Does an alkaline diet promote health?
Proponents of this diet claim that an alkaline diet is a cure for a wide range of diseases, ranging from bone health to heart disease to even cancer.
What is meant by alkaline diet?
Simply put, eating a diet that produces a more alkaline or base pH in the body’s systems is more conducive to health and helps to prevent disease and a diet that produces a more acidic pH in the body’s systems is likely to promote a disease state.
This means that, the diet that one eats can alter the PH or the measurement of alkalinity or acidity, of one’s body. In the body, during the process of metabolism, (which can be compared to burning of food) during which food is converted to energy, some metabolic waste or ash is left behind. This metabolic waste can be acidic or alkaline also known as alkaline ash or acid ash. This can change the acid-alkaline balance in the body and affect the health.
The main point to be considered here is that the acid-alkaline balance is not of blood. As the pH of blood is strictly maintained at 7.4, by the lungs and the kidney. The lungs and kidney keep a tight control on the pH as even a slight change in the blood pH can be life-threatening. It is more about what the body has to do in order to maintain the blood’s pH at the required levels. The basis of this proposition is that, what a person eats effects how much compensating the body has to do in response to that meal, in order to maintain the blood’s pH at 7.4.
The other main point to be considered here is the composition of the food versus the effect it produces in the body, for example all citrus fruits are acidic, but once inside the body they promote alkalinity. What actually affects is the fact that how much acid has to be excreted by the kidneys in urine in order to maintain the acid-alkaline balance in the body.
Hence, the foods can be categorized as acidic or alkaline on the basis of how much acid has to be excreted in urine in order to maintain the required blood pH. So, alkaline foods such as fruits and vegetables have a negative acid load, while grains, meat, dairy foods, fish, sodas and alcoholic drinks exert a positive acidic load on the body.
More than the specific foods eating patterns exert a greater affect, and it is best to combine acid and alkali foods. Hence, if vegetables and fruits are mixed with more acid forming foods such and meat and poultry, the effect of the meal would be neutral rather than acidic or alkaline.
It is also important here to note that different systems in the body maintain a different pH, as the Ph of each system has specific function. The stomach, for example, maintains an acidic pH (between 1.2 to 3.0) in order to break down proteins and to kill microbes ingested with food. A slightly alkaline environment inside the body cells is more conducive for the chemical reactions taking place inside the cells and improves cellular function.
In order to maintain the PH balance, some of the organ systems may have to support other systems. For example the bones have an alkaline reservoir in the form of calcium and magnesium and if at times the pH of the blood becomes acidic due to the acidic dietary load, the kidneys may signal the release of alkaline calcium and magnesium from the bones in order to neutralize the acid in blood. This may cause low calcium concentration in bones, if acidic meals are consumed over long periods of time.
To conclude diets low in potassium, magnesium, bicarbonate and high in sodium and chloride are more acid forming. These diets will be low in whole grains, vegetables and fruits and high in proteins, refined grains and dairy products. Keeping in view the ongoing researches and confusing updates from various sources, the nutrition experts need to plan diets keeping in mind the acid-alkaline balance in mind, in order to promote good health.