Alkaline diet reduces a person's overall risk of suffering from heart diseases, arthritis, cancer and chronic degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. It helps to maintain strength of bones and muscles, and assists in weight reduction. When following this regime, one has to eliminate acidic foods such as meat, processed food, wheat, refined flour and refined sugar from the diet. Reducing acidity in our body maintains a normal pH balance that is necessary for good health.
Pros And Cons Of Alkaline Diet
Alkaline diet is based on the principle that eliminating acidic food from the diet reduces susceptibility to disease and detoxifies mind and body.
What Is pH value ?
The symbol pH denotes the concentration of hydrogen in a fluid, and is a measure of acidity. A low pH corresponds to a high hydrogen ion concentration and denotes acidosis, while a high pH value corresponds to low hydrogen ion concentration and denotes alkalosis.The pH level= 0 is total acidic; pH = 14 is total alkaline; and pH=7 is neutral. The normal pH of blood in our arteries is 7.4, while the pH of venous blood is 7.35 due to an excess of carbon dioxide in the veins. The average pH value of our blood ranges between 7.35-7.45. Fluctuations beyond this normal range may prove dangerous for a normal person. The lower limit of pH at which a person can live for more than a few hours is about 6.8, and the upper limit is approximately 8.0. The pH level within individual cells of our body ranges between 6.0 and 7.4, averaging about 7.0. An increase in metabolism within the cells speeds up the rate of acid formation, especially carbonic acid, and consequently reduces the pH. Poor blood supply to an organ-system in our body also causes acid accumulation and a decrease in pH.
Natural Defenses against acidosis
Our body has its own natural defenses against changes in pH levels, that include the following :
- Natural acid-base buffer systems that neutralize excess acid.
- Rapid breathing to eliminate excess carbon dioxide and bring pH level back to normal.
- Kidneys to eliminate excess acid in urine.
Reasons for increased acid level in our body
An increase in acid levels called as metabolic acidosis, occurs as a consequence of -
- Lactic acidosis in severe anemia, heart failure, cholera, liver failure, seizures, or after surgery of intestines.
- Diabetic ketosis
- Kidney failure
- Toxin intake such as ethylene glycol, methanol (adulterated liquor), and salicylates.
In kidney failure, the excess acid that cannot be eliminated, is retained to be neutralized by salts from bones. This leads to osteoporosis and soft, weak bones. Increased acid levels also increase calcium loss via urine, leading to further loss of bone mass.
Effects of increase in acid levels
Increase in acid level has profound effects on our body. The major consequences include the following :
- Breathing becomes deep and sighing (Kussmaul's breathing).
- Contractions of heart are reduced.
- Blood glucose levels undergo fluctuations.
- Headache, stupor, lethargy, and in extreme acidosis, the person can even slip in coma.
Testing your pH levels
In order to know the pH level of your body, pH strips can be used at home to test from saliva or urine. On waking up in the morning without having anything, not even water, place a drop of your saliva on test strip and watch for the change in color. This can be compared with the pH color chart provided with the strips to find the exact pH value. Similarly a drop of urine from the early morning sample can be placed on pH strips. Repeat the pH test every morning for 10 days. Exclude the most acidic and the most alkaline readings to find out the average value that denotes your pH level.
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Who should follow an Alkaline Diet?
People suffering from the following conditions should consider an alkaline diet :
- Lack of energy
- Excessive mucus production
- Nasal congestion
- Frequent cough and cold
- Anxiety, nervousness and irritability
- Ovarian cyst, polycystic ovaries
Food groups allowed in alkaline diet
- Fruits : Orange, lemon, lime, tangerine, grapefruit, apple, banana, apricot, avocado, berries, cantaloupe, grapes, coconut, cherries, raspberries, pineapple, dates, watermelon, rhubarb, and honey dew.
- Vegetables : Cabbage, cucumber, tomato, radish, peas, beet greens, chlorella, pumpkin, peppers, sweet potato, wheatgrass, watercress and kale.
- Minerals : Calcium, magnesium, cesium, and potassium.
- Protein : Chestnut, almonds, millets, whey protein powder, tofu and tempeh.
- Others : Herbs, ginger, green juice, probiotics, bee pollen, and apple cedar vinegar.
Acidic foods to be avoided
- Fruits/Vegetables : Blueberries, corn, plums, currants, prunes, olives, water squash and glazed fruits.
- Beans/Legumes/Grains : Oat bran, oatmeal, wheat bran, barley, lentils, amaranth, bread, crackers, white refined flour, noodles, macaroni, hemp seed flour, quinoa, rice cakes, chickpeas, red beans and pinto beans.
- Animal protein
- Nuts/Dairy : Butter, cheese, iced milk, ice cream, pecans, cashew nuts, walnuts, peanuts and peanut butter.
- Others : Olive oil, flax oil, canola oil, corn oil, sugar, English mustard sauce, catsup, coffee, beer, wine, spirits, vinegar and soft drinks.
Benefits of Alkaline Diet
- Prevents kidney stones.
- Urine becomes alkaline, that reduces calcium loss in urine and prevents loss of bone mass.
- Improves Potassium/Sodium ratio in our body, that in turn improves bone strength, prevents muscle wasting and reduces risk of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and stroke.
- Increase in the level of Growth Hormone that in turn improves heart health and memory.
- Replenishes Magnesium stores in our body that helps in mineralization of bones.
- Reduces lower back pain.
- Decreases risk of colon cancer and type-2 diabetes.
Disadvantages of Alkaline diet
- This diet totally eliminates certain food groups. So, on a long term basis, it can lead to deficiency of certain nutrients and essential fatty acids, increasing the risk of malnutrition.
- This diet should not be followed by people already suffering from cancer, kidney failure or heart problems without prior consultation from a doctor.
- People on medications that affect Potassium levels in the body should also check with their doctor before they start an alkaline detox.
- Safety of this diet has not been proven on pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children. So they should preferably abstain from it.
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Alkaline Diet as a regime or a part of lifestyle
There are two ways in which an alkaline diet can be followed. These include :
- Alkaline cleanse : In this, you have to follow a total raw alkaline diet and exclude all acidic foods for a duration of around 3-10 days. The food items allowed include alkaline soups, juices, smoothies, fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Alkaline approach : This is a more practically acceptable option in which the diet mainly focuses on lots of green vegetables, fruits, minerals, exercise, and staying hydrated, but does not totally exclude other food groups.
Things to remember while following an alkaline diet :
- Get three spoons of omega-3 each day.
- Eat enough. Do not starve yourself.
- Drink plenty of good quality water.
- Have enough leafy greens.
- Have a balanced diet that includes 60-80% alkaline foods and 20-40% acid forming foods.