What's an alkaline diet?

  • Living
  • Saturday, 25 Jan 2014

The Internet is rife with information about the alkaline diet. What’s truth and what’s hype?

IN recent years, more people have been paying attention to their diet, with the realisation that many diseases stem from an unhealthy diet. Many people are also resorting to dietary controls to manage conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and others.

Some follow age-old dietary habits passed down from generation to generation to prevent disease or slow down the ageing process, such as the use of medicinal herbs and spices. Others decide to go vegetarian, organic or vegan.

One of the diets that have been getting a lot of interest recently is the Alkaline Diet. This diet plan basically promotes the eating of more alkaline foods, with the belief that acidic foods cause the blood to turn “acidic”.

This, in turn, purportedly creates a state known as “acidosis”, which is a precursor to conditions such as cancer, osteoporosis, kidney and back problems, and others.

The danger is that a lot of information online does not give a complete picture of the alkaline diet. Many websites refer to the alkaline diet in general, mainly to sell or promote their products or supplements.

So, if you’ve heard a lot about the alkaline diet and would like to try it to improve your health, here is what you need to know.

Understanding body pH

pH is the abbreviation for “potential hydrogen”, which refers to a substance’s ability to attract hydrogen ions. Basically, pH describes the acid-alkaline levels of a substance. pH 0 is absolute acidity, while pH 14 is absolute alkalinity, while pH 7 is neutral.

Our bodies have different pH levels in different tissues in order to fulfil specific roles. The stomach, with a pH level ranging from 1.35 to 3.5, is highly acidic for digestion purposes. Similarly, the skin is also slightly acidic, at a pH 5-6, while the female genitalia has pH levels of 3-4 to discourage bacteria growth.

Our blood, however, needs to be more alkaline, at pH 7-8 in order to flow smoothly. Most of the time, our blood pH is tightly regulated at 7.35-7.45, a slightly alkaline level.

How does the alkaline diet work?

The alkaline diet consists mainly of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as green leafy vegetables, citruses, soy products, certain nuts, seaweed, mushrooms, grains and legumes.

On the other end of the spectrum are acidic foods, such as meat, fish, dairy products, white sugar, processed foods, chocolate, pastries, pickled foods, white flour, and caffeine or carbonated drinks.

Most disease and health problems today are the result of an overly acidic diet. When our diet is too acidic, the body reacts by neutralising the phosphate buffering system. As 85% of the system comes from our calcium phosphate reserves, a high-acid diet depletes our calcium, weakening teeth and bones.

Not only that, this buffer system creates free radicals as its by-products. Free radicals are the cause of inflammation, which can happen at any part of the body. Inflammation in any form causes pain, whether back pain, arthritis, joint pain or muscle pain.

Common sense also tells you that the alkaline diet works simply because it is a generally healthy diet anyway. Reducing meat intake, for example, lowers the pH of the urine, which reduces the risk of kidney stones.

In the same way, a high-fibre diet, which is what the alkaline diet provides, can lower rates of colon cancer. It also provides a diverse range of vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients that are essential for good health, without affecting the body’s pH level.

As with any dietary plan, food choices alone will not make one any healthier. Exercise and abstaining from alcohol and smoking must be included in order for one to enjoy good health and vitality.

Red flags

Although most fruits are alkaline when eaten by themselves, some fruits can have an acidic effect when eaten together, such as oranges and bananas. This is because oranges, which are usually digested within an hour of consumption, take longer to digest when eaten with bananas, which take three hours to digest.

In such cases, the orange undergoes a fermentation process instead, creating toxins and acidic substances in the body. As such, the correct food combination needs to be taken into consideration when you want to embark on an alkaline diet.

Patients with kidney disease or medical conditions such as diabetes should also consult a doctor first before going on an alkaline diet or any sort of dietary plan as it might affect their blood sugar levels.

Also be wary of Internet sites claiming that their products, such as volcanic rock, crystal, alkaline water and others, can turn your food or drinks more alkaline, and help you lose weight or cure your arthritis, back pain, diabetes and other diseases.

These are clearly marketing gimmicks as an alkaline diet is purely a dietary choice with lots of raw, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ultimately, an alkaline diet will help reduce free radicals that cause inflammation and provide long-term health. Choose your foods carefully to start your journey to a healthier you!

So, in summary:

·Regular consumption of acid-forming foods = Lots of free radical damage = Chronic inflammation = Chronic pain.

·If you’re suffering from chronic pain (back pain, joint pain, arthritis, body aches, you name it), try eating nothing but alkalizing foods for a week and see how you feel. I would not be surprised to hear that your pain is significantly improved, if not gone.

> Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist (FRCOG, UK). For further information, visit www.primanora.com. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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