As we continue our new diet trend series, we take a look at “Diet #3” that was covered at the 9th Annual Nutrition and Health Conference, held in Boston, MA, and outlined by Benjamin Kligler, MD, MPH: The Alkaline Diet.
Often associated with kidney disease, the alkaline diet is growing in popularity in other “health” areas as well. The idea is that over time, our bodies become highly acidic due to certain foods we eat. The acid continues building up and negatively impacting our pH levels until eventually there is much more acid in our systems compared to alkaline, which lies on the other end of the pH spectrum.
This imbalance can lead to a multitude of side effects and symptoms, such as lack of energy, enthusiasm and drive, constant headaches, joint pain, ulcers, gastrointestinal diseases, and frequent recurring throat infections. Even something as simple as gingivitis can be rooted in such an imbalance. Fortunately, alkaline diets exist to right this wrong.
The pH Scale
But before we go any further, let’s talk a little about the pH scale. If you can recall from your seventh grade science class, this scale goes from 0 to 14 with the middle value of 7 considered neutral because it’s, well, in the middle. Anything below 7 is considered acidic, and anything over it is alkaline. Now, an important thing to realize is that just because a food is acidic in taste does not necessarily mean it is acidic forming, which is what causes the build-up we mentioned earlier. For example, even though lemons and vinegar seem like they would be highly acidic (because they definitely taste acidic!), they are actually alkaline forming.
Acidic vs. Alkaline Foods
So what foods are actually alkaline? It might easier to remember which foods are acidic – any type of meat, eggs, soda, beer, pastries or junk food, fish, bread, and dairy products. On the other hand, foods thought to have alkalinizing properties include low-sugar citrus fruits, vegetables, tubers, root vegetables, nuts and legumes.
You can build an alkaline diet that is specific to your needs by changing the acid/alkaline percentage. For example, if your body is highly acidic, an 80/20 diet is recommended; meaning that your foods should be at least 80 percent alkaline and only 20 percent acidic. Once the pH levels begin to normalize, you can opt for a regulatory diet of 60/20. Many alkaline dieters prefer to maintain a 70/30 meal plan to avoid changing foods too often, and this is quite alright. Everyone is different, and what may work for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa.
Our bodies should normally have a pH level between 7.35 and 7.45. When it dips into the low end of the pH scale, the high acid levels could potentially harm organs and tissue. Leaving your body in an acidic state can lead to a condition known as metabolic acidosis, which can lead to diabetes, severe kidney failure, or osteoporosis if left untreated. On the other hand, you can have too much of a good thing, and in this case having alkaline levels too high for too long could lead to a condition known as metabolic alkalosis, which can cause slowed breathing, sleep apnea, cyanosis, nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeats, and confusion.
As with any diet, consult your physician before starting.
Kligler, M.D., M.P.H., Benjamin. "pH (Alkaline) Diet” 9th Annual Nutrition and Health Conference. Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, Boston, MA. 16 April 2012.
"The Alkaline Diet." AcidAlkalineDiet.com. Web. 3 June 2012. <http://www.acidalkalinediet.com/Alkaline-Foods-Chart.htm>.
"Alkaline Diet Truth." HeartFeltFoods.com. Web. 2 June 2012. <http://www.heartfeltfoods.com/alkaline-diet/>.