Some Basic Advice: The Alkaline Diet

Dr. Christopher McGowan
March 11, 2022

Promises of better health from what you eat will always get attention. Claims that easy changes in diet can be powerful against diseases as scary as cancer certainly fit the bill. Proponents of the alkaline diet, also known as the acid alkaline diet or alkaline ash diet, claim just this: that changing your body’s pH can have striking health benefits against a range of diseases from cancer to osteoporosis. 

Like all diet claims, you should do your research to get the full picture of the medical science behind the claims. Since many high alkaline foods are found in healthy food groups like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, you are not likely to do yourself any damage by eating an alkaline ash diet. If you do start on an alkaline diet plan, it is important to understand there is only limited scientific evidence to support some of the more audacious claims surrounding this diet. 

What is the Alkaline Diet?

The fluids in your body all rest somewhere on the pH scale in the categories of acidic, neutral, or alkaline. Proponents of the alkaline diet suggest that consuming acid producing foods and drinks such as proteins, some carbs, and alcohol will lead to a high dietary acid load. Neutral foods include natural fats, sugars, and starches, but it is the alkaline producing foods such as veggies, nuts, and fruits that this diet focuses on. 

All foods produce metabolic waste when they are broken down during digestion, and these waste products can be alkaline or acidic depending on the type of food in question. The rationale behind the alkaline diet is that the levels of these different metabolic wastes can help change the overall pH balance of your body, thus making it harder or easier for cancer cells to grow or changing the conditions for good bone health as you age. 

According to advocates of the alkaline diet, everything from better bone health to preventing the growth of cancer cells can be achieved through eating a diet high in alkaline-forming foods. Some healthcare professionals caution against putting too much confidence in the claims of the alkaline diet, though, as your body works very hard to maintain the pH of your blood, and while the food you eat can change the pH levels of your urine and gut, it has little effect on the pH of your blood. 

Nearly every diet has the possibility of becoming unhealthy if you take it too far, and that is certainly the case for the acidic-ash diet. Levels of acidity are not uniform throughout the body and maintaining proper blood pH levels is essential to your health. While what you eat does not directly affect alkaline levels in your blood, it does affect your gut health and other fluids in the body.

What you eat affects the pH of your urine, but that is a byproduct of your body trying to maintain a healthy blood pH. As such, measuring your urine pH is not necessarily a reliable indicator of your overall health. Eating acidic foods like a high-protein steak can cause an acidic environment that will require you to excrete more acid in your urine to maintain the careful pH balance the human body needs to function well. 

What Can You Eat on the Alkaline Diet?

The alkaline diet is far from the most restrictive diet in the world, and happily coffee and wine are still on the menu. Unlike other diets, there are typically no restrictions on the time of day when you can eat certain foods. Broadly speaking the foods allowed on an alkaline diet include:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • lemon and lime juice
  • some seeds and nuts

What Foods Should I Avoid on an Alkaline Diet?

The alkaline diet is less restrictive than some diets, but if you are going to stick to it, there are certainly foods you will want to avoid. Most natural protein sources result in acidic metabolic waste, which puts them off-limits if you are aiming for an alkaline diet. Some foods regarded as healthy in other diets are not on the nice list for an alkaline diet including lentils, plain yogurt, walnuts, and even brown rice.

A high-level list of prohibited foods includes:

  • meat
  • fish
  • poultry
  • eggs
  • processed foods
  • many grains

The Alkaline Diet and Osteoporosis

In addition to supposedly reducing your cancer risk, one area where the acid-base balance has gotten a lot of press is among those people who suffer from osteoporosis. According to proponents of this theory, the standard American diet contains too many acid-forming foods, which lends to poor bone health. 

When it comes to keeping strong bones as you age, there is more to the picture than just this acid-base balance in your blood. It is true that you need calcium to build and maintain strong bones, but keeping your bones strong through the years means providing your body with the nutrients needed to process calcium, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamin K.

Bone health also demands a sufficient intake of protein. This is even more important when you factor in exercise. Strength training has been shown to have a positive effect in fending off osteoporosis, and keeping up with a workout routine means you will need to be giving your body enough protein to keep up with the damage you are doing to your muscles. While this does not mean you need to eat meat, it means you will need to be conscious of where you are getting your protein if you are sticking with a strictly vegetarian diet. 

The Alkaline Diet and Weight Loss

Healthy eating combined with physical activity is going to be the best recipe for weight loss, prevention of heart disease, and overall health as you age. Even conditions like osteoporosis have been shown to be less severe in people who eat well and exercise regularly. That is why public health officials are more likely to recommend regular exercise and a balanced diet rather than specific meal plans that try to move your body on the pH scale. 

The health claims of many different diets can be attractive, especially if you know you are living with risk factors for heart disease, kidney stones, or even chronic weight gain. Trying to eat a diet full of the healthy foods your body needs is always the first step in taking care of your body, but sometimes you need to do more to ensure your long-term health goals. 

This can be particularly true in weight loss. People trying to lose a large amount of their excess body weight may find that diet and exercise are trickier than expected. Consulting with a dietitian or nutritionist can help iron out some of the wrinkles in a diet plan and help you make real gains toward weight loss goals. 

Sometimes even programs like medical nutrition therapy are not enough to get the results you need. In these cases, gastric balloons or even procedures like endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty can be more effective in helping you lose large amounts of body weight. 

If you are interested in learning more about your weight loss options, request a consultation with True You Weight Loss today. We have the tools, techniques, and support you need to achieve the freedom you have been seeking from excess body weight.

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan

Dr. Christopher McGowan, MD, a leader in endobariatrics, specializes in non-surgical obesity treatments and is triple-board-certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Obesity Medicine. Renowned for pioneering endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) with over 2,000 procedures, his global influence and research contributions define him as a top expert.

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