Health Benefits of an Alkaline Diet and How to Alkalize Your Body
One of the popular diets nowadays is the alkaline diet. Many people who have tried this diet and made it a regular part of their lifestyle claim to have better health. Is it true? How does it work? Can the alkaline diet do the same for anybody else?
What is an Alkaline Diet?
With the alkaline diet, foods are grouped into two -- the acidic and alkaline. A particular food is classified into each group depending on its potential renal acid load or PRAL value. This value is calculated based on a certain formula which allows the prediction of the effect of foods on the acidity or alkalinity of urine.
Acidic foods with high potential renal acid load include grain products, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. Alkaline foods with low potential renal acid load include vegetables, fruits, fruit juices and potatoes. People are encouraged to eat more of the alkaline foods, which are found to be more helpful in keeping the body's urine pH levels at the right levels.
Drinking lots of water is also recommended as it is neutral in acidity with a pH of 7. Generally, foods with a higher number than 7 are alkaline, while anything that is lower than 7 is considered acidic.
What is the Principle Behind the Alkaline Diet?
Those who teach about the alkaline diet claim that the basic principle behind it is the need for the human body to maintain a controlled pH level in the different organs. (Refer to the table below regarding the pH levels in the different organs of the body). They say this is important for the efficient functioning of the body.
The body in itself is very good at maintaining the proper pH balance. The problem is that certain factors, such as the type of food we eat and our lifestyle, can contribute to making it difficult for the body to maintain the appropriate pH level. Not particularly the blood pH, as many say, but the urine pH, according to this published article in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health. This condition is especially true with the aged because the acid-base regulatory function of the kidney declines as one grows old.
pH Level in Different Parts of the Body
Organ or fluid
1.35 to 3.5
Breakdown of protein
4.0 to 6.5
Protective barrier against microbes
Limit overgrowth of microbes
7.35 to 7.4
4.6 to 8.0
Limit overgrowth of microbes
6.0 to 7.2
Acid production in cells
Bathes the exterior of the brain
What are the Benefits of an Alkaline Diet?
It has always been known that eating fruits and vegetables is healthy for the body. Since such nutrient rich foods are recommended by the alkaline diet, there's no doubt that those who follow it will reap its health benefits.
The alkaline diet has many health benefits which are mentioned in more specific details below:
1. Lower risk of kidney stones and other related problems
Intake of foods with high acid load causes the release of uric acid, calcium, and its salts - phosphates and carbonates into the urine. On the one hand, the release of the salts is a good attempt of the kidney to keep urine pH levels normal and prevent acidosis.
On the other hand, this has the potential to increase the risk for kidney stones as well as arthritis, gout and other uric acid-related problems. Some attribute calcium and bone loss to this occurrence as well, but studies do not totally support this concept as explained in the video below.
By having an alkaline diet, this change in urine chemistry is avoided and so decreases the risk for kidney problems.
Do highly acidic foods really cause bone loss?
2. Increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy
Chemotherapeutic agents are found to be more effective with alkalosis. So, alkalizing the body of cancer patients may help them respond better to treatment. This does not prove, however, that alkaline foods or supplements prevent cancer.
3. Helps relieve back pain
Studies show that alkaline mineral supplements increase the availability of intracellular magnesium. Magnesium is necessary for the activation of vitamin D, which results in the relief of back pain. If you suffer from back pain, then eat more Magnesium-rich alkaline foods, such as vegetables, nuts and beans, which help produce the same relief from back pain.
4. Increases growth hormone levels in post-menopausal women
Correcting acidosis in post-menopausal women increases growth hormone levels. This results in many health benefits including improved memory and cognition and lower cardiovascular risk. Therefore, eat more alkalizing foods to address acidosis.
5. Increases muscle efficiency
Alkalizing foods are beneficial for athletes and for anyone doing any form of exercise. High-acid foods reduce muscle efficiency. This means the body works extra hard during a race or intense activity.
Alkaline-forming foods help reduce inflammation and this allow the muscles to work at more functional levels. So, athletes who run marathons are able to push harder, longer and bodybuilders are able to lift heavier weights with less negative stress on the body.
How to Alkalize Your Body?
Increasing the alkaline intake does not mean cutting acidic foods entirely from your diet. You do not have to eliminate rice, dairy products and all animal protein sources completely, knowing that they also help the body in some way.
While the alkaline diet recommends a ratio of 80-20, where 80% is from alkaline food sources and 20% from acidic foods, a person is free to flip that ratio around.
For the sake of simplicity and for those who want to incorporate alkalizing foods into their daily food intake, here are three diet changes that can be made quickly and easily.
1. Take green tea instead of coffee.
Green tea is alkaline whereas coffee is acidic. A simple substitution can make a significant impact already, particularly if you drink coffee quite often.
2. Eat more alkaline vegetables.
The best choices of alkalizing vegetables are broccoli, celery, cauliflower, chard greens, collard greens, mushrooms and cucumber. Eating these foods will help fight stress, and provide highly nutrient dense food for you!
3. Eat more alkaline fruits.
Lemons, melons, oranges, peaches, bananas, pears, berries, grapes and apples are some of the best alkalizing fruits. Eat these freely.
4. Go low on sodium.
Taking too much of this salt is detrimental on our health, so use with moderation.
If you value your health, it probably won't hurt if you try to eat more alkaline foods. It may not include all your favorite foods, but it can help you get better and healthier.