The alkaline diet intrigues the health industry with claims it wards off disease and fights cancer. The premise is simple: Alkaline dieters aim to raise the body’s pH by eating more alkaline foods (such as leafy greens) and fewer acidic foods (such as meat and cheese). If you recall from chemistry class, the pH scale ranges from zero (acidic) to 14 (basic), and 7 is neutral. But, if pH is the answer to enduring health, why aren’t we all chugging baking soda water? We spoke with Tom Fisher, a health educator and nurse supervisor at Hippocrates Health Institute, which champions natural and alternative health practices, for a deeper look at these allegations.
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PBI: How should we think about pH in relation to health?
Fisher: We have a buffer system to help maintain the pH level of our blood [which hovers between 7.35 and 7.45], but when people consume all these highly acidic foods from the standard American diet—like meat, sugar, soda, fried foods, and alcohol—you can start leaching minerals and other things that will stress the body. This can create osteoporotic and arthritic conditions, back issues, hormone impairments, intestinal problems, and some practitioners believe it can even affect cardiovascular health and hypertension. If you look at robbing those minerals over years and years, you’re going to have a lot of problems. If you’re alkalizing, you’re not only getting the pH from these raw vegetables, but also things like chlorophyll and phytonutrients [protective disease-preventing compounds].
People trying to alkalize seem to be constantly running to the bathroom to test their pH. What’s an ideal level?
You can buy pH strips at a local drug store or online and test the first morning urination. That’s going to give you the most accurate indication of pH at home. You want to maintain a 6.4 to 7 to really support your overall health.
Do you really think someone would feel the difference?
I think they would. Alkalizing can take time though, depending on where someone is coming from. It may take a few weeks, and in some cases it may even take years to get consistently elevated pH using the proper foods. Our emotions can become involved, too. Stress can create more acid in our body, so we also need to treat stress responses and emotional conflicts, along with nutrition, and stay well hydrated with pure water.
What do you think about claims the alkaline diet can help cure cancer?
I wouldn’t go that far, but I think it’s definitely supportive. When our buffering systems start to break down, we’re leaching minerals like nobody’s business and are deficient in all types of nutrients and vitamins. We’re leaving our body very susceptible to cancer along with other diseases. Alkalizing is only one factor. Say you were taking tons of baking soda—you’re going to get sick. We need to be taking in minerals and vitamins.
What are the positive points people can take away from this?
When you’re working toward alkalinity, you’re going to support a nutritious state of the body. You can do it pretty simply. Add some lemon water to your diet. Start juicing. Or, if you’re doing salads, keep the leafy greens and start adding sprouts in. These things are going to work on alkalizing the body but also incorporating nutrients.
- Eat Less: Sugar, cheese, red meat, pasta, soda, white flour, alcohol
- Eat More: Sprouts, leafy greens, blueberries, avocado, melons, lemon, asparagus