Why the “alkaline pH diet” is a lie …

Yep, you read correctly.

Whatever magazines, blog posts or books you have read about “alkalizing your blood’s pH” or whoever tells you that “citrus fruits, coffee and pineapples cause your blood to be too acidic which increases your risk of cancer” are completely wrong.

Alkaline water? Kangan water?
These are marketing hoaxes looking to prey on the wallets of vulnerable people who are trying to do the right thing and become healthier.

This topic is close to my heart as I have been victim to this diet’s misleading claims. In 2014 my beautiful dad was diagnosed with Lymphoma. A cancer diagnosis can make people feel like they have lost power over their bodies and their loved ones can also feel helpless. Adopting a new diet can help restore a sense of control. The weekend my dad received his first round of chemotheraphy I remember rushing to the organic markets and spending >$300 on “alkaline” fruit and vegetables to take to him – in hopes of helping get the best possible outcomes from his treatment. I had just read a blog post on the “alkaline pH diet for cancer sufferers”.

Then, as my education about physiology deepened, and I was offered the truth.
Now I’m here to share it with you.

The truth is that nothing you eat can change your blood’s acidity. This is a fact. Not just my opinion.

According to the “alkaline pH diet” theory we need to consume more alkaline foods (as opposed to acidic foods) to “alkalise our blood”. The diet suggests that an acidic blood pH (below about 7.4) will make us vulnerable to everything from osteoporosis to cancer.

YES – it is true that different foods leave a kind of “ash” in our bodies. This ash can contain either; acid forming components including – sulfur and phosphate OR alkalis forming components such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. Animal products and grains are acid forming and fruits and vegetables are alkali forming.

YES – it is true that the foods we eat change the pH of our urine. So, if you have a fresh juice and some fruit for breakfast and then you urinate a few hours later your urine will be more alkaline (if you test it on a pH strip). If you have a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich) on the other hand, your urine will be more acidic.

BUT your urine’s pH is NOT an indicator of the overall pH of your body.
All you are really doing by only eating alkaline foods is making your urine alkaline. The pH of your urine is not relevant to your blood’s pH – it is in your bladder, waiting to be excreted. Some might suggest that this is why the diet is so popular – people can literally see the results for themselves with an “at home pH strip test” (even if the results have no physiological applicability).

The body TIGHTLY regulates the pH of our blood and extracellular fluid because all the important processes that occur inside of us will only do so in a very narrow pH range. It is that important.

In fact, the whole “idea” of this diet is just plain insulting to 2 of the most important organs of our bodies – the kidneys!

One of the main functions of the kidneys is maintaining pH blood balance. The kidneys will change the acidity of your urine in order to keep the blood at a constant neutral pH of ~ 7.4. Your body will sacrifice ALMOST ANYTHING to keep your pH neutral.When we digest things like protein, the acids produced are quickly buffered by bicarbonate ions in the blood. This reaction creates carbon dioxide (which we exhale through our lungs) and salts (which we excrete through our the kidneys).

There are some awful health circumstances where the body looses homeostatic mechanisms and the blood becomes more acidic than it should be. This has serious, life threatening consequences. This state of acidosis is caused by pathological conditions like chronic renal insufficiency, NOT by whether you choose to eat a salad or a pizza for dinner one night.

Robert Young, the man who wrote “pH Miracle Living” – the main book that kickstarted the alkaline pH diet craze was recently convicted on 2 counts of practising without a medical license. He said his practices could “neutralise alkaline and acidity in the bloodstream and cure cancer”. Prosecutors argued that Young defrauded patients who came to his ranch for expensive treatments. They also accused him of personally administering IV’s of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda!) to at least six terminally ill cancer patients. Young has a doctorate degree in nutrition from a non-accredited correspondence school in Alabama. During his time at the University of Utah in the 1970s, he took just one biology course. He did not graduate from the school.

Science-based medicine recognises the complexity of disease and should not be overlooked. It saved my dad’s life and I will forever be in its favour. I also have high respect for those individuals who dedicate their lives to finding treatments for such diseases.

And no, this post is not an attack on alternative medicine, because the “alkaline pH diet” idea doesn’t even sit under its umbrella.

Instead of worrying about the pH of our urine (which is COMPLETELY irrelevant to our bloods pH), lets work on eating a wider array of whole foods that grow in the ground.

I hope this post has showed you that you don’t need to be scared or careful about the types of fruits/veggies/grains and other healthy foods you are eating! They are ALL so wonderful.

Images sourced via pinterest. Authors unknown. 

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