Is the Alkaline Diet Legit? Is it Real? Is the Alkaline Diet Good for You?
I’ve got to be honest, I wish it didn’t have the word ‘diet’ in it.
Just like good fats are so incomprehensibly different to bad fats, and ‘good salts’ bears no resemblance at all to ‘bad salts’, the alkaline ‘diet’ is not a diet in the way you’d normally think of a diet.
It truly is a way of health, a way of living…a lifestyle.
And today I will remove all and any doubt for you.
Whereas the definition of a ‘diet’ is something that focuses on restricting, and short-term thinking, the alkaline diet is focused on an abundance of nutrients, nourishing with real whole foods, and of course focus on supporting the body to maintain that delicate pH balance.
I prefer to call it living alkaline.
There are a lot of myths, mistruths, and misunderstandings when it comes to living alkaline.
The word ‘diet’ immediately causes a level of skepticism, and it is viewed as a ‘fad diet’ that is just here for a quick splash, some cash, a celeb endorsement (paid), and then to be forgotten forever.
The first interesting thing to note here is that the concept of an alkaline diet has been around for over 20 years, and is probably stronger now, with more interest than ever before.
It certainly isn’t a fad. But people will certainly try to attack it (and at times attack me, which is fun).
If you’ve ever had the conversation around your ‘diet’ come up with friends, family, or colleagues, I’m sure you’d have heard some of the following:
- ‘You can’t change your pH!’
- ‘Why would you eat alkaline, your stomach is acid?’
- ‘There’s no evidence’
- ‘My doctor told me that it is a scam’
There are many more. I’ve heard them a million times, and been sent articles like that a million times more!
So today I want to present some of the latest data and completely debunk the debunking.
The alkaline diet is proven beyond belief. It is clinically relevant, and evidence-based. And it’s fun to set people straight.
So before I dig into the data with you, I want to set some of those myths straight, so you have an answer for your friends at the BBQ, or your family at the next get-together when you rock up with a big salad and raw dessert!
Annoying Phrase #1: “You Can’t Change Your pH”
Thanks for that Chris.
This is the fundamental error that makes probably every article or opinion that tries to discredit the alkaline diet WRONG. Literally, when they start with this point, you can disregard the entire opinion. Throw the article away.
Not because that statement is wrong. But because it’s RIGHT. You actually CAN NOT change your pH.
That is NOT THE POINT OF THE ALKALINE DIET.
We KNOW this. We know you cannot change your pH. The alkaline diet is NOT about changing your pH.
Like, honestly. Did you think you’d say ‘oh dude, you can’t change your pH!’ And we’d be like ‘DUDE! Really? Oh man. That’s my whole diet ruined then. My whole argument is gone. Sheesh, why didn’t anyone tell me this before?’
We know you can’t change your pH.
Let me break it down. Your body has a very complex set of mechanisms to tightly regulate the pH not only of your blood, but of your organs, fluids, cells – everything in your body. We are primarily focused on blood pH because this is the pH that has to be most tightly controlled, but that is also most impacted by our lifestyle.
If your blood pH got even a little bit too acidic (OR too alkaline) you die. Fin.
So when they say ‘you can’t change your pH’ this is absolutely right. But the alkaline diet is NOT about changing your pH.
Important: the alkaline diet is NOT about changing your pH. The alkaline diet is about SUPPORTING your body to maintain your delicate pH balance.
When you eat a standard Western diet (Standard American Diet) of soda, chips, sugar, wheat, preservatives, colorings, sweeteners, yeasts, pizza, beer…and so on…you are constantly putting your body under huge stress and pressure. This is a TON of acid-forming foods in your body.
It has to work incredibly hard to buffer the acidification and this causes massive problems.
It unbalances your digestion, your hormone balance, your immune system and so much more.
The body HAS to regulate your blood pH to be in a very tight range around the slightly alkaline pH of 7.365.
You can survive slightly lower than this, and this is where most people live. Because it is so stressful for the body to regulate pH back up when you eat a strong acid-forming meal, it will only get your pH back up to where it is ‘safe’. Not thriving and energized, but ‘safe’.
This is not a good state to live in.
This is what is known as ‘diet-induced acidosis’ in the literature.
(Yes, it has been studied. A lot.)
When you’re in the state of diet-induced acidity you are setting the foundation for:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Digestive disorders
- And so much more…in fact it is shown to increase risk of…
- …all-cause mortality…!
Again – the purpose of the alkaline diet is NOT to change your pH.
It is simply to give your body the tools it needs to thrive. To give your body an abundance of nutrient-dense, nourishing, alkaline-forming foods that make it effortless for the body to be in it’s peak state and thrive.
That makes sense, right?
Annoying Phrase #2: “Why Eat Alkaline? The Stomach is ACID (stupid!)”
OK, thanks Zentner.
This is a good one too. OK, so there is truth again here…the stomach IS acid…but again the point is being missed.
The stomach is only mildly acidic (pH around 5-6) before the food arrives. People think of the stomach as this big pit of acid waiting for food to drop in and then fizzle away. It just doesn’t work like that.
The digestive process starts in the mouth, as soon as you chew signals are sent to the digestive system and the stomach produces hydrochloric acid (HCl) on demand, to fit the food that’s coming in. It drops the pH right down (to somewhere around 2-3) and then gets to work to raise it back up again for the next stage of digestion. So when it creates the acid, this is a trigger to also release sodium bicarbonate.
When you eat a lot of acid-forming foods, not a lot of acid s produced as the food is already acidic-forming. This is a problem. Without the acid production, there isn’t a signal for sodium (alkaline) production.
The problem is two-fold:
- The now-digested food needs to have its pH raised up to be alkaline in order to be properly processed in the next phase of digestion – out of the stomach and into the duodenum.If it is not properly alkaline, it will not be able to be properly processed into the small intestine which is where nutrient absorption happens. Undigested food in the small intestine leads to a lack of nutrients, increased risk of leaky gut, imbalanced gut flora, inflammation, and the risk of digestive issues such as IBS and Crohn’s.
- There will be excess acidity in the stomach as the sodium is not there to rebalance the pH back to between 5-6. So reflux is incredibly likely.
In other words, eating alkaline foods ensures the stomach produces the necessary amount of acidity AND alkalinity (in the form of sodium bicarbonate, as a result of increased hydrochloric acid production).
So having an acidic stomach is critical for health, critical for alkaline balance, critical for digestion – but it has to be delicately balanced, which eating alkaline-forming foods ensures.
The takeaway here is: you NEED to eat alkaline to maintain the stomach’s pH balance. Another ‘is the alkaline diet legit’ myth busted.
Annoying Phrase #3: “There’s No Evidence”
A quick search on PubMed shows over 10,000 published studies on the alkaline diet and ‘diet-induced acidosis’.
And this is the big one. The one that annoys me the most. The one that shows that the critic, whether that’s uncle Pete at the BBQ or a so-called ‘nutrition expert’ on TV or in a magazine has done zero research themselves, is not up to date with the literature in their field and is a lazy shill.
There is a mountain of evidence showing the benefits of living alkaline and staying out of diet-induced acidosis.
- In the paper “Low-grade metabolic acidosis as a driver of chronic disease: a 21st-century public health crisis”, published in the British Medical Journal, the authors suggest that “acidosis is a chronic condition that many people in the Western world have but do not realize it”.
- And in the paper “Latent acidosis as a cause of chronic diseases”, the researchers state “Latent acidosis resulting from a gradual reduction of the buffer reserves is increasingly the focus of interest for the development and progression of chronic diseases”
- In the paper “The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health“, the researcher concludes “It would be prudent to consider an alkaline diet to reduce morbidity and mortality of chronic diseases that are plaguing our aging population.”
- And in the paper “Influence of diet on acid-base balance,” the author concludes “It is well established that diet and certain food components have a clear impact on acid-base balance.”
- And also in the paper “Diet-induced acidosis: is it real and clinically relevant?“ the study states “The available research makes a compelling case that diet-induced acidosis…is a real phenomenon, and has a significant, clinical, long-term pathophysiological effect that should be recognized.”
We know this – it’s in study after study after study.
There is no doubt that the alkaline diet is legit, real, and clinically relevant.
I’ve listed about thirty recent studies below to give you an idea of how thoroughly researched and proven this is, but if you don’t want to go through them all and kinda already get the gist, here are a few takeaway comments from these papers:
- “Higher diet-dependent acid load is associated with increased risk of invasive breast cancer and that conversely, alkaline diets or diets that are lower in diet-dependent acid load may be protective”(study)
- “Dietary acids load is associated with the likelihood of peripheral arterial disease” (study)
- “Human studies have confirmed that inducing low-grade metabolic acidosis induces insulin resistance” (study)
- “Diet-induced acid load was associated with increased risk of CVD” (study)
- “Higher dietary acid load is associated with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer” (study)
- “We found direct associations between dietary acid load and lung cancer risk” (study)
- “This study showed an independent nonlinear association between an acidic diet and NAFLD” (study)
- “We observed a significant positive association between a more alkaline diet and muscle mass indexes in healthy women” (study)
I’m not sure about you, but that seems pretty conclusive to me. The alkaline diet seems pretty legit now!
Here’s a Bit More Depth to the Proof
And while I have compiled a collection of papers on the benefits of an alkaline diet for dozens of conditions and goals here, listed below are another thirty or so other interesting papers I have read recently:
- Hypertension: Association between Dietary Acid Load and Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis: “Across 7033 records, 8 articles (7 cross-sectional, 1 longitudinal) were eligible for inclusion. The higher dietary acid load was associated with high systolic blood pressure (SBP)” (study)
- Cancer: Effects of an Alkaline Diet on EGFR-TKI Therapy in EGFR Mutation-positive NSCLC: “The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between an alkaline diet and the effect of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients….The results showed an alkaline diet may enhance the effect of EGFR-TKI treatment in NSCLC patients with EGFR mutations.” (study)
- Cancer: Effects of Alkalization Therapy on Chemotherapy Outcomes in Metastatic or Recurrent Pancreatic Cancer: “Alkalization therapy consisted of an alkaline diet with supplementary oral sodium bicarbonate…The median overall survival from the start of alkalization therapy of the patients with high urine pH (>7.0) was significantly longer than those with low urine pH (≤ 7.0). Conclusion: An alkalization therapy may be associated with better outcomes in advanced pancreatic cancer patients treated with chemotherapy.” (study)
- All-Cause Mortality: Diet-Induced Low-Grade Metabolic Acidosis and Clinical Outcomes: A Review: “The excessive release of acids into the bloodstream may predispose to various metabolic imbalances, such as increased mineral excretion, insulin resistance, and the stimulation of glucocorticoid hormone release. Such imbalances are associated with an increased risk of non-communicable diseases. Taking into account the acidifying potential of the western food standard of the vast majority of countries and the increase in the incidence of chronic diseases worldwide, it is necessary to encourage public policies that stimulate the intake of fruits and vegetables in the course of life, so that there is no volubility in the acid-base balance and the risk of chronic diseases is attenuated.” (study)
- Osteoporosis: A higher alkaline dietary load is associated with greater indexes of skeletal muscle mass in women: “We observed a significant positive association between a more alkaline diet and muscle mass indexes in healthy women” (study)
- Cancer: Higher diet-dependent acid load is associated with risk of breast cancer: Findings from the sister study: “Higher diet-dependent acid load may be a risk factor for breast cancer while alkaline diets may be protective” (study)
- Weight Loss: Effect of Alkaline Diet with 8-week Step Aerobic Exercise on Body Composition and Aerobic Exercise Performance of Sedentary Women: “The results of this study reveal that the alkaline diet with aerobic exercises has a positive effect on the body composition and aerobic exercise performance of sedentary women. To increase the quality of life, it should be considered to choose alkali-derived diets instead of western diets that are high in acid density a diet with regular physical activities” (study)
- Cardiovascular Risk: Diet-induced metabolic acidosis: “High dietary acid load is more likely to result in diabetes and systemic hypertension and may increase the cardiovascular risk.“ (study)
- Kidney Disease: Dietary acid intake and kidney disease progression in the elderly: “Our findings suggest that high NEAP (acid load) is independently associated with CKD progression. The decrease in NEAP (acid load) may be an effective kidney-protective therapy” (Study)
- Insulin Resistance: Low-grade metabolic acidosis as a driver of insulin resistance: “Human studies have confirmed that inducing low-grade metabolic acidosis induces insulin resistance using the gold-standard glucose clamp techniques and that correcting this metabolic acidosis improves insulin sensitivity” (study)
- Cardiovascular Risk: Association between the markers of metabolic acid load and higher all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in a general population with preserved renal function: “Acidic and neutral urine pH was significantly associated with higher all-cause mortality, compared with an alkaline urine pH.“ (study)
- Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: The association between dietary acid load and odds of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A case-control study: “Subjects in the third quintile of PRAL (higher alkaline diet) had a 54% lower odds of NAFLD compared with those in the lowest quintiles of the PRAL” (study)
- Cardiovascular Risk: Dietary Acid Load and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors—A Narrative Review: “It seems that high dietary acid load negatively affects cardiometabolic risk factors. This has particularly been confirmed in case of blood pressure—elevated SBP and DBP—and the prevalence of hypertension” (study)
- Liver Disease: Diet-Dependent Acid Load—The Missing Link Between an Animal Protein–Rich Diet and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?: “This study showed an independent nonlinear association between an acidic diet and NAFLD” (study)
- Weight & Obesity: Association between dietary acid load and metabolic health status in overweight and obese adolescents: “We found significant direct associations between PRAL and NEAP (diet-induced acidity) with odds of medically unhealthy obesity status in Iranian adolescents.” (study)
- Cancer: Dietary Acid Load and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer: A Prospective Cohort Study: “Higher dietary acid load is associated with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer.” (study)
- Cardiovascular Risk: High dietary acid load is associated with increased prevalence of hypertension: The Furukawa Nutrition and Health Study: “Dietary acid load was significantly and positively associated with hypertension among normal-weight (body mass index <23 kg/m2) and non-shift workers.” (study)
- Cardiovascular Risk: Association between dietary acid load and the risk of cardiovascular disease: nationwide surveys (KNHANES 2008–2011): “Diet-induced acid load was associated with increased risk of CVD, independent of obesity and insulin resistance.” (study)
- All-Cause Mortality: Dietary acid load and mortality among Japanese men and women: the Japan Public Health Center–based Prospective Study: “A high dietary acid load score was associated with a higher risk of total mortality and mortality from CVD, particularly from IHD, in Japanese adults.” (study)
- Type 2 Diabetes: Dietary acid load and risk of type 2 diabetes: the E3N-EPIC cohort study: “We have demonstrated for the first time in a large prospective study that dietary acid load was positively associated with type 2 diabetes risk, independently of other known risk factors for diabetes. “ (study)
- Cancer: Higher diet-dependent acid load is associated with risk of breast cancer: Findings from the sister study: “In conclusion, findings from this large prospective study suggest that higher diet-dependent acid load is associated with increased risk of invasive breast cancer and that conversely, alkaline diets or diets…may be protective, especially for ER-negative breast cancer.” (study)
- Insulin Resistance: Dietary acid load, metabolic acidosis and insulin resistance – Lessons from cross-sectional and overfeeding studies in humans: “Mild metabolic acidosis, measured by plasma lactate, aligns with insulin resistance independent of obesity and is induced by short-term increases in energy and dietary acid load in healthy humans.“ (study)
- Cancer: Dietary acid load and lung cancer risk: A case-control study in men: “We found direct associations between dietary acid load and lung cancer risk” (study)
- Cardiovascular Risk: Higher dietary acid load is associated with a higher likelihood of peripheral arterial disease among American adults: “Our findings, for the first time, suggest that dietary acid load is associated with the likelihood of peripheral arterial disease…the top quarter of PRAL (more acidic) was associated with 31% higher odds of the disease compared with the bottom quarter (more alkaline).” (study)
- Insulin Resistance: Positive association between dietary acid load and future insulin resistance risk: findings from the Korean Genome and Epidemiology Study: “Our findings suggested that diet-dependent acid load was positively associated with the future development of insulin resistance.” (study)
So Is This Enough? Is the Alkaline Diet Legit?
So is the alkaline diet legit? I mean this was a quick search. Certainly not exhaustive. Like I mentioned, there are over TEN THOUSANDS studies on PubMed.
OK I think we can agree that the alkaline diet IS real, it IS proven, there IS research and it WORKS (yep, it’s legit).
The next step is of course putting it into action.
- What it is?
- Which foods are acid and alkaline?
- What to cook – what recipes can I make?
- How to do this with my family and not have to make a separate meal for me and one for them?
- How to make it real, achievable, and do-able?
- How to make it into something I can stick to?
If you want this plan, I have good news!
Free Alkaline Cooking & Living Training Webinar
I am running a free online webinar training on December 7th to cover all of this in a hands-on, 60-minute workshop (plus a downloadable workbook and recipes).
I’m running two sessions, at two different times, so that I can try and make the time zones work for everyone.
This is my passion. I want to help you. I have seen in thousands of my clients how powerful this can be, and how easy and effortless too when you get it right. And that’s what I’d love to share with you during the session.
In the meantime, if you have any questions at all – please join my free Facebook group here or follow me on Instagram here! I can’t wait to connect.