Cancer Cannot Survive in an Alkaline Environment…Right?
This is what we hear all of the time, and in this guide, I want to explain everything you need to know regarding the alkaline diet as a means to prevent and support the treatment of cancer.
If you or someone you know has received a cancer diagnosis, you will be well aware that there is a lot of conflicting information out there. Some of it truthful, and sadly some that are more geared towards selling you ‘stuff’.
Today, I want to demystify some of the ideas out there surrounding an alkaline diet and cancer.
Let me say straight up, however, that eating an alkaline diet (or as I prefer to call it, living an alkaline lifestyle), is an incredibly smart choice for anyone who wants to prevent or support their body in reversing cancer…but there is a little detail to it.
So let’s get into that today.
What is the “Alkaline Diet”
Before we go too deep, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page here as to what the alkaline diet is, and perhaps more importantly, what the role or purpose of eating alkaline is, particularly when it comes to cancer.
The alkaline diet is focused on consuming mostly alkaline-forming foods and drinks while eliminating or minimizing the consumption of strongly acid-forming foods and drinks (and other lifestyle factors like smoking, OTC drugs, etc).
I go into this in a lot more depth in my Alkaline Diet Beginner’s Guide here, but in short:
- Alkaline forming foods include: fresh foods, vegetables, greens, salads, oats, beans & pulses, herbs, spices, low-sugar fruits, nuts, seeds, oily fish, coconut oil/milk, veggies like spinach, kale, broccoli – you know the drill…
- Acid-forming foods include: sugar, gluten, processed foods, alcohol, fast foods, takeaways, processed meats, sweets, breads, pastas, pastries, and excessive animal protein and dairy.
However, there are a couple of very important points to make here:
- You don’t have to be perfectly alkaline all the time. Perfection is not the goal. I never suggest you try to only eat alkaline foods all of the time and never eat any acid-forming foods – this isn’t the goal.
The goal is to be more in favour of alkaline over acid (you’ll understand more why in a few paragraphs). For example, see my post on the alkaline diet and meat here.
- The goal is NOT TO MAKE THE BODY MORE ALKALINE. This is a super-common misconception (which I go into in more depth here). We are not trying to ‘make the body more alkaline‘. The body will always maintain the very specific pH of it’s various systems, most notably the blood which HAS to stay at 7.365 and always will no matter what we do.
Our goal is to simply give the body the foods/nourishment/nutrients (tools) it needs to effortlessly maintain this pH balance.
It is the constant bombardment of acid-forming foods that forces the body out of balance and therefore having to go into overdrive to regain that balance, dropping everything and sacrificing our long term health to preserve the immediate necessity for balance that causes so many of the health issues we’re facing today.
I’ll expand more on this shortly, but for now, this is critical for you to understand: we are not trying to change our pH, we are simply supporting the body as best we can to maintain it’s critical pH balance.
But Let’s Be Clear: An Acidic Diet Can Easily Lead to Cancer
I’ve just said the body will do whatever it takes to maintain pH balance, right? That we can’t make our body ‘more alkaline’ or ‘more acidic’…
So how can I now say that acidity or an ‘acidic-environment’ can cause cancer?
Let me explain…
When we constantly bombard our body with acidic foods and drinks, the body has to use several different mechanisms in order to up-regulate our blood pH to a safe level. This has severe consequences throughout the body (and I will give examples in a second) but remember – the body goes into a complete state of emergency to do this.
And within this ‘state of emergency,’ it will do whatever it can to get you to that ‘safe level’. It doesn’t need to be back to 7.365…but close enough will do to ensure your body doesn’t go into shock and you die (literally, a blood pH just below 7.3 will rapidly kill you).
[+] This ‘close enough’ is known in the scientific research community as diet-induced acidosis.
Diet-induced acidosis (or sometimes known as net-dietary acid load), occurs when we consume far more acid-forming foods than our body can appropriately deal with, and it leaves our pH just below 7.365.
A pH not low enough to kill us in the minute, but a pH at a level that causes a degree of metabolic imbalance proven to have direct links to cancer.
Dr Ian Robey explains it well in his research study “Examining the relationship between diet-induced acidosis and cancer“.
Dr. Robey states:
Specifically, persistent acidogenic diets have the potential to cause small decreases in blood pH and plasma bicarbonate, but not beyond the normal physiological range. This condition is described as ‘diet-induced’, ‘low-grade’, or ‘chronic metabolic acidosis’ or sometimes ‘latent acidosis’
Not beyond ‘normal’, but enough to cause significant metabolic damage…
[Note: diet-induced acidity has also been proven to significantly increase the risk of osteoporosis, chronic kidney disease, digestive disorders, gout, uric acid stones, type 2 diabetes/insulin resistance and more (yep, to all of those naysayers who say ‘there’s no research to prove the alkaline diet’ there really is, and this is just scratching the surface).]
The Science: Diet-Induced Acidosis Dramatically Increases Cancer Risk
(and how an alkaline-based diet is proven to be preventative)
The research is clear and compelling. An acidic-diet leads to diet-induced acidosis which increases the risk for several cancers. When you consistently put your body into diet-induced acidosis – things start to break very quickly, and in a multitude of ways.
In the past 80-plus years, medical science has proven a clear link between an acidic diet and the incidence of cancer. In one recent study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Southern California analyzed data from 41,731 women between the ages of 35 and 74 and found that diet-induced acidosis was a significant risk factor for invasive breast cancer.
In a recent Japanese study, the researchers analyzed the health records of 31,590 adults who underwent a health screening between January 2001 and
December 2010 and found that those with the lowest (acidic) urinary pH had a far higher incidence of cancer and cardiovascular mortality than those with the highest (alkaline) urinary pH.
Thousands of studies have shown the protective effect against cancer of consuming a diet rich in alkaline vegetables and fruits. In April 2017, Chinese researchers conducted a meta-analysis that covered more than 10,000 individuals and showed that the higher the participant’s vegetable consumption, the lower their risk of renal cell carcinoma.
And the link between diet-induced acidosis and chronically elevated cortisol has been proven over and over, and elevated cortisol is perhaps the most common precursor to dozens of cancers including breast, pancreatic, bladder and prostate.
I am going to list a handful of these studies in a second, but first I want to clear up the Otto Warburg myth because this is something that has been confusing and misleading people for quite some time…
Otto Warburg & the Alkaline Diet Cancer Myth
You might have heard people say that cancer cannot exist in an alkaline environment. That theory came from famous German physiologist Otto Warburg in his 1931 Nobel Prize-winning study. At first glance, you’d think Wow! But when you dig a little deeper…
This is something I call a “dotted line theory.” It sounds right on paper, but can’t actually be substantiated when it comes to our diet and the foods we eat.
Our friend Otto Warburg wasn’t studying the link between acid and disease to show the benefits of the alkaline diet. He was researching it to expand our understanding of cancer. His research is right—cancer can’t live in an alkaline environment—but this is only relevant in vitro, i.e., in a test tube or outside the body.
We can’t re-create the same condition in the body through diet. The body regulates the cells and organs at the exact pH they need to be—the stomach pH, 2 to 4.5; the duodenum and pancreas, pH 7 to 7.5; the small intestine, 7.4; the large intestine, pH 5.5 to 7; lymphatic fluid, 7 to 7.5; gallbladder, 6.8 to 7.5; and so on. By eating alkaline, the body won’t then go alkaline everywhere! If it did, you’d die with a condition called metabolic alkalosis.
While it is true that an acidic environment increases the risk of cancer occurring and that eating alkaline is designed to remove that risk, I want to set the record straight about these myths and how all this plays into the alkaline diet.
You are not trying to re-create Warburg’s in vitro environment.
Eating alkaline won’t make your whole body “turn alkaline” and kill the cancer cells. When you “eat alkaline,” you are giving your body an abundance of nutrients to do the best it can to fight disease. An alkaline diet will support the body in maintaining homeostasis, and within that balance, it will increase its ability to prevent cancer.
Simply put, the alkaline diet is an incredibly powerful preventive measure. If you have cancer, it will give your body the perfect environment to rebalance and heal. But it is misleading to say, “Cancer can’t live in an alkaline environment, so make your body alkaline.” It’s not possible to “make your body alkaline,” and saying so opens up the good work of alkaline-eating proponents for undue criticism.
Research Shows an Alkaline Diet is Cancer-Protective
And as promised, here’s just a handful of the published research showing how beneficial an alkaline diet is to protect and reverse cancer:
Research Paper Title: Buffer Therapy for Cancer
Published in: Journal of Nutritional Food Sciences, 2012 Aug 15; 2: 6; Authors: Maria de Lourdes C Ribeiro, Ariosto S. Silva, et al
Key Takeaway: “This study has demonstrated the anti-cancer effects of buffer therapy and suggests foods that can contribute to or compete with this approach to manage cancer.”
Research Paper Title: Examining the relationship between diet-induced acidosis and cancer
Published in: Journal of Nutrition & Metabolism, 2012; 9: 72; Authors: Robey IF.
Key Takeaway: “Acidity is a well-known factor associated with cancer. Lower pH levels in the extracellular space promote the invasive and metastatic potential of cancer cells…Acidogenic diets, which are typically high in animal protein and salt and low in fruits and vegetables, can lead to a sub-clinical or low-grade state of metabolic acidosis (and) the relationship between diet and cancer is well known…acid-base disequilibrium has been shown to modulate molecular activity including adrenal glucocorticoid, insulin growth factor (IGF-1), and adipocyte cytokine signaling, dysregulated cellular metabolism, and osteoclast activation, which may serve as intermediary or downstream effectors of carcinogenesis or tumor promotion.”
Research Paper Title: The Role of Mitochondria in Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases
Published in: Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Volume 29, Number 4, 2014; Authors: Zeviar, DD, Gonzalez MJ, et al.
Key Takeaway: “The evidence appears to be strong that an alkaline diet high in antioxidants (fruits and vegetables) would help prevent chronic degenerative disease and cancer, and lead to a better quality of life…Prevention of cancer involves two elements: consumption of the proper diet and the avoidance of substances that damage the mitochondria. Chronic inflammation can stimulate all stages of tumorigenesis, (DNA damage, uncontrolled replication, inhibition of apoptosis, augmented angiogenesis and tissue invasion/metastasis.”
pH is a Neurally Regulated Physiological System. Increased Acidity Alters Protein and Cell Morphology and is a Significant Factor in the Onset of Diabetes and Other Common Pathologies
Published in: The Open Systems Biology Journal Volume 5, 2014; Authors: Ewing G
Key Takeaway: “the body’s impaired ability to regulate its acidity, exacerbated by the consumption of highly acidic beverages, is a considerably underestimated factor in the subsequent development and onset of many common pathologies e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, cancers…The long-term exposure to abnormal levels of pH, in particular to higher levels of acidity, exceed the body’s inherent buffering mechanisms and contribute to the early onset of morphological changes which are characteristic of emergent pathologies e.g. abnormal cell growth or apoptosis/cell death.”
There are so many more, just like this (I’ve included many below in the references for this article), and I am sure you’re getting the picture: diet-induced acidosis increases cancer risk and an alkaline-forming diet reduces cancer risk.
7 Ways to Live Alkaline & Help Prevent Cancer
#1 Anti-Inflammatory Foods Every Day
In my bestselling book The Alkaline Reset Cleanse, I introduce my ‘Triple-A Model’ to help prevent practically every disease by addressing it at the root cause, focusing on alkaline, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods (to prevent acidity, inflammation and oxidative stress). And with cancer, this is especially true. Getting a daily dose of natural, whole-food anti-inflammatories is a huge step forward.
I recommend turmeric and ginger in particular. If you can get these in daily (I give you a lot of ideas in my Turmeric User Guide here) then you will almost instantly see the benefit.
[Read More: Learn the Seven Most Acidic Foods Here]
#2 Super Hydration
You cannot be healthy and dehydrated. It’s just not possible. And the benefits of being well hydrated are huge, noticeable and FAST! If you go from not really drinking much water to being properly hydrated, you will see a huge shift in your health and energy within hours, let alone days!
However, so few people do it. Why? I believe it is because it is so simple…so simple it gets ignored or forgotten. Proper hydration is one of the cheapest, easiest ways to shift your alkalinity and amplify your health and energy. In my alkaline diet cancer plan, I insist you take hydration seriously.
There are various calculators based on body size, type, the temperature of where you live, physical exertion and all sorts of other variables, but it works out that most people should be drinking between 3-4.5 liters (100-150 fl oz) of filtered water per day.
#3 Daily Green Juices & Smoothies
There is practically nothing more cancer-protective on Earth than leafy green foods. They have been proven beyond all doubt to be hugely beneficial to protect and reverse cancer, and yet sadly so few people are getting even nearly enough. One of the mantras of my Alkaline Base Camp membership is “7 Serves of Greens-Per-Day” and when you stick to this your life will never be the same again.
Getting in a daily green juice or smoothie is, without doubt, the easiest way of doing this. For juices think celery, cucumber, spinach, kale, parsley, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, watercress…any greens you can get in there the better. And for smoothies, it’s much the same, but add avocado, nuts, coconut oil, chia seeds, and other healthy fats too!
Here are a couple of my recipes from The Alkaline Reset Cleanse to get you started ( again – you can get on the waiting list to pre-order it here):
#4 Eating Plenty of Antioxidant-Rich Foods
As mentioned earlier, my model of the Triple-A is hugely cancer-protective, and the ‘antioxidant’ part of this is so critical. We’ve talked about imbalance and balance earlier in this guide and cancer often emerges from a state of imbalance in the body. While we’ve focused more on the pH imbalance, an imbalance of free-radicals in your body is a common way cancer can get a foothold. The body needs some free radicals, but due to our acidic, modern diet and lifestyle, most of us are overrun. A diet full of antioxidant-rich foods such as capsicum/bell pepper, beetroot, carrot and more will give your body a huge source of anti-cancer antioxidant supernutrients.
#5 Upping Your Alkaline Minerals
One of your best weapons to help your body buffer excess acidity is to give it a direct source of alkaline minerals. Think sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, iron and more. If you have a good source of these from your diet you are going to be feeling amazing, but it can be hard to consistently get enough of each of them. This is one area that I do recommend a supplement, particularly to focus on the sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium – known as the four alkaline mineral salts.
There are some great products out there, and I particularly love Daily Minerals from Alkamind and pHour Salts from pH Miracle.
#6 Oiling Up
Finally, I strongly urge you to focus on getting plenty of enough healthy fats every day. We’re talking omega 3 and saturated fats from coconut. These healthy fats are so cancer-protective and critical in so many of our body’s important balances and processes, you simply cannot be healthy if you are deficient. Get plenty of coconut oil, flax, chia, avocado, leafy greens, almonds, cashews and so on, but this is another area that I do recommend a supplement.
Getting enough coconut oil is easy enough (you can simply add a tsp to your cooking), but omega 3 can be a bit more tricky, especially to do so every single day. So I recommend investing in a good quality omega 3 such as Nordic Naturals or Alkamind’s Daily Omega 3.
If you are concerned about the ‘saturated fat myth’ (i.e. the ongoing nonsense that it is bad for you) I recommend checking out my guide here on saturated fat and Mercola’s rundown on the saturated fat warnings.
The Alkaline Diet Cancer Plan: Your Next Steps
Whether you’re wanting to take the proactive steps to protect yourself and your family from cancer, or you have had a diagnosis, are in remission or have had a reoccurrence, I believe that focusing your diet on alkaline-forming, fresh, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods, foods that are natural and as unrefined as possible, will give you a huge advantage.
Of course, everybody and every situation is different and I (nor should anyone) am in no way saying ‘do X and you will cure Y’, but I believe that the body knows how to heal and regenerate, and if we give it all the tools it needs to thrive, it will repay us with interest.
The very first step I recommend is to get comfortable with the alkaline diet, and begin putting it into place in your life:
- My Alkaline Starter Pack here, which includes the full Acid/Alkaline Food Charts and 12 Starter Recipes is a great place to kick off.
- I also outline the Most Alkaline Anti-Cancer Foods here with recipes for each too
So Many Deaths from Cancer Are Preventible!
I find it shocking that in the USA (the stats are similar in the UK, Australia, NZ, Canada etc) over 67% of deaths each year are from just cancer and heart disease – which over half of both a preventable through diet and lifestyle choices.
We could, with proper lifestyle choices, be preventing millions of deaths (and the pain leading to them) and improving the lifestyle of millions more every year. And releasing a huge burden on the healthcare system. Saving trillions of dollars.
And this isn’t to point the finger or judge. It’s to say we HAVE got a say, and we do have the power to be in control.
When I talk to people about cancer, the overwhelming emotion I see is helplessness. People feel like it’s something that just happens to them.
And in a lot of cases, of course, this is the case. But in over half, we are in control. And my gut feeling is that if we were ALL, as a population, more healthy and dare I say it, alkaline, the NON-preventable cases of cancer would decrease too.
So I want you to know – you should feel empowered. You CAN reduce your risk significantly. You can protect yourself and your family.
And if you are unfortunate to be in a position of having a cancer diagnosis now, you can seriously support your body in recovering and getting back to it’s bright and energized best.
I hope this guide acts as inspiration for you and motivation and makes you feel empowered.
“Alkaline Diet Cancer” References & Further Reading
References & Studies
Ambrosone CB, Tang L. Cruciferous vegetable intake and cancer prevention: role of nutrigenetics. Cancer Prev Res (Phila Pa). 2009 Apr;2(4):298-300. 2009. (link)
Ambrosini GL, de Klerk NH, Fritschi L et al. Fruit, vegetable, vitamin A intakes, and prostate cancer risk. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2008;11(1):61-6. 2008. (link)
Bahrami et al., “Inflammatory Markers Associated with Subclinical Coronary Artery Disease: The Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study,” Journal of the American Heart Association (June 2016).
Bhattacharya A, Tang L, Li Y, et al. Inhibition of bladder cancer development by allyl isothiocyanate. Carcinogenesis. 2010 Feb;31(2):281-6. 2010. (link)
Bryant CS, Kumar S, Chamala S, et al. Sulforaphane induces cell cycle arrest by protecting RB-E2F-1 complex in epithelial ovarian cancer cells. Molecular Cancer 2010, 9:47. 2010. (link)
Brüngger et al., “Effect of chronic metabolic acidosis on thyroid hormone homeostasis in humans,” American Journal of Physiology (May 1997).
Clarke JD, Dashwood RH and Ho E. Multi-targeted prevention of cancer by sulforaphane. Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8;269(2):291-304. 2008. (link)
Chen P, Li C, Li X, et al. Higher dietary folate intake reduces the breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Cancer. 2014 Apr 29;110(9):2327-38. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2014.155. Epub 2014 Mar 25. Review. (link)
Cooper AJL, Krasnikov BF, Niatsetskaya ZV et al. Cysteine S-conjugate β-lyases: Important roles in the metabolism of naturally occurring sulfur and selenium-containing compounds, xenobiotics and anticancer agents. Amino Acids. 2011 June; 41(1): 7—27. 2011. (link)
Galeone C. Allium vegetables intake and endometrial cancer risk. Public Health Nutr. 2009 Sep;12(9):1576-9. Epub 2008 Nov 6. PMID: 18986589 (link)
Hernandez-Ramirez R, Galvan-Portillo M, Ward M et al. Dietary intake of polyphenols, nitrate and nitrite and gastric cancer risk in Mexico City. Int J Cancer. 2009 September 15; 125(6): 1424-1430. 2009. (link)
Higdon JV, Delage B, Williams DE, et al. Cruciferous Vegetables and Human Cancer Risk: Epidemiologic Evidence and Mechanistic Basis. Pharmacol Res. 2007 March; 55(3): 224-236. 2007. (link)
Hodge G, Davis S, Rice M, Tapp H, Saxon B, Revesz T. Garlic compounds selectively kill childhood pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells in vitro without reducing T-cell function: Potential therapeutic use in the treatment of ALL. Biologics. 2008 Mar;2(1):143-9. PMID: 19707437 (link)
Hu J, Straub J, Xiao D, et al. Phenethyl isothiocyanate, a cancer chemopreventive constituent of cruciferous vegetables, inhibits cap-dependent translation by regulating the level and phosphorylation of 4E-BP1. Cancer Res. 2007 Apr 15;67(8):3569-73. 2007. (link)
Karim et al., “Renal handling of NH4+ in relation to the control of acid-base balance by the kidney,” Journal of Nephrology (March 2002).
Larsson SC, Andersson SO, Johansson JE, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of bladder cancer: a prospective cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Sep;17(9):2519-22. 2008. (link)
Maximilian Zeyda and Thomas M. Stulnig, “Obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance—a mini-review,” Gerontology (April 2009).
Park et al., “Association between the markers of metabolic acid load and higher all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in a general population with preserved renal function,” Journal of Hypertension Research (March 2015).
Ribeiro et al., “Buffer therapy for cancer,” Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences (April 2012).
Silberstein JL, Parsons JK. Evidence-based principles of bladder cancer and diet. Urology. 2010 Feb;75(2):340-6. 2010.
Thompson CA, Habermann TM, Wang AH, et al. Antioxidant intake from fruits, vegetables and other sources and risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Int J Cancer. 2010 Feb 15;126(4):992-1003. 2010. (link)
Tarraga Lopez PJ, Albero JS, and Rodriguez-Montes JA. Primary and secondary prevention of colorectal cancer. Clin Med Insights Gastroenterol. 2014 Jul 14;7:33-46. (link)
Zhang et al., “Consumption of fruits and vegetables and risk of renal cell carcinoma: a meta-analysis of observational studies,” Oncotarget (April 2017).
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