meal plans – later).

The body tightly regulates pH naturally and the foods you eat have little to no impact on the ph of your blood. However, following an alkaline diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, lean cuts of meat, and low in alcohol, and processed foods are all simple steps to healthy eating that can introduce a positive impact on your health, as well as help to maintain a healthy weight.

 

Alkaline Diet Reviews

Most experts (including nutritionists, healthcare practitioners, and physicians) agree that some of the claims made by alkaline diet advocates are not yet proven by clinical evidence. In fact, there is a significant gap in research that prevents the alkaline diet from being recognized by medical professionals from all fields.

Further, the many rules imposed by this diet can be very hard to follow for some people, which often overshadow the alkaline diet benefits and alienate a large population of individuals looking for solutions to their health ailments.

 

Scientific Research of the Alkaline Diet

In all fairness, the pH levels of the body are significantly more complicated than following a simple diet. As we said above: different body parts have a different pH balance that range anywhere from acidic to basic (“basic” in this case refers to “alkaline” on the pH scale). For example, the stomach is very acidic, while the skin is also more acidic to help prevent harmful bacterial infections.

The main regulators of the pH levels in the body are the kidneys and the lungs. This process is tightly regulated by both organs. If the body’s normal pH levels change quickly or overnight, this usually means that there is an underlying health issue that needs to be treated. Individuals affected by kidney disease, lung dysfunction, and other serious conditions – most of the time will require a medical intervention to keep their pH levels properly balanced. This is done via either a ventilator or dialysis.

Which leads us to the big question: can a change in your eating habits lead to a pH change as well? The answer is no, albeit you may notice a difference in the urine pH (if measured), but that alone won’t tell you your overall pH levels.

 

Alkaline Diet Benefits

Alkaline diet advocates are known for making some bold claims about the diet. But is there any merit to these claims? Let’s examine them one by one.

 

Alkaline Diet for Cancer

Some experts have argued that acidic environments can stimulate cancer cell growth. So, the main assertion is that a diet high in alkaline foods (and low in acidic foods) will introduce a rise in the body’s pH levels and prevent or even battle against cancer.

Note that these experts were referring to studies done in Petri dishes and do not reflect the complex nature of how cancer cells behave in the complexity of the human body. Plus, a dietary change can’t raise or lower the pH of the blood.

Can the Alkaline Diet help cancer patients?

Currently, there is no research that has proven that either a dietary change or a certain food can cure cancer. However, proper nutrition is very important for cancer-affected individuals to feel at their best during their cancer treatment.

This is why it’s very important to talk with your healthcare practitioner before radically changing your diet. This holds true regardless if you are affected by cancer. In fact, different diets work differently for everyone, where your healthcare practitioner or dietician can help you to determine if your new diet will reach your health goals.

 

Alkaline Diet for Weight Loss

One of the major drawbacks of the alkaline diet is that it excludes nutrient-rich foods such as lean proteins, fish, chicken, dairy, legumes, and healthy fats.

However, at the base of the alkaline diet “hides” a fairly reasonable and healthy diet. What do we mean by this? Alkaline diet advocates propose to cut on processed foods, red meat, alcohol, unhealthy fats, sugar, and other unhealthy food choices. If you follow this nutritional plan – but without the accompanied “dogma” behind the alkaline diet – you will eventually experience the benefits of weight loss.

Second, increasing the presence of healthy and fresh foods like fruits and vegetables – and drinking ample amounts of water – will most definitely help you in the goal to lose weight. Meanwhile, you will also experience an improvement in your general health as well.

Third and finally, the weight loss from an alkaline diet will come from the switch to healthier and less processed foods, instead of the alkaline theory itself.

Alkaline Diet for Herpes

For starters, pathogens “prefer” an acidic environment. In fact, an acidic environment is like a breeding ground for both viruses and bacteria. A herpes outbreak (caused by viruses called HSV 1 and HSV 2) can’t survive and multiply in an alkaline environment.

Therefore, some of the best alkaline diet foods to eat – aren’t actually foods to begin with.

Alkaline Water

A wise sage once said: “Not all water stands equal in the eyes of the body.” Before buying bottles of mineral water (if that is your preferred drink), take a look at the official label located on the back of the bottle. You should look for water that is more alkaline on the pH scale. The good thing about alkaline water is that it tastes better than both tap water and the majority of other water brands that are more neutral, again, on the pH scale.

For those who have the extra dollars to spend, you can opt instead for a water ionizer; a more advanced water ionizer will split your tap water into more acidic water which you can feed to plants and alkaline water which you yourself can drink.

Other Drinks

A sure way to introduce a viral outbreak into your body is to drink cola on the regular. Cola has an acidity of 2.5, which means it would take around 32 glasses of alkaline water (pH = 10) to neutralize one cola glass.

Additionally, beer has a pH of 2.5. Hard spirits are also considered very acidic, as are beverages that contain refined sugar or artificial sweeteners as well.

To combat against acidic drinks “the way nature intended”, squeeze few drops of lemon into your water. An interesting fact about lemons is that natural lemon juice is considered very acidic (pH = 2), but once it gets metabolized it becomes alkaline with a pH of 7 and above.

Finally, you can’t go wrong by juicing your own fruit. High alkaline fruit (or fruit that metabolizes into high alkalinity in the body after consumption) includes:

 

Medium alkalinity:

  • Blueberries
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Raisins
  • Avocado
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Lemons
  • Pears
  • Apricots
  • Grapefruit
  • Banana (green)

 

High alkalinity:

  • Strawberries
  • Persimmon
  • Nectarines
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Tangerines
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Papaya
  • Honeydew
  • Limes

Alkaline Foods for Acid Reflux

Acid reflux (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) is a condition where the stomach acid travels back into the esophagus and therefore causing a burning pain in the area around the lower chest. Acid reflux often gets worse after eating spicy foods, lots of fats, and otherwise foods that are hard to digest; however, acid reflux can be also triggered by normal foods or even beverages – depending on the severity of the condition.

The alkaline diet for GERD can be used to regulate your stomach’s acidity. In fact, you can use this diet to your advantage to shed off some of that extra weight and help your stomach do its job better, faster, and without pain.

Now, each of the foods mentioned in the table above has their own pH index. You don’t have to remember the exact pH value of each food in the table, but it’s important to remember whether that food is acidic, neutral, or alkaline. This will help to make a better food selection (for treating or neutralizing acid reflux) in the long run.

That isn’t to say that you should avoid acidic foods altogether; rather, you can enjoy them from time to time as long as you’re consuming those foods in moderate amounts. On the other hand, there are certain foods that need to be avoided at all cost:

Mint and chocolate – both foods relax a muscle located at the base of the esophagus. Once this muscle becomes relaxed, it allows stomach acid to go up the esophagus and interfere with the throat, which often leads to irritated vocal cords.

Tomatoes, coffee, hot spices, and alcohol – one thing these foods have in common is that they increase your stomach’s acidity to a point where the acid reverts back and escapes up the esophagus.
Processed foods, fried foods, dairy, and citrus fruits – citrus fruits are acidic, while fried and processed foods are unhealthy regardless of how you look at them. Avoid these foods at all cost – even if you’re not affected by acid reflux.

The best foods from an alkaline diet meal plan that go in favor of healing acid reflux are as follows:

  • Non-dairy milk: including coconut, soy, cashew, almond milk, and more
  • Grain: whole grain is the safest bet
  • Protein: opt for plant protein and only consume meat protein if absolutely necessary
  • Fruit: everything except citrus fruits; you can juice, blend, or go for some fresh fruit in a bowl. Avoid frozen fruit, as those tend to have less healthy properties than their fresh counterparts
  • Vegetable: everything except tomatoes; again, go for fresh vegetables whenever possible
  • Fats: go for plant-based fats like coconut oil and olive oil
  • Beverages: water (the more alkaline the better), homemade juice from fresh fruit, and organic tea

 

Alkaline Diet for Arthritis

Alkaline diet advocates claim that both rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) are caused by excessive pH acidity in the body. RA and OA are characterized by joint pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility all throughout the body. To alleviate the symptoms of these chronic conditions, the alkaline diet excludes a number of foods such as red meat, sugar, coffee, citrus fruits, and more from the diet.

Currently, all of this is based on anecdotal evidence as there are no scientific studies to back up these claims regarding the alkaline diet and arthritis.

 

Alkaline Diet for Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition where the body either:

CAN’T produce enough insulin
CAN produce insulin, but is insulin resistant

Further, the body uses sugars, protein, and fats to produce energy, with it mostly being run on sugar or glucose. When the body can’t properly metabolize glucose, it turns to fat for energy. Metabolizing fat for energy results in byproducts called ketones, which are poisonous for the body in large amounts.

In addition, ketones circulate in the urine and blood and are considered acidic or acids. If individuals aren’t treated for excessive ketones in the blood, this can lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). If left unchecked even after the initial diagnosis, DKA can often lead to coma and even death.

This is where an alkaline diet comes into play.

Alkaline diet proponents believe that alkaline foods and beverages can help lower the acidity caused by ketone bodies in the urine and blood. As it turns out – this assertion holds at least some merit in the eyes of anecdotal science. But let us preface that by noting that there are no actual clinical studies that prove causality between the alkaline diet and improvements in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes as-is.

That doesn’t mean however that an alkaline diet is bad for people affected by this condition.

Right off the bat, let’s say that alkaline foods and beverages cannot treat DKA if ketone bodies are already present in the urine and blood (in that case, it would be best to visit an emergency room to receive DKA treatment). Rather, foods with base pH help to prevent or delay DKA if a risk is being present.

For example, a member of our HumanN content staff – who is also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – had a positive experience regarding consuming alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 for several months in a row. This helped them to eliminate two fairly large kidney stones present in two of their kidneys without discomfort or any kind of pain. Again, the correlation is strong, but this is in no case definitive evidence about the positive correlation between the alkaline diet and effective diabetes treatment, so you should take that with an open but skeptical mind.

Finally, for people affected by diabetes (type 1 and 2), their best bet is to follow their endocrinologist’s advice and tread carefully when introducing new foods into their nutritional plan.

 

Alkaline Diet for Gout

A recent study by A. Kanbara et al. examined the effects of urine pH changes in regards to clearing excess uric acid in the body. [2]

Here are more details about the study.

As most of us know, diets that contain more protein tend to produce higher uric acid blood levels. In turn, alkaline diets (rich in fruits and vegetables) produce less of this substance in the blood. The study had several university students eat either of these two diets (high in protein vs high in alkaline foods) over the course of five days. Students who were assigned the alkaline diet had their urine pH stabilize at 6.7, while those who had the more “acidic diet” – ended up at 5.9 urine pH levels instead.

Secondly, the end of the study saw the students having a significant uric acid blood level change: those students having the acid diet had higher uric acid blood levels and lower uric acid urine levels, while those students on the alkaline diet had lower uric acid blood levels and higher uric acid urine levels compared to the first group.

The data looks like this:

 

Uric Acid Levels (pH)
Alkaline Diet 6.7
Acidic Diet  5.7

 

From this table, we can see that those students on an alkaline diet had higher amounts of uric acid removed from the blood by way of excretion through their urine (compared to the acidic diet, which had lower amounts of uric acid removed from the blood via urine).

This is very important for people with gout since one risk factor for gout is high uric acid blood levels – also known as hyperuricemia. In fact, hyperuricemia is also associated with cancer even if gout symptoms aren’t present. Therefore, introducing more fruits and vegetables into your diet is an effective way of lowering your uric acid blood levels and preventing gout dead in its tracks.

 

Alkaline Diet for Fertility

As previously said, our blood is slightly alkaline (7.35-7.45 pH). Further, we’ve also seen that eating predominantly acidic foods can increase uric acid levels in the blood, as well as decrease the pH of the urine as well. This can somewhat throw the natural pH levels of the body out of whack – in turn negatively affecting fertility.

If women eat predominantly acidic foods, this can result in increasing the acidity of the cervical mucus, which in turn makes a hostile environment for sperm cells. With that being said, there is the notion that eating alkaline foods can significantly improve your fertility – despite lacking clear-cut scientific evidence. [3]

 

Alkaline Diet for Eczema

Again, the correlation between eating more alkaline foods and relieving eczema is unclear. However, there is an interesting hypothesis that suggests just that.

Back in 1950, alkalization was a very effective method of eliminating the so-called salicylates from the body. To that end, sensitivity to salicylates is one of the more common conditions that eczema-affected people have.

But, how does that help to relieve eczema or eczema pain?

To draw a parallel, medical staff at hospitals used alkalization to help with salicylate poisoning (mostly from aspirin overdose, since aspirin is comprised of salicylates). So, when the urine pH exceeds 7.5, more salicylates are excreted through the urine.

What does this have to do with eczema?

If you are an eczema-affected person or suffer from extra salicylate sensitivity, then eating more alkaline foods will temporarily increase your salicylate tolerance and you will become more resilient from experiencing the symptoms of both conditions.

In addition, eczema is also considered an acid-forming condition (brought on by excess inflammation); so, keeping your urine pH neutral or alkaline will help to reduce the itch that eczema is known for causing. However, you should also watch out to prevent over-alkalizing because of a condition known as alkalosis. Alkalosis can lead to lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, hand tremor, muscle spasms, and more.

 

Alkaline Diet for Psoriasis

Both psoriasis and eczema are similar conditions that mainly affect the skin. On the other hand, we mentioned that the liver and kidneys work to eliminate toxins from the body. These toxins are predominantly acidic. In the case when these toxins build up in the body to the point of overwhelming it with acidity, these two organs work in unison to neutralize the toxins by using the so-called alkaline reserves kept in your body. Over time, these alkaline reserves get depleted.

Further, if such a condition continues for a prolonged period of time (toxin buildup), then there will come a point in time when both organs would not be able to eliminate the acidic toxins at the rate that they are being produced.

In turn, this state of events would deplete some alkaline minerals like potassium, sodium, and calcium – taking them straight from the bones. If and when this happens, your bones will start to slowly deteriorate, leading to serious health conditions like joint pain, arthritis, and more.

At this point in time, your body will try to eliminate these toxins from the skin, which is the basis of the forming of psoriasis flakes. Here it becomes very clear that psoriasis and arthritic psoriasis have a strong correlation with the body’s pH levels.

Additional health issues that psoriasis patients may experience include:

  • Increased inflammation
  • Overload organs with acidic toxins
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Other skin conditions (eczema)

How an Alkaline Diet Helps Psoriasis

Since we determined that the primary reason of an acid-alkaline imbalance in the body is your preferred choices of food, we can safely assert that one of the most effective ways of introducing a new pH balance is to shift from an acidic to a predominantly alkaline diet (we know that we’re saying this a lot, but details are very important insofar the different health conditions are concerned).

Before we get into that, however, we should also note that people’s eating habits – especially in recent times – have shifted from consuming whole nutritious foods to consuming what are the most convenient, ready-to-eat edibles (like fast food). This is mainly because modern life, especially western modern life, requires always being on the go, always being productive, and never stopping to take both a mental and a physical break.

But that’s just the way western societies work, except if you stubbornly decide to “go against the grain”.

Anyhow, eating food leads to metabolizing said food (metabolizing is just a scientific term for processing) that exerts either an alkaline or an acidic effect on our pH. This is why it’s very important to categorize certain foods as acidic, alkaline, or balanced.

But, since there are many foods out there and our memory is just good enough to remember a small number of them – it’s important to keep a list somewhere in handy as it is. Here’s what to avoid:

  • Refined flour junk food (burgers, pizza, hot dog, white bread)
  • Pastry and bakeries
  • Sugar-filled soft drinks and other carbonated beverages
  • Fried Rice

All of these edibles have something in common: they contain high amounts of salt, artificially added sugar, and saturated fats that are just bad for you – regardless of psoriasis – on multiple health levels. Avoid them at all cost.

If you want to take your diet to the next level however, here’s a revised alkaline diet guide to serve you in your endeavor of becoming healthy and eventually rid of psoriasis for good (note: always consult your physician before attempting a dietary change; we do not offer a substitute to any medical advice provided by healthcare professionals):

alkaline food chart

 

 

From this comprehensive alkaline diet food list, we can clearly see that not all vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy are created equal (i.e. they don’t have the same pH regardless if they belong in the same food family or not). With that being said, here are some interesting alkaline diet recipes you can do at the convenience of your own home.

Alkaline Diet Recipes

alkaline diet 3

Cinnamon Apple Quinoa for Breakfast

This dish is a healthy, gluten-free option for a perfect start to your day. It contains ample amounts of fiber and proteins to keep you full up until lunch.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of quinoa seeds
  • 2 medium-sized to large apples
  • Water
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • Honey or another sweetener to taste (you can exclude this ingredient if you feel like honey will add too much acidity in this recipe).

Directions: peel both apples. Chop the apples into bite-sized chunks. Add quinoa, apples, and water to a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, cover pan, and reduce to simmer for 22-25 minutes or until apples become soft and quinoa absorbs the water. Add cinnamon, stir, and move mixture to two smaller bowls. Add sweetener and sprinkle additional cinnamon to taste.

Your breakfast is ready to be served!

 

Coconut Chia Pudding

This is a great snack best consumed in-between two bigger meals.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of chia seeds (or more if needed)
  • Sweetener to preference and taste
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • Raspberries, or strawberries to top

How to make: add coconut milk, vanilla extract, and sweetener to taste in a large bowl. Whisk in chia seeds to bowl. Avoid pouring them in quickly to prevent clumps. Stir every so often in the first 10 minutes, then put the mixture in a refrigerator. Leave the mixture to thicken anywhere from 3 hours to several days. When ready, divide the recipe into 3 smaller bowls, and garnish with berries.

Note: if the mixture doesn’t thicken after adding the chia seeds, add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds until it begins to thicken.

 

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quinoa Bowl

Ingredients:

  • Roasted sweet potato – 1 sweet potato (large), 1 tablespoon of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of chili powder, ¼ teaspoon of cumin, salt
  • Quinoa – ¾ cup of quinoa seeds, water, salt, ½ teaspoon of chili powder, ½ teaspoon of cumin, garlic powder, lime juice, 2 tablespoons of coriander
  • Coriander cream – Greek yogurt, coriander (chopped), sweetener to taste, lime juice, salt, garlic powder, and chili powder
  • Other – 1 cup of black beans, coriander for garnish

How to make:

Roasted sweet potato – preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a bakery sheet with foil and spray it with a cooking spray. Add the potatoes, olive oil, and spices into a bowl and mix well. Lay out the garnished potatoes evenly on the bakery sheet and roast for about 15 minutes until tender.

Quinoa – wash, rinse, and drain the quinoa seeds thoroughly. Add them into a saucepan together with the water and salt. Bring them to a boil, then cover the pan with a lid and bring to a simmer (medium-low heat). Cook for about 15 minutes or until all of the liquid becomes absorbed. Remove it from the heat and season the mix with the remaining salt, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, lime juice, and coriander.

Coriander cream – add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quinoa Bowl – divide the quinoa seeds mixture into 3 serving bowls. Toss in the black beans and the roasted sweet potato in the bowls. Add the coriander cream on top to taste.

 

Conclusion

Based on the available evidence, it’s likely that the health benefits of an Alkaline Diet aren’t the result of altering the body’s ph balance. Instead, because this diet recommends eating lots of fruit and fresh vegetables, the associated benefits are more likely due to a healthy diet that limits processed foods, sugars, and alcohol, and other fare that is common in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Plus, we know that plant-based diets can contain a broad spectrum of nutrients that may help lower your risk of health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, weight problems, kidney disease, and more.

Note: always consult with your healthcare practitioner before changing your meal plans, and cease the new diet immediately if side effects arise. This is not a substitution for certified medical advice.

Summary:

The alkaline diet is not proven by science and we know that the alkaline-forming foods have little to no impact on the body’s tightly-controlled acid-base balance. Following the diet may have health benefits, just not for the reasons you think.

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